The March Madness Search For Cinderella
Total Pro Sports – As a society we love underdogs. We love it when odds are overcome. We love it when David slays Goliath. We love it when David Tyree uses his head to catch an Eli Manning pass to propel his New York Giants to a Super Bowl. We love it when teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, perennial doormats, make World Series runs. We love it when a skinny kid name Stephen Curry takes his school with only 1,700 undergraduates to make an improbable tournament run.
This is why we love March Madness. We love it for the Bucknells, George Masons, and Princetons of the world. Sure we love seeing top dogs face off. But not like seeing Bryce Drew’s shot to carry Valparaiso over Mississippi.
We do love upsets, but most of all we love getting them right. Showing your friends that you had that 13 over a 4, or that 11 seed into the Elite 8.
The search for Cinderella can be agonizing so here to help is an overview of those who could wear the glass slipper, from the 16 seeds to the 11 seeds. Those armed with the smallest of pebbles, and those with multiple stones to chuck at Goliath.
16 seeds (Morehead State, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Radford)
I know it has never happened. But it could happen….right? It would probably take a team that was under seeded to take down the most Goliath of Goliaths. The best shot this year? East Tennessee State.They have outscored their opponents by nearly 9 points a game and have three guys that can score. I am not recommending you pencil any of these teams in but if you have some infallible compulsion to do so take the Bucs.
Best Shot: None this year. One day…….
15 Seeds (Morgan State, Cal State Northridge, Binghamton, Robert Morris)
A 15 seed has only beat a 2 seed 4 times. Most recently 8 years ago when Hampton took down Iowa State, 58-57. This year the best bet is either Morgan State vs Oklahoma or Binghamton against Duke. Both come in winning 11 of their last 12 games. Binghamton would need Duke to be cold from the field and Morgan State would need Blake Griffin to play like Peter Griffin, but at least they have some history on their side.
Best Shot: None.
14 Seeds (North Dakota State, Cornell, Stephen F. Austin, American)
The number of upsets more than triples in the match up of 14s vs 3s. The 14 over 3 upset has happened 15 times, most recently with Northwestern State over Iowa in 2006 and Bucknell over Kansas. So how about this year?
Cornell – No Ivy league team has won in 10 years, sorry.
Stephen F. Austin – Its impressive that one guy could make it this far but Syracuse looks too good for Mr. Austin.
American – They could make some noise but it doesn’t help that their foe, Villanova, is playing basically a home game in Philadelphia. They start all seniors and could keep it close with ‘Nova.
Best Shot: North Dakota State– Sure it is their first year ever in Division I. Sure they are facing the defending champs. The Bison don’t care. They start 4 seniors and are lights outs from beyond the arc. Ben Woodside is their go to guy and is capable of carrying the Bison past a Kansas squad that has a history of losing to 14 seeds.
13 Seeds (Akron, Mississippi State, Cleveland State, Portland State)
There have been 20 upsets of these match ups, including two last year. With the mediocrity this year of the power conferences I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens again. Akron is the longest shot of the group with no notable wins, but the other three pack some punch.
Mississippi State – They came out of nowhere to take the SEC Tournament. Uber shot blocker Jarvis Varnado leads the Bulldogs, who have beat Tennessee and LSU. They take on a talented but inexperienced Washington team and plan to continue streaking from their conference tourney.
Portland State – Remember when the shocked Gonzaga earlier in the season? They could do it again against Xaiver, a team that has struggled of late.
Best Shot: Cleveland State– The Vikings have wins at Syracuse and Butler and face a young Wake Forest team that could get rattled. Coming off a horizon tournament championship Cleveland State takes on a Demon Deacon team that lost to Maryland in the first round. Cleveland State’s depth and solid point guard play by Cedric Jackson could take them into the 2nd round.
12 seeds (Northern Iowa, Arizona, Wisconsin, Western Kentucky)
To clarify Arizona isn’t an upset. The last team in is actually a one point favorite against their 5 seed opponent Utah. So they can’t play the part as David.
Wisconsin – It feels awkward having them be the underdog. Bo Ryan’s team could try to bog a game down and win with defense, but Florida State and Toney Douglas might be too much for the Badgers.
Northern Iowa – Northern Iowa is on a 5 game winning streak coming into the tournament but they are facing a Purdue team that is finally living up to expectations. No dice here.
Best Shot: Western Kentucky -The Hilltoppers, winners of 10 of their last 11, surge into the tournament and face a wounded Illinois team. The Illini are without one half of their back court in Chester Frazier. WKU is balanced with 4 starters in double figures, not to mention they have been tested in the tourney before.
11 seeds (Virginia Commonwealth, Utah State, Temple, Dayton)
The last seed that can pull of a true upset are the 11 seeds. This years crop could do some damage.
Dayton – They have been up and down all year. The Flyers have wins against Marquette and Xavier on their resume, but they are facing a strong West Virginia team. I am not on this bandwagon.
Virginia Commonwealth – I am on the VCU bandwagon. Eric Maynor and crew are back in the tournament and ready to take down some giants (beat Duke 2 years ago). UCLA is an average team and while they are offensively efficient VCU will be a tough out.
Temple – If the Owls beat Arizona State it will be because of Dionte Christmas. The senior guard is averaging nearly 20 points a game and could take down a mediocre Sun Devils team.
Best Shot: Utah State – The Aggies won 30 games in the regular season and are wanting more. Somewhat slighted with an 11 seed Utah State is facing a Marquette team that is reeling after the loss of Dominic James. Utah State is fundamentally sound and will be a tough out for anybody.
Davids will slay Goliaths, undoubtedly a Cinderella will make a run and Gus Johnson will freak out.
These are the things that make March Madness great.