Monday, March 18, 2019 at 2:00 AM (NCAA Tournament )
You’re going to spend these next few days filling out your bracket and doing as much homework and number crunching as possible to avoid tearing it up before the weekend. We’ve all been there. Here I will list 10 cinderella teams that you should be aware of, teams that probably aren’t on your radar for a deep run but are more than capable of destroying your bracket. Do not overlook these teams or you may regret it.
Northeastern Huskies - The Northeastern Huskies beat Alabama by 16 points back in November and have lost just one game since January 26. Northeastern is an offensive powerhouse that shoots 48.2 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from three, with four different players making at least 55 threes on the season. The game has changed and if a team gets hot from beyond the arc, anything can happen. Northeastern is one of those explosive teams that can ruin your day if the deep ball is falling.
New Mexico State Aggies - The New Mexico State Aggies haven’t lost a game since January 3, and they took the Kansas Jayhawks down to the wire, losing by only three points when they were ranked second in the country. New Mexico State is deep with 13 players seeing more than 200 minutes and its defense is top-70 in the country in field goal percentage allowed (41.8 percent). The New Mexico State Aggies are used to winning and won’t be intimated by the moment at all.
Murray State Racers - The Murray State Racers enter this tournament on an 11-game winning streak and took Auburn down to the wire in a track meet a few days before Christmas. The Racers are led by one of the best players in the country, a lottery pick in Ja Morant, and somebody who has scored 30 or more points six times this season. We’ve seen Cinderella’s that are led by one phenomenal player in the past. The Murray State Racers have their guy who can takeover games and petty much crash your bracket by himself.
Oregon Ducks - The Oregon Ducks are one of the more dangerous 12-seeds I can remember, as they enter this tournament on an eight-game winning streak, which includes a Pac-12 title. Oregon shows flashes of being an elite defensive team and has a red hot 1-2 punch in Louis King and Payton Pritchard, who dominated the Pac-12 tournament. I’m probably going to pick Oregon to beat Wisconsin, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they win another game on top of that.
Vermont Catamounts - The Vermont Catamounts hung around with Louisville and Kansas earlier in the year, and they dominated the American East, which includes holding each of their last five opponents to 57 or less points. Vermont gets after it defensively, but also has a junior forward in Anthony Lamb, who is averaging 21.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 52.1 percent shooting. If Vermont can control the pace, all bets are off and an upset or two isn’t surprising.
Saint Mary's Gaels - The Saint Mary's Gaels made Gonzaga extremely uncomfortable in the WCC Championship, holding the Bulldogs to just 47 points on 37.5 percent shooting. If that doesn’t get your attention, I’m not sure what will. Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts are an explosive scoring tandem, and Jordan Hunter has grabbed double-digit rebounds in three of his last five games. Don’t think Saint Mary's was a fluke and will be an easy out in the big dance.
Seton Hall Pirates - The Seton Hall Pirates are one of the most aggressive defenses in the country, and it’s a big reason why they have wins over Kentucky, Maryland, Marquette and Villanova. Seton Hall forces turnovers, has aggressive guards and can really make a game ugly. Myles Powell is a junior guards who has topped 20 points in each of his last seven games. There’s clear flaws with Seton Hall and an early exit against Wofford wouldn’t be shocking, but this is also a team that has proven it can play with anybody when it gets to play its style.
UCF Knights - The UCF Knights may be the most frustrating team in college basketball to play due to their length and defense pressure. Opposing offenses can’t attack the paint with Tacko Fall on the court, and the constant confusion results in lots of turnovers and easy transition points for the Knights. While offense can be an issue for UCF as well, B.J. Taylor is one of the top players in the AAC and can come up clutch at times. I would love to see a UCF-Duke second round, as the Blue Devils would have their hands full against this defense.
Wofford Terriers - The Wofford Terriers are 12th in the country in points averaged per game, 10th in field goal percentage and second in three-point percentage. Wofford has four different players who have made at least 41 threes and five players who shoot 38 percent or better from deep. Wofford hung around with North Carolina and Oklahoma earlier in the season, and the Terriers haven’t lost a game overall since December 19. Sleep if you want.
Georgia State Panthers - The Georgia State Panthers have scored 80 or more points in five of their last eight games and are top-20 in the country with a 38.8 percent shooting percentage from deep. With four double-digit scorers in D'Marcus Simonds, Malik Benlevi, Jeff Thomas and Kane Williams, Georgia State has the horses to hang with any team on a hot night. The Panthers are also led by coach Ron Hunter, who is no stranger to the big dance and will be forever remembered for falling off his chair when his son R.J. Hunter knocked out Baylor in the final seconds. Georgia State could recapture some magic.