NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: Searching for Cinderella's Slipper

Jeffrey BatheContributor IIIMarch 13, 2011

NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: Searching for Cinderella's Slipper

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    Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former unknown team, now, about to become the NCAA champion.

    Sorry, not exactly the quote Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, but it fits the time of the year.

    March Madness gives any team the chance to become the darling of the tournament.

    Someone that we can cheer for when our team loses.

    Someone to make as our sleeper to win a game in our tournament brackets.

    Someone to make us believe anyone can win.

    Here are five teams that could be this year's Cinderella, if the slipper fits.

Belmont Bruins

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    Record: 30-4 (19-1 Atlantic Sun)

    Last Ten: 10-0

    Dance Card: Atlantic Sun Champion

    Region: TBA Seed: TBA

    Tournament Record: 0-3

    Last NCAA Appearance: 2008

    Scoring: Ian Clark 12.4; Mick Hedgepeth 10.6; Scott Saunders 10.0

    Rebounds: Mick Hedgepeth 6.0; Scott Saunders 5.4

    Assists/Turnovers: Drew Hanlen 4.0/1.4; Kerron Johnson 2.7/2.0; Jordan Campbell 2.2/1.1

    3-pointers: Jordan Campbell 74; Ian Clark 72; Drew Hanlen 44; J.J. Mann 36

    Path to Cinderella's Slipper: Belmont draws the Badgers in their first game in a matchup of conflicting styles: the high-scoring Bruins (80.4 ppg) against the grind-it-out Badgers (68.2 ppg). If the Bruins can control the tempo, they will have a shot. If not, it will be an ugly game (see Wisconsin's Big Ten semi-final against Penn State). If the Bruins can escape the Badgers, a showdown looms against Kansas State. The chances of the Bruins making a run are slim, but it is definitely not out of the question.

    Notes: The Bruins have won 12 straight games and have only lost once this calendar year. Two of their four losses were to Tennessee (85-76 & 66-65). The Bruins beat conference opponents by 20.9 points per game this season. Belmont's domination in this category as they lead the nation in scoring margin, with a plus 18.4. In their last NCAA appearance they put a scare into Duke, losing in the first round, 71-70.

George Mason Patriots

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    Record: 26-6 (16-2 Colonial)

    Last Ten: 9-1

    Dance Card: At-Large (Colonial Athletic Association)

    Region: East Seed: Eight

    Tournament Record: 4-5

    Last appearance: 2008

    Scoring: Cam Long 15.3; Ryan Pearson 14.4; Luke Hancock 10.7

    Rebounds: Ryan Pearson 6.8; Mike Morrison 5.3; Cam Long 4.6; Luke Hancock 4.2

    Assists/Turnovers: Luke Hancock 4.3/2.3; Cam Long 2.8/1.7

    3-pointers: Andre Cornelius 59; Cam Long 55; Vertrail Vaughns 33

    Path to Cinderella's Slipper: The Patriots did not get any breaks as they come in as an eight seed in the east region. They start off against Villanova, who has lost five straight and 10 of their last 16. After getting past the Wildcats, they draw the top-ranked Buckeyes. A trip to the sweet sixteen will be challenging, but not totally impossible.

    Notes: Everyone remembers 2006, when the Patriots became the first "mid-major" team in over a quarter-century to advance to the Final Four. While the Patriots have made three post-season trips the last four years, they could not replicate the excitement of that magical year until now. Even though they lost in the CAA semi-finals, the Patriots have been impressive this year as they have won 16 of their last 17.

