Introducing Cinderella

Introducing Cinderella: Troy Trojans continue postseason run

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Conference: Sun Belt Conference

Coach: Phil Cunningham

Record: 22-14 (10-8 Sun Belt)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 131
– RPI: 162
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: Despite being a No. 6 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the Trojans could jump to the first round and skip out on Dayton. Troy has 22 wins and a higher RPI than any other the teams currently projected by NBC Sports bracketology to be in the First Four. Troy should expect to be a No. 16 seed.

Names you need to know: Jordon Varnado has come up big late in the year for the Trojans. The sophomore forward ended the year averaging a team-best 16.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Wesley Person, a junior marksmen who was named MVP of the conference tournament, averages 14.8 points a night while shooting 40 percent from three

Stats you need to know: The Trojans averaged 79.0 points per game, ranking them in the top-50 nationally in that category. However, they rank sub-200 in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.

Big wins, bad losses: The Trojans were up at halftime against Southern Cal, but USC rallied for a five-point win back in December. Instead, Troy’s best win is a 22-point win over UT Arlington at home in January. It’s worst lost, based on RPI is to South Florida, falling to the Bulls 80-74 in early December.

How’d they get here?: Troy had to win four games in five days to clinch the automatic berth into the 2017 NCAA Tournament. It started with back-to-back 20-point wins over Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. After Texas State took down top-seeded UT Arlington in the semifinals, Troy followed by coming from nine down to upset No. 2 seed Georgia State, outscoring the Panthers by 20 in the second half. In the finals, the Trojans led for the final 30 minutes of regulation, opening up a lead as large as 10 in the closing minutes of the first half. The Bobcats would rally, cutting the deficit to a one-possession game, but Jordon Varando and Wesley Person closed out the game from the free throw line.

Outlook: Troy overcame six straight losing seasons and has had a 13-win turnaround from 2015-16. However, as a projected No. 16 seed, the odds tell us this incredible ride will end next week.

How do I know you?: If the last names of Troy’s two stars sound familiar, it’s because Jordon is the younger brother of former Mississippi State star Jarvis Vanardo. Wesley Person is the son of NBA veteran, Wesley Sr.. His uncle, Chuck, was also an NBA veteran

Introducing Cinderella: Princeton Tigers back to the tournament for the 25th time

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Conference: Ivy League

Coach: Mitch Henderson

Record: 23-6 (14-0 Ivy)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 62
– RPI: 52
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: Princeton has the second-longest active winning streak in the nation, trailing only Vermont. Winners of 19 in a row, the Tigers are likely destined for to be a No. 13 seed, according to NBC Sports bracketology. Given the other projected No. 13 seeds, Princeton has the highest RPI of the group.

Names you need to know: Spencer Weisz is the Ivy League Player of the Year. While he’s fourth on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game, but he led the Tigers in rebounds (5.4 RPG), assists (4.0 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). Devin Cannady (13.7 PPG), leads the team in scoring, followed by Steven Cook (13.6 PPG) and Myles Stephens (12.2 PPG). Stephens, the 6-foot-5 sophomore, is the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. All four are strong shooters from beyond the arc.

Stats you need to know: 10: The Tigers averaged 10 made 3-pointers a game, shooting 38 percent from deep as a team. More than 40 percent of Princeton’s points come courtesy of the 3-ball. The Tigers also play at a methodical pace, like the Princeton offense tends to be played at, meaning they make the defense work while in search for the best possible shot.

Big wins, bad losses: Aside from sweeping the Ivy League, the Tigers defeated Patriot League champion Bucknell, another projected No. 13 seed, on the road in December. The 72-70 win wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. That win started Princeton’s 19-game win streak. Its worse loss belongs to Saint Joseph’s, which finished second to the bottom in the Atlantic 10 standings.

How’d they get here?: Princeton ran the table in the Ivy League, but it wasn’t all that easy. In the first-ever Ivy League Tournament, the Tigers were rewarded by playing Penn on the Quakers’ home floor, The Palestra. Princeton forced overtime, thanks to a putback by Stephens in the final seconds. After leading by only two at halftime in the title game against Yale, the Tigers were able to pull away after starting the second half on a 13-4 run.

