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Cinderella at the ball: march madness underdogs

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64 college basketball teams are selected to compete in the NCAA tournament every year(68 if you include the play-in games).  Within this pool is a wide-variety of different teams: the reigning champs, the overrated high seeds and, of course, the 16-seeds from small conferences that are looking for miracles.  But if there is anything we’ve learned from March Madness in the past, it’s that there are always sleepers who end up making unexpected runs. Here are some teams I think have the potential to surprise us in this year’s tournament:

 

Texas Longhorns

Although it is safe to say that the University of Texas underperformed in conference play, they have the weapons that prove their worth in the tournament.  

It all starts in the frontcourt with Mohamed Bamba.  The 6’11” forward is averaging a double-double this season, and is a projected top ten pick in this year’s NBA draft.  

The Longhorns have shown their potential with many quality wins this season including:

Oklahoma (Twice), Texas A&M, Alabama, Texas Tech, and West Virginia.  

Although they come in as underdogs in their first round game against 7-seeded Nevada, the Longhorns should enjoy a small home court advantage with the game being played in Nashville Tennessee.  Watch out for the Longhorns to begin a cinderella run on Friday.

 

San Diego State

The Aztecs enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the entire country.  Although it has been an up and down year for them, the second half of SDSU’s schedule consists of almost nothing but W’s.  The Aztecs are currently on a nine-game win streak, with two of those victories coming against a ranked Nevada team.

Their first round game is on Friday, March 16 against a very talented Houston team.  San Diego State will be looking to use their late-season momentum to spark a tournament run.  

 

Rhode Island

Prior to their NCAA tournament appearance last March, you might not even have heard of URI.  But this is a team that finished this year’s regular season ranked 25th in the country, with a very impressive record of 23-6.  Led by senior guard Jared Terrell, the champions of the Atlantic 10 conference will be looking to turn some heads in this year’s tournament.  

It all starts out with their opening game against star point guard Trae Young and the Oklahoma Sooners.  A matchup some analysts refer to as a coin flip, Rhode Island will be looking to use their physical style of play to muscle past Oklahoma.  

 

NC State

Because the top teams in the ACC are elite, other teams in this conference are often overlooked: such as the North Carolina State Wolfpack.  NC State finished the regular season with an overall record of 21-11(11-7 conference), and has numerous victories over ranked opponents such as: #2 Duke, at #10 North Carolina, #19 Clemson, and #25 Florida State.  With the proven ability to defeat top tier teams, watch out for the Wolfpack to make some noise in this year’s tournament.

 

When students were asked what teams they believed had the potential to be sleepers this year, these were the most common responses:

-Rhode Island, Michigan, Loyola-Chicago, Texas, Florida State

 

Students were also asked about their overall predictions for the tournament:

“I definitely think we will see some new teams impress us, but in the end I think Duke wins it,” said senior Nicholas Battey.  

Vice Principal Sean Mailey agreed with Battey to a large extent about the overall outcome of the tournament.  However, he did not rule out the possibility of a big sleeper run. “Ultimately, I see this tournament being run by the blue bloods (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova).  However, I do think that Michigan has the potential to be a final four team.”

 

Part of what makes March Madness so exciting: it’s unpredictable.  

Amongst the wild finishes and crazy upsets, there will be underestimated teams who emerge to make unexpected runs.  The big question is, who’s going to pick them?

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