NCAA Tournament: 4 Cinderellas To Put the Madness in March
Every year, unfamiliar programs find their way to the spotlight behind a miracle Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament. Predicting these upsets is most of the fun, and we’re here to help you do that. Below, we have ranked four teams that could fit the Cinderella mold in this year’s tournament.1. #12 Drake Bulldogs – Midwest Region
The Drake Bulldogs have the shortest spread among the 5-vs-12 matchups at +2.5, and it’s with good reason. This group’s starting lineup is so experienced that it’s older than five current NBA starting lineups!
They face a Miami team that is missing their star frontcourt contributor Norchad Omier, which would leave them thin with their bigs in this matchup. Darnell Brodie can exploit a weak frontcourt, and Tucker DeVries is a name to remember here.
Most are familiar with the Oral Robers Golden Eagles, but this version is better than the squad that made the famous run in 2021. Max Abmas is back and better than ever, posting absurd shooting numbers again this season.
He is joined by plenty of returnees from last year’s squad and Arkansas transfer Connor Vanover. The 7’5″ giant anchors the paint for Oral Bob and can also step out and be a sharpshooting threat, knocking down 43 triples this season. This team is terrifying on the offensive end, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them give a younger Duke side some fits.3. #10 Utah State Aggies – South Region
The Utah State Aggies are well-known enough that it could be debatable whether they belong on this list, but we’ll let them in as a double-digit seed. The Aggies rely heavily on shotmaking from deep, scoring 35.1 percent of their points on triples, 60th in the country.
The strategy makes sense when they shoot it at an efficient clip of 38.5 percent as a group, 11th in Division I. This team typically plays five out, with five guys who can stroke it and with plenty of ball movement. It’s something Missouri has not seen in the SEC, the worst three-point shooting conference in college basketball, and it could lead to the upset.
With an Arizona side with a flawed defense likely awaiting the next round, Utah State could make a deep run in the South Region.4. #14 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos – South Region
This isn’t one you’ll hear too often, but the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos have a pretty favorable draw. They start against a Baylor team that refuses to play defense. The Bears rank outside the top 100 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ranking and lack a threatening frontcourt presence.
UC Santa Barbara loves to pound it down low, with 58 percent of their scoring coming from two-pointers, the 20th-highest rate in the nation. This unit is well-seasoned, with four seniors in the starting lineup and a handful of players with high-major experience.
This could be the upset that no one sees coming in the opening round.