Outlook: Princeton is a balanced team. The Tigers can stretch the floor and put up points in a hurry given their volume of 3-point attempts. Princeton should be a tough out regardless of opponent.

How do I know you?: While it’s been since 2011, Princeton has been a stable part of the NCAA Tournament field for decades. The 2017 NCAA Tournament will be the program’s 25th all-time appearance.

Introducing Cinderella: UC Davis makes first NCAA Tournament in school history

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Conference: Big West

Coach: Jim Les

Record: 22-12 (11-5 Big West)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 219
– RPI: 178
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: NBC Sports bracketology predicted UC Irvine as the Big West automatic qualifier and slotted the Anteaters as a No. 15 seed. The Aggies will have one of the three worst RPIs heading into the NCAA Tournament, which means they are likely destined for the No. 16 seed, whether that be in the First Four or the first round.

Names you need to know: Brynton Lemar is the team’s leading scorer at 16.0 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three. Newcomer Chima Moneke is averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He was the hero in the Big West semifinals.

Stats you need to know: The Aggies only average 71 points per game, ranking them in the 200s. However, they can cause matchup problems with a lineup that typically features three guards and Moneke at the four.

Big wins, bad losses: Outside of two wins against UC Irvine, the Aggies defeated Santa Clara in the second game of the season and knocked off Utah Valley in a non-conference contest. Those are their only top 200 wins, according to kenpom. A 61-55 loss to CSU Riverside back in January is probably the worst of the dozen for UC Davis.

How’d they get here?: After finishing second in the conference, the Aggies won by 11 over Cal Poly, but found themselves in trouble in the semis against Cal State Fullerton. UC Davis was saved my Moneke’s heroics. After holding the Anteaters to 16 first-half points, the Aggies found themselves trailing with minutes remaining in regulation. A Brynton Lemar layup gave UC Davis the lead for good with 2:13 left. UC Irvine went almost three minutes without a field goal before Luke Nelson snapped the drought with a three, cutting the UC Davis lead to 48-47. Lemar sunk two free throws and UC Irvine failed to get a shot off.

Outlook: UC Davis isn’t the scariest offense you’ll see in the NCAA Tournament, and you have to wonder how it’s defense will fare against stiffer competition. If the Aggies are in fact seeded No. 16, don’t expect them to make history next week.

How do I know you?: Likely haven’t. UC Davis won the Big West regular season title in 2015, but were upset by Hawaii in the conference semis. The Aggies settled for an NIT appearance.

Introducing Cinderella: New Mexico State Aggies dancing once again

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Conference: Western Athletic Conference

Coach: Paul Weir

Record: 27-5 (11-3 WAC)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 92
– RPI: 64
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: When the latest NBC Sports bracket projection was released on Saturday, it predicted that CSU Bakersfield would win the WAC Tournament title and projected the Roadrunners as a No. 15 seed. The Aggies have a much higher RPI than several projected seeds on higher lines, so maybe, they move up in the next installment of bracketology.

Names you need to know: Ian Baker the star of this New Mexico State team, averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He rarely came off the court during the WAC Tournament en route to MVP honors. The 6-footer will have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, and has a track record of coming up with clutch shots.

Stats you need to know: New Mexico State’s offensive efficiency. Paul Weir moved one seat over at Marvin Menzies left for the UNLV vacancy this offseason. Defense and rebounding is what the team centered around. While that’s still true of this year’s team, there’s more of an emphasis on the offensive side. The Aggies rank 76th in offensive efficiency per kenpom. That’s up more than 100 spots from 2016.

Big wins, bad losses: New Mexico State has win in terms of RPI would be CSU Bakersfield, followed by New Mexico. The Aggies worst loss would be splitting the regular-season series with Utah Valley, which ended the year a game under .500

How’d they get here?: New Mexico State entered as the No. 2 seed in the WAC. After defeating Chicago State and UMKC by an average margin of victory of 16 points, the Aggies had a tired CSU Bakersfield. The previous day, the Roadrunners lived up to the nickname, needing four overtimes to take out Utah Valley in the WAC semis. CSU Bakersfield simply ran out of gas once New Mexico State decided it wanted to speed the game up.

