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Upset Watch: Teams with Cinderella potential in NCAA tournament

Princeton%27s+Myles+Stephens+drives+to+the+basket+in+a+game+against+Pennsylvania+on+Feb.+7.
Princeton's Myles Stephens drives to the basket in a game against Pennsylvania on Feb. 7.

Princeton's Myles Stephens drives to the basket in a game against Pennsylvania on Feb. 7.

Tom Gralish/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Tom Gralish/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Princeton's Myles Stephens drives to the basket in a game against Pennsylvania on Feb. 7.

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Sports are made interesting by the unexpected, the unforeseen and the unknown. Similarly, what makes the NCAA tournament so much fun is that it is anybody’s game. The emotion the teams play with is what makes people love March. With that being said, here are some teams that are under the radar that can bust people’s brackets and make the tournament interesting.

 

UNC Wilmington

Region: East

Seed: 12

First round matchup: Virginia

The fourth best team in the NCAA tournament field in scoring average (85.2 points per game), Wilmington will look to speed the game up. Wilmington has broken the 100-point mark seven times this season. They are very balanced on offense with four players averaging 12 points or more. Guard CJ Bryce paces the Seahawks in scoring average with one of 17.6 points per game. Their first round game will be a tough matchup as Virginia loves to slow the game down and allows the least amount of points per game in the NCAA tournament field.

 

East Tennessee

Region: Midwest

Seed: 13

Matchup: Florida

Making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009-10, East Tennessee is the eighth most efficient scoring team in the NCAA tournament field, shooting 49.1 percent. Earlier this season, East Tennessee played UNC Wilmington where Wilmington prevailed 68-59. They are led by First Team All-Southern Conference guard T.J. Cromer who is averaging 19 points per game. One potential downfall for the Buccaneers is that they average 14.8 turnovers per game which is 67th out of the 68 teams in the field. However, they are equally as good on defense where they average eight steals per game, which is second best out of NCAA tournament teams.

 

Princeton

Region: West

Seed: 12

Matchup: Notre Dame

In their first NCAA tournament since 2011, Princeton is riding the nation’s second longest win streak at 19 games in a row. They get after it defensively and only allow 61.6 points per game, which is 7th among NCAA tournament teams. On offense, they are very balanced with five players averaging nine or more points and nobody averaging more than 13.7. They are led by Ivy League Player of the Year Spencer Weisz who is the only player in program history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 three-pointers in a career. If there is a downfall to this Princeton Tiger team, it is offense where they only average 72.1 points per game, which is 56th out of the 68 teams.

 

Bucknell

Region: West

Seed: 13

Matchup: West Virginia

Bucknell is a team known in the NCAA tournament for an upset (looking at you Kansas). This is Bucknell’s first time in the NCAA tournament since 2013. The Bison are led by Patriot League Player of the Year Nana Foulland who is averaging 14.9 points per game and seven rebounds. Foulland was also named Defensive Player of the Year in the Patriot League. Bucknell’s biggest downfall will be lack of free throw shooting. They only shoot 67.9 percent from the free-throw line which is 59th out of the 68 teams. With a team like West Virginia that fouls a lot, Bucknell will live at the free-throw line and needs to knock them down to advance.

 

Florida Gulf Coast

Region: West

Seed: 14

Matchup: Florida State

Known for their improbable run in the NCAA tournament in 2013, Dunk City is back. The Eagles are very efficient scoring the ball, shooting 50.2 percent from the floor, which is ranked fourth among NCAA tournament teams. The Eagles love to pound it inside and get points in the paint. They are also a very good rebounding team; they are out-rebounding their opponents by six rebounds per game. They are paced by Brandon Goodwin who averages 18.2 points per game. If there is a downside to FGCU, it is their three-point shooting where they are only shooting 35 percent this season, which is No. 55 among NCAA Tournament teams.

 

Vermont

Region: Midwest

Seed: 13

Matchup: Purdue

In their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012, the Catamounts are another great defensive team, only allowing 61.6 points per game which is seventh among NCAA tournament teams. Vermont also boasts the nation’s longest win streak at 21 games. They are led by American East Player of the Year Trae Bell-Haynes who averages 11.3 points per game and three assists. Vermont swept the American East awards with the Player of the Year in Bell-Haynes, Defensive Player of the Year Dre Willis, Rookie of the Year Anthony Lamb, Sixth Man of the Year Darren Payen and Coach of the Year John Becker. Vermont has five players who are averaging eight or more points per game this season. Their downfall will be rebounding where they are ranked 57th among the 68 teams.

 

Rhode Island

Region: Midwest

Seed: 11

Matchup: Creighton

One of the hottest teams in the country, the Rams went into the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament on the bubble, but went on to win the tournament to secure their bid. Rhode Island is another balanced team with four players averaging nine points or more. They are led by Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Hassan Martin who is averaging 14.3 points per game and seven rebounds per game. Rhode Island will be the trendy pick of a double digit seed that moves on to the Sweet 16 because of their draw. Creighton is a very vulnerable team with Maurice Watson Jr. having a torn ACL and Oregon is vulnerable with Chris Boucher also having torn his ACL. The downside of Rhode Island is their free throw shooting. In March, the Rams are only shooting 65.5 percent from the free throw line this season, which is 66th out of the 68 teams.

 

Middle Tenneseee

Region: South

Seed: 12

Matchup: Minnesota

This will be the hot No. 12 seed upset pick over a No. 5. Middle Tennessee shocked the world last season when they upset Michigan State as a No. 15 seed. Middle Tennessee is led by First Team All-Conference USA selection JaCorey Williams who is averaging 17.3 points per game and seven rebounds for the Blue Raiders. They also have last season’s breakout tournament star Giddy Potts who is averaging 15.8 points per game. Middle Tennessee boasts wins over UNC Wilmington, Mississippi and Vanderbilt this season. This is a very hot team at 30-4 on the season. They have no glaring weaknesses, but if there is one it’d be rebounding where they are ranked 49th out of 68.

 

Winthrop

Region: South

Seed: 13

Matchup: Butler

Winthrop is a team that does everything well. They do not do anything fantastically or poorly, but are very solid all around. They are led by Big South Player of the Year Keon Johnson who is averaging 22.5 points per game. The other First Team All-Big South player is Xavier Cooks who averages 16.3 points and nine rebounds per game for the Eagles. They are deadly shooting the three; they are shooting 37.3 percent from behind the arc on the season, which is ranked No. 29 out of 68. Their downfall is that they are sometimes to casual with the ball and average 13.2 turnovers per game, which is ranked 55th out 68.

 

These are just a few of potential Cinderellas in this year’s NCAA tournament. Here’s to watching basketball, the upsets, the intriguing story lines, the great coaches, the buzzer beaters and (not) having the perfect bracket.

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Upset Watch: Teams with Cinderella potential in NCAA tournament