During every March, America wants to know which underdogs they can follow through a couple of early upsets. The stories of double-digit seeds making a run to the second week are frequent, but even if a team pulls off one huge upset, some remember those outcomes as much as any in the tournament.
With college basketball being so wide open this season, many of the higher seeds have weaknesses and are susceptible to upsets if they have an off-game. Here’s a look at six potential Cinderella teams that could put together a memorable win or two in the tournament.
Chattanooga: At 29 wins on the season, Chattanooga is going to be tough as a No. 12 seed against No. 5 seed Indiana in the first round. The Mocs posted some impressive wins for a small-conference school this year, as they won at Georgia and Dayton and beat Illinois in a neutral court. Sporting a balanced offense with a lot of different weapons, Chattanooga doesn’t have to rely on one player to stay in a game.
Northern Iowa: As a No. 11 seed playing Texas in the first round, the Panthers are one of the most dangerous double-digit seeds in the field. The Missouri Valley Conference tournament winners went through a cold stretch at the beginning of conference play, but outside of that, Northern Iowa looked like an NCAA tournament team the rest of the season. With wins over North Carolina, Iowa State and twice over Wichita State, Northern Iowa has taken down plenty of talented teams this season. Senior guard Wes Washpun is a dynamic athlete who makes plays on both ends and Matt Bohannon, Paul Jesperson and Jeremy Morgan can all make plays.
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Iona: When No. 13 seed Iona takes the floor against Iowa State they might have the best NBA prospect on the floor in senior guard A.J. English. The Gaels knocked off Monmouth in the MAAC tournament title game to reach the NCAA tournament, and led by English, they’re a good offense that rates N0. 60 nationally on KenPom. Besides English, big man Jordan Washington is a load on the interior and Deyshonee Much and Isaiah Williams are talented.
Arkansas-Little Rock: There isn’t much that is flashy about the Trojans. But there is substance in what Arkansas-Little Rock has accomplished. Picking up 29 wins is impressive, especially since 12 of them came on the road. The Trojans also beat schools like Tulsa, San Diego State and DePaul on the road and also lost at Texas Tech, so they’ve been tested. Arkansas-Little Rock also loves to dictate a slow tempo, as they’re 345th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. That slow pace helps the Trojans allow 59.9 points per game, which is third in the country.
Yale: The champions of the Ivy League have been a trendy upset pick by some analysts and they’ll have a chance to pick off N0. 5 seed Baylor as a No. 12 seed. The Bulldogs have some talented players that can hang with the Bears like guard Makai Mason, forward Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod. The question is whether Yale can deal with Baylor’s length and athleticism. The Bulldogs have a very good defense and should be able to stay in the game if they can hit shots.
Hawaii: During December, Hawaii showed the rest of the country the kind of damage it could do in a tournament setting by putting together two wins and a solid loss in the Diamond Head Classic. The Rainbow Warriors won by double digits over Northern Iowa and Auburn but the three-point loss to Oklahoma showed how good Hawaii could be at their best. Led by versatile big man Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii is a solid defensive team who could put up a great game with No. 4 seed Cal as a No. 13 seed.