An NCAA Tournament prediction roundtable that looks at who will be this year’s March Madness Cinderellas and make it to the second weekend.
Drop the chalk and grab your slippers, we’re going Cinderella hunting. Some team (or teams) will shock the sports world and make a surprising run in the NCAA Tournament. Who will it be? Well, for the purpose of this post, a Cinderella is considered a double-digit seed that makes it to the second weekend (i.e. the Sweet 16 or beyond).
Potential NCAA Tournament Cinderella Teams
When we made bold predictions for the NCAA Tournament, mine was that USC will make it to the Sweet 16 and give Duke a tough time. I’ll stick with that. The Trojans’ toughest game before the second weekend will be its First Four contest against Providence. They’ll then beat down a defensive-minded SMU squad, and skate against Baylor.
The team that no one’s paying attention to is 12-seeded UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks face off against 5-seeded Virginia in the first round and have a better chance than you may think.
Yes, the Cavaliers’ defense is arguably the nation’s fiercest, but their offense is absolutely putrid. The Hoos average 66.6 points per game – that’s good for No. 309 out of 347 total teams. Want to know where UNCW’s scoring offense ranks? No. 10 in the nation at 85.2 PPG. Now, obviously the Seahawks’ defense doesn’t match that of Virginia’s, but that discrepancy in offensive production is so massive that UNCW has a legitimate shot at upsetting the Cavaliers early.
There’s only one choice here: FGCU. It’s the Florida Gulf Coast Revival. Even John Fogerty would leave the Bayou and head to Orlando for the Eagles’ first-round matchup with Florida State. FGCU could easily upset the Seminoles with Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson leading the way. And if they can get past FSU, they can sneak past Maryland or Xavier.
I’m going to be truly honest here. All I really want is for the Eagles to start flying high in the tourney again, throwing down jam after jam, living up to the Dunk City nickname while Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” plays in the background. Yup, I essentially want FGCU to turn March Madness into a 1990s basketball movie. Now all we need is for Joe Dooley to quickly hire Woody Harrelson as an assistant coach. Maybe tack on Bugs Bunny and Dan Akr— I mean, Bill Murray to the roster.
Dunk City, bay-by! It’s that time again!
There are some intriguing candidates this year, including FGCU, Princeton and Middle Tennessee. But I am going to go with Eric Musselman’s Nevada squad. The Wolf Pack won their first-ever Mountain West regular season title, and a big part of the reason is because of the offensive balance. Marcus Marshall, Cameron Oliver, D.J. Fenner, Jordan Caroline and Elijah Foster average double digits in scoring, the starting lineup is long and athletic, and Oliver is a versatile forward who has a chance to eventually play in the NBA. Iowa State has a lot of scoring options, but the Cyclones aren’t very big. It’s a nice first-round matchup for Nevada. A second-round game against Purdue or Vermont could loom for the Wolf Pack, and it wouldn’t stun me to see a 12-13 game between them and Catamounts for the right to go to the Sweet 16.
There are a handful of possibilities here. Teams like Xavier, Middle Tennessee State (seemingly everyone’s upset pick), and Vermont (longest active winning streak in the nation) are all capable of moving on to the round of 32. But, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Rhode Island gets the upset victory over Creighton. The season-ending injury to Maurice Watson was a big blow to the Jays, and while they still have some good offensive weapons, they just aren’t the same team that started the year 18-1. Meanwhile, Rhode Island came into this season hoping to finish the year as a top-25 team, and while they were unsuccessful in doing so, they still made the tournament and have some weapons that, if all goes well, can push them to the second round.
Are you aware that in the German version of Cinderella, the “evil stepsisters” get their eyes pecked out by birds as punishment? While that doesn’t sound as bad as having to listen to Gus Johnson yell for two hours while announcing a 54-52 victory, it would be an effective way to get people to stop being evil.
Let’s recount the story: Cinderella is at home mopping floors, somehow gets to attend a celebration or ball and loses her slipper. She goes home, a prince returns the shoe and they fall in love. Wow. Talk about low standards for him. Now he’s going to have to buy her a wardrobe, deal with evil stepsisters during the wedding and put up with a mother-in-law that is just horrible to everyone.
Yeah, I’m going with “Prince”ton.