2017 NCAA Tournament: Here are your Cinderellas

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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.

Middle Tennessee State: The clock has yet to hit midnight for the Blue Raiders. A year after pulling off one of the more unlikely first-round upsets in tournament history, No. 12 Middle Tennessee State is back, and with some familiar faces. Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts, two players who combined for 40 points in last year’s shocker over Michigan State, are back. The Blue Raiders also add transfer JaCorey Williams, who averaged 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. They may not shoot as well as they did last year after graduating several forwards who could stretch the floor, but you could make the case that this team is better on both ends of the floor.

East Tennessee State: T.J. Cromer could leave his mark on the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-3 senior guard is averaging 19.1 points a game. There’s a reason why the Buccaneers can make a Cinderella run into the second week: they can light it up. They average just under 80 points per game and shoot 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from three as a team. If they get hot, things could get interesting.

Vermont: The Catamounts haven’t lost a game since before Christmas. No. 13 Vermont efficient on both ends of the court. They get good shots, they have a play-making point guard in Trae Bell-Haynes and they control the pace. That could cause problems for No. 4 seed Purdue, and one of the reasons why it wouldn’t be shocking if Vermont made a run. However, the Boilermakers can counter Caleb Swanigan, a nightmare matchup who can quickly end a Cinderella fairytale.

RELATED: Power Rankings 1-68 | Duke deserved a No. 1 seed | Committee got bubble right 

Rhode Island: Can a team ranked in the preseason top-25 really be a Cinderella? Maybe not. But the Rams have the best chance of a double-digit seed to make a run. For starters, a talented roster led by EC Matthews and Hassan Martin is entering the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1999 with a head of steam after winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Rams not only avoided the First Four, the selection committee slotted them against No. 6 Creighton, a team which certainly isn’t the same since losing Mo Watson back in January. No. 11 seed Rhody could also face off with No. 3 Oregon in the second round. The Ducks lost shot-blocker Chris Boucher earlier this week.

Florida Gulf Coast: Dunk City was one of the more captivating Cinderellas in NCAA Tournament history when it made a run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast could be in line for another upset. They don’t shoot the ball well, rather they pound it inside. For all No. 3 Florida State’s talent and size, the Seminoles have been inconsistent this season. If the Eagles do pull off the upset, a run could be halted by Maryland’s Melo Trimble, probably the best closer in college basketball. Either that or Xavier, which is played much better this past week.

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS: East | Midwest | South | West

Nevada: Cameron Oliver, who be drafted this June, headlines the Wolf Pack’s offense that also includes Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline. The Wolf Pack have plenty of firepower to make a run. It may be tough to get out of the first round, though. Monte Morris and Iowa State have won nine of its last 10 games. The Wolf Pack and Cyclones should be a fun game with all the makings of a shootout.

UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks should be trendy upset pick. Kevin Keatts has done a tremendous job in his short tenure in Wilmington, and most of us remember the scare his team gave Duke in the first round a year ago. This time around, No. 12 UNC Wilmington draws another ACC opponent, No. 5 Virginia. The Seahawks are going to try and speed the game up and turn Virginia over. That’s just something the Cavaliers don’t do. While No. 12 over No. 5 has become a common upset, I just see this as a bad matchup for it to occur.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events

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WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.