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


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.