Every year a lower seeded team or two dazzles crowds with spectacular, unfathomable upsets. 2009 won't be any different as these ten teams look to put on the proverbial glass slipper.
When it comes to the Bruins, the numbers speak for themselves. A 30-2 conference record the past two seasons. One of six teams to reach the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons.
Two points and a dozen seconds from defeating Duke. Nine out of 11 top scorers return for 2009. Belmont will be back and ready to play into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
The Big Red could be putting on the floor one of the best Ivy League teams since 1998, the last time anyone from the conference won an NCAA Tournament game.
Cornell returns its top players, Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, and Adam Gore, but also seven foot center Jeff Foote. A stronger non-conference schedule and another undefeated run through the Ivy League could set up the Big Red for a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Sometimes one player can carry a team. When that player is in the top ten nationally in scoring and also the first Division I men's basketball player to record a quadruple-double, that player can carry a team a long way.
Guard Lester Hudson averaged almost 26 points per game and will team up with likely Preseason Ohio Valley Conference first teamer Marquis Weddle to put the Skyhawks into the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles will try to follow in the footsteps of fellow conference foes, Bucknell and Holy Cross as March Cinderellas. It shouldn't be hard for a team that returns the conference's two best guards. Garrison Carr broke the Patriot League record for three-pointers in a season by 36 and Derrick Mercer is the league's best point guard.
6. Kent State
The Golden Flashes lost the best coach in league history and their top two forwards from a year ago, but it's ok. Kent State promoted assistant coach Geno Ford to replace Jim Christian and brought in several ready-to-play forwards to fill the holes in their frontcourt.
The Golden Flashes also have the reigning MAC Player of the Year Al Fisher to anchor the backcourt.
5. North Dakota State
The Bison aren't wasting any time in their attempt for their first NCAA Tournament bid. 2009 will be NDSU's first season as a full-fledged Division I member. The Bison return all five starters from last year's fourth place team, but also have arguably the conference's best two players.
Seniors Brett Winkelman and Ben Woodside both averaged at least 19 points a game last season for the Bison.
4. Cleveland State
Butler and Valparaiso dominated the Horizon League Spotlight for years, but its the Vikings' turn to make an NCAA Tournament run. The top two candidates for conference player of the year will wear CSU green.
J'Nathan Bulluck and Cedric Jackson will combine to make a dangerous inside-outside combination. The Vikings will also return two other starters from a team that won 21 games and went to the NIT last season.
Just because a team is in the Big East doesn't mean it can't be a Cinderella. The Friars will prove this in 2009 as new coach Keno Davis brings back 11 of the top 12 players in minutes from last year's team.
Enter into the equation stud point guard Sharaud Curry who missed all but one game because of an injury and PC is a completely different team--an NCAA Tournament team.
The MAAC's best team got a little better during the off-season. The Saints improved their second round team with the addition of stud junior college transfer Wolfgang Gieler. He'll compliment the five returning starters, three of which are three of the conference's best players.
The Saints have the league's leading returning scorer, Edwin Ubiles and leading rebounder, Alex Franklin as well as POY candidate Kenny Hasbrouck.
The secret known as the Wildcats is certainly out of the bag, but it doesn't mean they can't still be a Cinderella. Davidson still belongs to a pretty low-rated Southern Conference and will probably need to win its conference tournament to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid.
The nation's best pure scorer, Stephen Curry returns for a third trip to the NCAA Tournament and a chance to extend his postseason legend.