5 Teams That Could Pull off A Cinderella Story This NCAAB Season
As the college basketball regular season comes to a close, the madness begins to set in. March is always full of surprises, and you can count on them happening this year. With that said, Nitrogen Sports Blog takes a look at some of the top candidates to be giant slayers in the Big Dance this year.
KenPom Rank: 36
Projected seed: 8
After upsetting the No. 8 Houston Cougars, UCF began to turn some heads. It’s the Knights’ biggest win of the season and among the most notable in their program’s history.
UCF also proved they can handle a hostile environment by ending Houston’s 33-game home win streak.
The Knights are led by a literally huge figure in 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, who is in the midst of a breakout season, as the UCF’s anchor in the middle. Fall forms a 1-2 punch with B.J. Taylor, who is the team’s most potent scorer.
The team gets to the free throw line a lot. In fact, the Knights are third in the nation in attempts from the charity stripe. In other words, they can get plenty of freebies on offense against any opponent in the tournament.
After fighting through the tough AAC all year, UCF knows they have what it takes to be the Cinderella team that will wreak havoc in the tournament.
KenPom Rank: 22
Projected seed: 7
A team composed of a gang of confident and accurate outside snipers is always a dangerous opponent in March, regardless of seed.
That’s Wofford in a nutshell, as the Terriers are sixth in the nation with 11.0 3-pointers made per game on an insane 41.7 percent clip. Fletcher Magee is one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NCAA basketball history.
As a team, the Terriers are 15th overall with 81.0 points per game and fourth with a 57.3 effective field goal percentage. They are currently No. 22 in the nation — their first time to break into the AP Top 25 in school history — but as a mid-major program without a rich March Madness history, the Terriers are likely to be underrated by plenty of bracket pool players. Wofford is one of the only two teams (Gonzaga Bulldogs) in Division I with a clean conference record.
KenPom Rank: 20
Projected seed: 6
Buffalo has beaten some quality opponents this season. The Bulls beat the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Syracuse Orange as a road team in both games.
Buffalo has a go-to guy who can carry the team in the form of CJ Massinburg, but that’s not to say that the Bills are short on talent outside of the senior guard. After all, Buffalo is sixth nationally in points with 85.0 per game.
Last year, Buffalo entered the tournament as a 13-seed and took out 4-seed Arizona Wildcats in the first round. Now the team will have confidence along with momentum. Buffalo has believed in itself all year. Now the rest of the basketball world is starting to realize that the Bulls have what it takes to be a Cinderella team in 2019.
KenPom Rank: 16
Projected seed: 6
Bruce Pearl has his team clicking at the right time. After winning 20 games and reaching the NCAA tournament last season, the Tigers were hoping to storm into the 2019 national tournament as a favorite, but hit some bumps along the way.
After earning a preseason AP Top 25 ranking, the team did not live up to the hype. But they took care of some tough opponents and have re-emerged as a dangerous draw.
Auburn poses a threat to the top seeds with a talented squad led by a couple of future pros, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. They have chance to show their Cinderella appeal in the upcoming SEC Tournament in which the Tigers can cross paths with the likes of the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats.
KenPom Rank: 35
Projected seed: 9
The Orange were in the AP Top 25 before the start of the season. The team did not live up to its preseason billing, and is in shaky form heading into the Big Dance.
Syracuse, however, is battle tested, which is what most teams in the ACC can say. Plus, the Orange have shown they could hang with anyone when they defeated the Duke Blue Devils on the road back in January.
A staunch zone defense is the top weapon for the Orange and that could prove deadly for teams with little prep time between games. With guard Tyus Battle on board, Syracuse has an intriguing difference-maker. Let’s see if he can spark Syracuse into taking out some favorites this spring.
For every favorite in March Madness, there’s an opportunistic team looking to pull the rug out from under them. Will any of the glass slipper fit any of the teams mentioned above? We will all just have to wait and see.
*All figures for the projected seeds are culled from Joe Lunardi’s (ESPN)
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