Everybody loves an underdog story, right? Well, the NCAA Tournament is the place where those stories play out on an annual basis.

Upsets are commonplace during March Madness with higher seeds shocking well-known powerhouse programs to orchestrate Cinderella runs. It’s one of the best parts of the tournament.

It’s difficult to predict exactly where these underdogs will come from, though. Every team has a chance — even No. 16 seeds now — when the tournament begins in earnest Thursday with first-round action, but pulling off an upset is a large task that only a few squads can manage.

Here are four teams that the glass slipper might just fit in this year’s NCAA Tournament:

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The 11th-seeded Ducks found their stride at the right time. After going 7-8 to close out the regular season, Oregon pulled off wins over UCLA, Arizona and Colorado to capture the Pac-12 Conference Tournament title. Sometimes, it’s just the hottest teams, not the best, that win on the elevated tournament stage.

Oregon has a proven head coach in Dana Altman, who guided the Ducks to a Final Four appearance in 2017, and steady senior playmakers in N’Faly Dante and Jermaine Couisnard. The Ducks face No. 6 South Carolina in the first round, and a win there could set up a possible matchup with No. 3 Creighton, which is Altman’s former team.

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McNeese State
The Cowboys faced teams like the College of Biblical Studies, Champion Christian and Mississippi University of Women in the regular season, but McNeese State isn’t to be underestimated. The Cowboys have quality victories as part of their 30-win season by beating VCU, UAB and Michigan, which looked better at the time.

McNeese State has an experienced head coach at the helm in Will Wade, who was fired from LSU for recruiting violations in 2022, and the Cowboys boast four players who average double figures in scoring led by do-it-all guard Shahada Wells.

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The bracket also seemed to break right for McNeese State, allowing for a possible Sweet 16 run. The Ducks get No. 5 Gonzaga in the first round, which doesn’t have the same firepower as past Mark Few teams. And if the Cowboys advance, they could see No. 4 Kansas, which is hobbled and won’t have star Kevin McCullar Jr. available due to injury.

New Mexico
The No. 11 Lobos are already on everyone’s radar, and rightfully so. If teams want to excel in March, they need good guard play and New Mexico surely has that. They are led by a trio of guards in Jaelen House, who is the son of NBA champion Eddie House, Donovan Dent and Jamal Mashburn Jr., another son of a former NBA player. Richard Pitino, son of Rick Pitino, is on the sideline as the Lobos’ head coach.

New Mexico had some dips in its play that is a cause for concern — the Lobos finished the regular season losing four of their final six games. But New Mexico ripped off a sizable feat by securing four straight wins to claim the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship. The Lobos, who are favored in their first-round matchup against No. 6 Clemson, come from a conference that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament and they are arguably the most talented team out of that bunch.

The Golden Grizzlies are prepared for this elevated stage due to their tough non-conference schedule to begin the season. They didn’t get a win in most of those matchups but showed well against Illinois and Drake while also getting thumped by Michigan State and Dayton — all four of those teams are in the tournament.

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Oakland won’t be intimated going up against third-seeded Kentucky and its handful of NBA prospects. The Golden Grizzlies enter the contest winners of 17 of their last 20 games (remember that thing about a team’s playing its best at the right time?) and Horizon League Player of the Year Trey Townsend, who averages 16.9 points per game, could take advantage of a suspect Kentucky defense to push Oakland through to the next round and beyond.

Featured image via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images