Morehead State Eagles

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    Record: 24-9 (13-5 OVC)

    Last Ten: 9-1

    Dance Card: Ohio Valley Champion

    Region: Southwest  Seed: 13

    Tournament Record: 5-7

    Last appearance: 2009

    Scoring: Kenneth Faried 17.6; Demonte Harper 16.0; Terrance Hill 10.4

    Rebounds: Kenneth Faried 14.5; Demonte Harper 4.9; Drew Kelly 4.4; Sam Goodman 4.0

    Assists/Turnovers: Demonte Harper 3.4/3.9; Lamont Austin 2.0/1.3

    3-pointers: Terrance Hill 57; Demonte Harper 55; Ty Proffitt 48

    Path to Cinderella's Slipper: The Eagles path to the sweet sixteen starts with a showdown with Louisville. If Morehead State can force Louisville into bad shots, they definitely have a chance as Louisville is a poor rebounding team (No. 91 in the country). Many will give the Eagles no chance, but I say they have a punchers shot. If they get past the Cardinals, a shot at Vanderbilt may be in order, though the Commodores are only 3-4 in their last seven. MSU doesn't have the best shot for the slipper, but they are far from the worst.

    Notes: The Eagles have won 12 of their last 13. Morehead State is led by Kenneth Faried, who is arguably the best player in the mid-majors this season. He has demonstrated his dominance as he has posted 27 double-doubles this season.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies

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    Record: 25-7 (17-1)

    Last Ten: 9-1

    Dance Card: Summit League Champion

    Region: West Seed: 13

    Tournament Record: 1-2

    Last NCAA Appearance: 2010

    Scoring: Keith Benson 18.0; Reggie Hamilton 17.4; Will Hudson 12.5; Travis Bader 10.5

    Rebounds: Keith Benson 10.1; Will Hudson 7.1

    Assists/Turnovers: Reggie Hamilton 5.4/3.7; Larry Wright 3.0/2.0

    3-pointers: Team (.494); Travis Bader 92; Reggie Hamilton 80; Larry Wright 43; Drew Valentine 33

    Path to Cinderella's Slipper: The path for the Golden Grizzlies is an interesting one. They take on a struggling Texas squad (4-4 in their last eight). Oakland's inside-outside game could give the Longhorns troubles.  Keith Benson could be matched up with Big 12 super freshman Tristan Thompson. If Oakland gets past Texas, a match-up with Arizona could loom. Benson could have a second stud to guard as Derrick Williams is the catalyst for the Wildcats. With a few breaks, we could see if the Golden Grizzlies can make the slipper fit.

    Notes: The Golden Grizzlies have won 18 of their last 19 games. This veteran squad has been to the dance and has played a tough out of conference schedule (beating Tennessee, losing to Michigan State by one and playing Illinois close most of the game). If you like a team that moves the ball up the court and doesn't shoot the ball like they are Jimmer Fredette, Oakland is the team for you. The Golden Grizzlies are second in the nation in scoring (85.6) and in shooting percentage (.494) so they are not someone to take lightly.

Old Dominion Monarchs

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    Record: 27-6 (14-4)

    Last Ten: 9-1

    Dance Card: Colonial Athletic Association Champion

    Region: Southeast Seed: Nine

    Tournament Record: 3-10

    Last NCAA Appearance: 2010

    Scoring: Frank Hassell 15.0; Kent Bazemore 12.5

    Rebounds: Frank Hassell 9.6; Ben Finney 6.3; Chris Cooper 5.7; Kent Bazemore 5.0

    Assists/Turnovers: Darius James 3.2/1.6; Ben Finney 3.1/1.8; Kent Bazemore 2.9/2.4

    3-pointers: Trian Iliadis 40; Ben Finney 37; Kent Bazemore 31

    Path to Cinderella's Slipper: The first round is definitely kind for the Monarchs. ODU draws Butler, who is definitely not the darling they were last year. While the Bulldogs have won nine in a row, they were 1-4 in the five games prior. A win in their first game sets up a showdown with Pittsburgh, who is arguably the weakest of the four number one seeds. The Panthers will be a tough game for ODU so a trip to the sweet sixteen is not probably, though anything is possible.

    Notes: The Monarchs have won 15 of their last 17 on their way to winning the CAA conference tournament. They have played well against some of their ranked competition (losing by three to Georgetown and beating Xavier). This team has been here before so they know what to expect as they defeated Notre Dame in the first round last season.