Outlook: Despite its constant visits to the Big Dance, it’s often short lived for the Aggies. Perhaps with a better balance of offensive and defense they can change the outcome this time around. New Mexico State is an experienced team with multiple guys who have been in NCAA Tournaments before. That’s enough to put an upset alert on any team its set to face.

How do I know you?: The 2010 NCAA Tournament, or any NCAA Tournament from 2012-2015. How about Sim Bhullar? Do you remember him? What about Pascal Siakam? A 2016 first-round pick who is currently starting for the Toronto Raptors?

Introducing Cinderella: New Orleans snaps two-decade old tournament drought

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Conference: Southland

Coach: Mark Slessinger

Record: 20-11 (13-5 Southland)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 178
– RPI: 171
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: Only the Big West champion UC Davis and MEAC winner NC Central will have a lower RPI than the Privateers. That likely means they are heading to Dayton. That’s precisely where NBC Sports bracketology has them going.

Names you need to know: Erik Thomas was the Southland Conference Player of the Year after averaging 19.7 points, shooting 60 percent from the field, and 7.9 rebounds per game. The undersized four had 14 points and 11 boards in the conference title game.

Stats you need to know: 17: New Orleans averages slightly less than 17 turnovers per game. Only two teams in the nation turned the ball over more often than the Privateers.

Big wins, bad losses: The only top 200 win New Orleans had was a 16-point win at Washington State. Against NCAA Tournament competition, Oklahoma State hung 117 on them and Northwestern beat them by 34. The Privateers suffered a one-point loss on the road against Northwestern State on Feb. 25. That’s a sub-300 RPI loss.

How’d they get here?: If you want to go back several years, it’s worth noting that the university nearly dropped the men’s basketball program from Division I to Division III due to financial hardships following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

With Brad Underwood done dominating the league, New Orleans won the regular season crown and earned a double-bye with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After defeating Sam Houston State in the semifinals, the Privateers had an instant classic with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the finals. Tevin Broyles scored the last five points in overtime for New Orleans in a stressful final five minutes.

Outlook: Given its backstory, you have to feel happy for this New Orleans program. However, turnovers should be an issue, whether it be in Dayton or against one of the No. 1 seeds.

How do I know you?: New Orleans has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in three different decades. In five appearances, the Privateers are 1-4, picking up a win over BYU as a No. 7 seed in the 1987 NCAA Tournament.

Introducing Cinderella: Will Middle Tennessee pull off another upset in 2017?

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Conference: Conference USA

Coach: Kermit Davis Jr.

Record: 30-4 (17-1 C-USA)

Ratings and Rankings:

– Kenpom: 49
– RPI: 36
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: The Blue Raiders have 30 wins on the year, a pair of which came against the RPI top 50. NBC Sports current bracket projection tabs them as a No. 11 seed. A scary No. 11 seed.

Names you need to know: The big three you need to know for Middle Tennessee State is JaCorey Williams, Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts. Upshaw and Potts introduced themselves to the nation last year, combining for 40 points in No. 15 over No. 2 upset of Michigan State. Williams, the transfer from Arkansas, was a first team all-Conference USA performer this year, averaging 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Stats you need to know: 11. That’s how many 3-pointers they sunk in an upset win over No. 2 seed Michigan State in the first round of 2016 NCAA Tournament. While they don’t have some of the big men who helped space the floor, they still have the potential light it up from deep.

Big wins, bad losses: Middle Tennessee has a bunch of good wins: a neutral floor win over UNC Wilmington — another trendy upset pick next week — at home against Vanderbilt and on the road against Ohio Valley regular season champion Belmont. Middle Tennessee’s worst loss came against Tennessee State back in November, allowing 46 second half points in a 74-63 defeat.

How’d they get here?: The Blue Raiders dominated C-USA. They set a record for 17 conference wins, 14 of which were decided by 10 or more points. After getting a fight from Marshall in the second half, Middle Tennessee stretched the lead to double figures, picking up a 83-72 tournament title win.

Outlook: Middle Tennessee will be the trendy upset pick. Although it won’t be surprising giving its upset win over Michigan State from a season ago. The Blue Raiders are led by a trio of reliable scorers, who all happen to be experienced upperclassmen. While this team is missing some key pieces from a season ago, they’ve become a more efficient team on both ends of the floor.

How do I know you?: From last year when they ruined your bracket.