March Madness: 5 Teams that can lead the Cinderella Run

Posted by Aaron . on March 15, 2016 in

While it is usually one of the favorites that walks away with the NCAA men’s basketball championship (and it’s usually four of the favorites that end up in the Final Four), the most exciting stories from the tournament each year come from the Cinderella teams — the ones that beat the odds and knock off the elite teams in the early rounds — or even later. Here are five teams that could push deeper into the college hoops tournament spread than anyone had thought.

March Madness: 5 Teams that can lead the Cinderella Run

  

Temple

Did you know that the Iowa Hawkeyes went 2-6 down the stretch — and then lost to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament? There was a time when they were 19-4 and were in consideration for a 1-seed in the tournament and featured a 10-1 conference record. However, now Iowa has a 7-seed in the tournament, a spot that is still likely overrated. Who did Iowa lose to down the stretch? In addition to Illinois, they also fell to Penn State and Ohio State, two other teams that failed to make the Big Dance.

So against Iowa, Temple has an excellent chance. They beat Cincinnati twice, beat Connecticut on the road, beat SMU at home, and only lost to Utah by six and Butler by five. They won four of their last five games and have three different double-digit scorers in Quenton DeCosey (15.6), Obi Enechionyia (11.2) and Jaylen Bond (10.2). DeCosey and shoot and bang on the boards, and Bond is a terrific rebounder. This is a team that could give Iowa fits — and an early ticket home.

UNC Wilmington

This is not the Duke team that won the national title last year. They don’t play much defense, and their rebounding is fairly sleepy. That’s one reason they lost four of seven down the stretch (including games to Notre Dame and Pitt). In a loss to North Carolina, they lost the battle of the boards, 64-29. They lost Amile Jefferson to injury and they simply don’t have anyone on their bench to dominate the middle.

The Seahawks of UNC Wilmington play a version of small ball that is tailored to match the strengths of their quick team and take advantage of trends like the Golden State Warriors were able to in the NBA  last year (and this year). They also play a swarming perimeter defense that frustrates teams who want to win with the three.

Yale

For the Bulldogs, all eyes will be on Justin Sears. He scored 15.8 points per game and shot 51.9% from the floor for the year. However, Nick Victor could be the one to bring all sorts of trouble to baylor, as he shoots 47% from beyond the arc. The Bears are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team when it comes to playing defense and rebounding, and if they are lazy at all, Yale will make them pay.

Wisconsin

The Badgers are a 7-seed stuck in a thorny East bracket, but they went on a big run in the second half of Big Ten play and could continue that momentum into March Madness. They start with #10 Pittsburgh, but if they can shake off the Panthers, they’ll have a chance to knock off Xavier — and then things get a lot more manageable in the Sweet Sixteen.

Vanderbilt/Wichita State

You wouldn’t normally expect a First Four team to go on a big run, but these are two teams that have a ton of upside (and Wichita State shouldn’t be shoehorned into this ridiculous play-in). Either of these teams could easily beat Arizona in the first round in the bracket of 64.