If you haven’t been paying attention to the college basketball season, it’s probably time to start. Thirteen ranked teams lost to unranked teams this past week. Teams such as Purdue, Oklahoma and Florida are struggling to finish the season. Other teams such as Baylor, Michigan State and North Carolina are getting hot at the right time. This edition of bracketology includes a bubble watch, a conference breakdown and a breakdown of a few possible Cinderella teams that could bust your bracket.
Take a look at the latest bracket HERE.
Last 4 byes:
UCLA (19-8 overall, 10-5 Pac-12)
Virginia Tech (19-8, 8-6 ACC)
Kansas State (19-8, 8-6 Big 12)
Baylor (17-10, 7-7 Big 12)
Last 4 in:
Louisville (18-9 overall, 8-6 ACC)
Texas (16-11, 6-8 Big 12)
NC State (18-9, 8-6 ACC)
St. Bonaventure (20-6, 10-4 Atlantic 10)
First 4 out:
USC (19-9 overall, 10-5 Pac-12)
Syracuse (18-9, 7-7 ACC)
Washington (18-9, 8-6 Pac-12)
Penn State (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten)
Next 4 out:
Nebraska (20-9 overall, 11-5 Big Ten)
Temple (15-12, 7-8 American)
Boise State (21-6, 11-4 Mountain West)
Western Kentucky (20-7, 12-2 Conference USA)
ACC – nine teams
Big 12 – eight teams
SEC – eight teams
Big East – six teams
Big Ten – four teams
Pac-12 – three teams
American – three teams
West Coast – two teams
Atlantic-10 – two teams
Possible Cinderella Teams
A Cinderella team is a team that has the potential to make an unlikely run in the NCAA tournament. Some past examples are George Mason making the Final Four as an 11 seed in 2006 and Davidson making the Elite Eight with Stephen Curry in 2008. These teams are teams that have the talent to win some tournament games. Here are three possible Cinderella teams this year.
Louisiana (23-4,13-1 Sun Belt)
One of the common characteristics of Cinderella teams is the experience on their rosters. The Ragin’ Cajuns have that, boasting three seniors and three juniors in their primary six-man rotation. The Sun Belt Conference has produced two shocking upsets in recent tournament history. Georgia State knocked off Baylor in 2015, and Arkansas-Little Rock upset Purdue in 2016. This conference produces some quality teams. The Ragin’ Cajuns have an impressive perimeter defense. They rank in the top 50 nationally in defensive 3-point rate, 3-point percentage and steals. If Louisiana were to face a couple teams that struggles from the perimeter, it could stick around in the tournament for a while. I have the Ragin’ Cajuns as a 14 seed facing Gonzaga in the first round.
Middle Tennessee (22-5, 14-1 Conference USA)
Middle Tennessee is a team that intrigues me. I have continued to move the Blue Raiders up my bracket, as they continue to boast an impressive record. They have won nine games in a row and have shown no signs of stopping. The reason I have Middle Tennessee as a possible Cinderella team is because it’s been here before. Many people remember the Blue Raiders upsetting Michigan State in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This roster contains a couple of key guys from that upset-minded squad. Nick King is the man for the Blue Raiders as he averages just more than 21 points and eight rebounds per contest. They also have a player with one of the best names in college basketball: Giddy Potts. The 1-2 punch of King and Potts could have Middle Tennessee going far come March. I have the Blue Raiders as an 11 seed facing Michigan in the first round.
Nevada (23-5, 12-2 Mountain West)
This isn’t exactly a Cinderella team, but to the average fan, it might as well be. The expectation is for the Wolfpack is to win at least one game in the tournament. Nevada averages better than 83 points per game and is lethal from 3-point range. The Wolfpack’s four losses have come by a combined 13 points. If Nevada were to match up with a couple of poor defensive teams, don’t be surprised if it’s playing in the second weekend. Nevada’s rebounding concerns me a bit, but its ability to score at will trumps that. I have the Wolfpack as a six seed playing Kansas State in the first round. Pencil in Nevada to go far. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
Wagner (20-7, 13-3 Northeast)
All right, this is a huge long shot, but bear with me. I have Wagner as a 16-seed, as do most bracketologists, but this team intrigues me. We know eventually a 16 seed is going to upset a one seed. Why not this year? AJ Sumbry leads a Seahawks team that is strong on the glass. The Seahawks also shoot the 3 ball at solid clip. Blake Francis leads them from beyond the arc, averaging nearly 43 percent from the land of 3. This might not have as much to do with Wagner as much as it has to do with who it could face in the tournament. If the Seahawks were to match up with Kansas in the first round, you would have me intrigued. KU rarely gets to the free-throw line and is a below-average rebounding team. If KU were to have a rough shooting night, the Jayhawks could lose to the Seahawks. Now, this is all hypothetical, but we all want the 16 seed to win eventually. I have Wagner as a 16 seed facing Nicholls State in the First Four.