Men's NCAA Tournament 2023: The Biggest Potential Cinderella Teams in the Field of 68

Joel ReuterMarch 15, 2023

Men's NCAA Tournament 2023: The Biggest Potential Cinderella Teams in the Field of 68

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    Tucker DeVries
    Tucker DeVriesKeith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The 2023 men's NCAA tournament is a day away, so let's identify Cinderella teams that could be the difference between winning and losing your pool.

    Ahead we've highlighted five double-digit seeds—one from each of the four regions, along with a bonus team—that have the best chances to put together Cinderella runs based on their regular-season performance, momentum and the path ahead.

    Which team will don the glass slipper this year?

    Let's get to it.

    Make your picks: Play the NCAA March Madness Men's Bracket Challenge and Tournament Run.

Charleston Cougars

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    Dalton Bolon
    Dalton BolonMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Seed: No. 12 in South Region

    A team that lives and dies by the three-pointer can be a double-edged sword during March Madness, but in the case of a low seed looking to pull off an upset, it can be a ticket to the next round.

    The Charleston Cougars rank second in the nation with 30.2 three-point attempts per game, and while they shoot just 33.4 percent from distance, they are 23-0 in games in which they make at least nine threes.

    Dalton Bolon (12.3 PPG), Ante Brzovic (11.6 PPG), Reyne Smith (10.9 PPG), Ryan Larson (10.6 PPG) and Pat Robinson III (10.6 PPG) score in double figures, and the Cougars average 80.8 points per game.

    Despite a lackluster schedule with only three games above the Quadrant 3 level, Charleston still ranks in the top 75 nationally in's adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency, giving it one of the better profiles of any low-major team.

    It will face slow, methodical San Diego State in the first round and would likely play similar Virginia in the second round. If the Cougars get hot from three and can force those opponents to push the tempo, a trip to the Sweet 16 is not out of the question.

Drake Bulldogs

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    Tucker DeVries
    Tucker DeVriesKeith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed: No. 12 in Midwest Region

    The Drake Bulldogs are led by one of the best mid-major players in the country.

    Sophomore Tucker DeVries was a 4-star recruit in 2021 who turned down scholarship offers from Air Force, Creighton, Florida, Iowa State and South Dakota State to play for his dad at Drake.

    The 6'7" forward averaged 19.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and won Missouri Valley Conference player of the year honors. In games in which he scores more than 15 points, Drake is 17-2.

    Four seniors fill the starting lineup, including point guard Roman Penn (12.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.6 RPG), a first-team all-conference honoree.

    With a 13-1 record in their last 14 games and a Quad 1 victory over Mississippi State in December, the Bulldogs could be the latest team from the MVC to pull off a tournament upset.

Furman Paladins

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    Jalen Slawson
    Jalen SlawsonJohn Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed: No. 13 in South Region

    The Furman Paladins have won 20-plus games for the sixth time in the past seven years, but they punched their ticket to the tournament for the first time since 1980 by sweeping the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

    With a 14-1 record in their last 15 games, the Paladins have plenty of momentum, and they have one of the most efficient offenses in the country.

    Mike Bothwell (18.0 PPG, 3.0 APG), Jalen Slawson (15.7 PPG, 3.2 APG), JP Pegues (12.0 PPG, 4.0 APG) and Marcus Foster (10.6 PPG) lead the way for a unit that ranks 33rd in KenPom's offensive efficiency, and Furman leads the nation with 60.1 percent shooting on two-point attempts.

    It also averages 17.1 assists per game. That ability to move the ball will be crucial against a Virginia defense that will look to grind things to a halt.

    The Paladins played tough against Penn State in a five-point loss in November, and they are more than capable of pulling off an upset or two.

Providence Friars

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    Bryce Hopkins
    Bryce HopkinsM. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed: No. 11 in East Region

    The Providence Friars narrowly avoided the First Four games, finishing one slot ahead of Mississippi State on the seeding list, and they were the last of five teams from the Big East to earn a spot in the field.

    They finished 13-7 in conference play with home wins over Marquette, UConn and Creighton, and they also picked up road wins against Seton Hall and Villanova to build a strong enough case for an at-large bid.

    While Providence is just 1-4 in its last five games, it is dangerous because of offense that ranks 16th in KenPom's adjusted efficiency.

    Forward Bryce Hopkins earned unanimous first-team All-Big East honors with 16.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The Kentucky transfer had a 29-point, 23-rebound game against Marquette on Dec. 20.

    The East was by far the toughest region in which to identify a potential Cinderella team, especially since No. 12 seed Oral Roberts already made a shocking run with two victories as a No. 15 seed two years ago. But don't discount the Friars, who are flying under the radar after they reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 4 seed a year ago.

VCU Rams

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    Ace Baldwin Jr.
    Ace Baldwin Jr.Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed: No. 12 in West Region

    The VCU Rams are not a fun opponent.

    Their defense ranks 17th in KenPom's adjusted efficiency and forces 16.5 turnovers per game, and five players average at least one steal per game, led by Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Ace Baldwin Jr., who ranked second in the conference with 2.2 steals per game.

    Virginia Commonwealth is 11-0 when it holds opponents to 60 points or fewer, and that could work in its favor in the first round against slow-paced Saint Mary's.

    It's hard to believe it's been 12 years since head coach Shaka Smart led the No. 11 seed Rams to the Final Four, and they have been a staple in the tournament since, but they are still chasing that level of success.

    The VCU defense is good enough to shake things up in the West.

    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.