Friday, March 1, 2019

The Next Possible College Basketball Cinderella Teams

Upset secured, from Kinfay Moroti at news-press.com

The calendar has turned to March, which means college basketball is entering its final month of regular season competition before 68 of the best teams in the country battle it out for the ultimate crown. Every year, it seems there are a number of small teams that unexpectedly make it deep into the tournament. Last year, 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago made it all the way to the national semifinals in the men’s tournament, while 11th seeded Buffalo made it to the regional quarterfinals in the women’s bracket. Which will be this year’s surprise teams? We have a few predictions.

Ja Morant, courtesy of si.com
Murray State
The men’s team has been a low-seeded regular in the national tournament, but they’ve been taking their Ohio Valley Conference by storm. Smaller teams usually need to go on a near-perfect regular season run to be able to tango with the bigger schools, and Murray State could be just that team. They also have Ja Morant on their team, who’s been one of the more complete, under-the-radar players in the men’s game this year.

Florida Gulf Coast
The women’s team pulled a huge first-round upset last year as a 15th seed, and they could very well do it again this year. The team is performing better than it did in 2018 and is projected to slot in at a 14th seed, giving it a slightly more favorable matchup. A 3rd-seeded team is no slouch, but FGCU is a basketball program known for working its magic when the cards are stacked against it.

Dukes celebrating, from jmu.edu

South Dakota State
The men’s Jackrabbit squad is no stranger to the postseason, having been in the tournament five of the past seven years. They’ve faced very tough competition in every round but put up good fights against some of the best in men’s college basketball. Could this be the year they finally break through into the second round?

James Madison
The Dukes have appeared in the women’s tournament or just missed being included seemingly every year for the last few decades. Having made the National Invitational Tournament the last few years after back-to-back-to-back appearances in the national title postseason, we think 2019 is the year JMU breaks through. They’re first in their conference and are beating most of the competition by wide, convincing margins. Look for the Dukes to be around 11 in the seeding, giving them a favorable matchup with a 6th-seeded squad.

The great thing about postseason college basketball is you can never plan for the impossible, last-second plays that swing a game one way or another. However it happens, we’re bound to see a couple surprise teams ride a wave of nail-biting wins into the national conversation. Which teams do you think will be this year’s Cinderella squads? Let us know in the comments below, and enjoy the rest of the regular season!
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