March Madness is officially hither, with all 68 teams officially locked into the 2022 men’southward NCAA tournament subclass and games set to tip off Tuesday with the First Four. Inevitably, a team y’all’ve never watched this season will shock the sports globe and introduce itself with a memorable upset or ii in the Big Dance. Identifying that team beforehand, though, can exist the hard part. Which Cinderella teams could blow upward your bracket? We’ve been tracking top contenders all flavor and have ranked the 10 virtually likely clubs to practice only that.




i. Colorado State (No. half-dozen seed, S Region)

Later on experiencing heartbreak on Selection Sunday a year ago, Colorado Country left no dubiousness in 2021–22, putting together an incredibly impressive résumé and spending fourth dimension in the meridian 25. The Rams feature 1 of the best players in the land in David Roddy, an incredibly unique forward with aristocracy shooting bear on despite a frame that looks more like that of a defensive lineman. Simply it’s not just Roddy that makes this team special—betoken guard Isaiah Stevens is one of the nation’due south all-time flooring generals and put upwards 17 points and 11 assists without a turnover in an early-flavor win over Creighton.

The Rams rank in the height twenty nationally in offensive efficiency per KenPom, but take proved in Mount W wins over the likes of San Diego Land and Boise Land that they are capable of winning a grind-it-out style of game. To make a run to the Sweet xvi (or further), CSU will have to deal with some elite-level length and athleticism, especially upward front end. If at that place’s a weakness on this Rams team, it’s the eye position, and it will have to deal with Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson in the offset round and a potential engagement with Tennessee’s athletic roster in the 2nd. Simply a squad with two elite players similar Roddy and Stevens volition be a tough out, especially too coached as this group is.

ii. Loyola Chicago (No. 10 seed, Due south Region)

The Ramblers may have a new coach, just they’re dorsum and capable of yet another run in the Large Dance. Drew Valentine is the youngest head double-decker in Segmentation I but was office of both of Loyola’south contempo runs and has his stamp on the program in his first yr leading the Ramblers. Loyola plays faster than in years by and doesn’t rely on a mail service player like Cameron Krutwig, just it’due south one of the nation’s virtually prolific three-indicate shooting teams and ranks in the top 25 nationally in defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Half-dozen of the seven key rotation players from last yr’s Ramblers team that went to the Sweet 16 are nevertheless with this group. And this year, Loyola played tight games with Auburn and Michigan Country and has beaten San Francisco, Vanderbilt, DePaul and Arizona State. It won’t exist scared of the moment or intimidated by the size that start-circular opponent Ohio Country presents (especially with the Buckeyes’ recent struggles), and I guarantee No. two seed Villanova didn’t desire to potentially draw a team this battle-tested in the second round.

Loyola’s Lucas Williamson smiles after winning Arch Madness


Do Lucas Williamson and Loyola have more March magic in them?

3. San Diego Land (No. 8 seed, Midwest Region)

Information technology’s hard to believe that any high seed would want to see the Aztecs in this tournament with the manner that they defend. SDSU ranks 2nd nationally in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, trailing only Texas Tech in that statistic. The Aztecs are long, athletic and extremely well coached on that cease of the floor, and they do a tremendous job of imposing their manner of play on opposing teams.

The concern with SDSU has always been whether Brian Dutcher’s team would exist able to score consistently plenty to win against height contest. But the Aztecs accept been ameliorate on that finish of the floor lately, and the presence of elite isolation scorer Matt Bradley gives this group a guy who can create shots for himself when the law-breaking bogs downward. Bradley was serenity in the Mountain West tournament terminal calendar week just has scored 24 or more points in a game vii times since Feb. ane.

The Aztecs’ defense should be a problem for first-circular opponent Creighton, which is playing without freshman point guard Ryan Nembhard due to a season-ending wrist injury. And if the Aztecs can force their fashion of play on No. one seed Kansas? Watch out.

4. UAB (No. 12 seed, Due south Region)

Former Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has congenital something of a “Transfer U” at his alma mater to corking success. The Blazers won 27 games in 2021–22, culminating in a C-USA tournament title, and did so while starting five transfers—all of whom are in their 4th, 5th or sixth twelvemonth of higher basketball. The headliner of that group is bespeak guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker, who afterward stops at Seton Hall and Tulane has found a dwelling house in Kennedy’s guard-friendly system and has thrived. Walker averages more than twenty points per game and has made 115 threes this flavor at a twoscore.six% clip, so he’southward a real weapon who tin can win you a game or two. Iii other Blazers boilerplate double figures offensively, including versatile Ole Miss transfer forwards KJ Buffen. This group’s experience level and athleticism ways it won’t exist overmatched by whatsoever high-major squad physically, which is quite the luxury for a mid-major team.

Six of UAB’due south seven losses this season have been past 6 points or fewer. That included heartbreaking losses to an at-large team in San Francisco and to loftier-major teams such as Due south Carolina and West Virginia. Plus, the Blazers enter the Big Dance having won 7 straight games and playing their best basketball game of the season at the correct time. That’southward bad news for first-round opponent Houston, a team that’s but 1–four this season against acme-50 KenPom teams and shouldn’t scare the Blazers from a talent standpoint without star guard Marcus Sasser.

v. San Francisco (No. 10 seed, Eastward Region)

The Dons became the first WCC team not named Gonzaga, BYU or Saint Mary’s to earn an at-large bid in two decades, a remarkable feat for Todd Aureate’due south programme. They’ve done it with tremendous guard play, savvy work in the transfer portal and an analytics-heavy approach that has allowed them to build this program to a meridian-25 finish in KenPom and the Net.

Betoken guard play is essential in March, and San Francisco has one of the all-time in the nation in Jamaree Bouyea, a fifth-yr senior who is terrific at creating in brawl screens and has impressive range from across the arc. He’south the straw that stirs the beverage for the Dons, and when paired with dynamic two-way guard Khalil Shabazz creates a tough-to-stop duo. Simply what has truly unlocked the Dons’ improvement in 2021–22 has been the improver of Yauhen Massalski up front, as the transfer large man has go one of the best pick-and-roll finishers in the nation in add-on to doing strong defensive work down low.

The Dons have faced Gonzaga three times and take been within x in the second one-half in all three games, so they certainly wouldn’t be overwhelmed past Kentucky’s size and athleticism in a potential circular-of-32 game. Of course, that requires getting past fellow potential Cinderella Murray State.

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San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea (1) celebrates with guard Khalil Shabazz


Can Bouyea (right) and the Dons get by fellow Cinderella candidate Murray State?

6. Murray State (No. seven seed, East Region)

The Racers haven’t lost since Christmas and sport the best record in men’south college basketball. That’southward a pretty compelling case alone for why Murray State can make a run in March Madness, only permit’southward swoop into
why
the Racers have been and then good in 2021–22. Offensively, Matt McMahon runs terrific sets that are difficult to prepare for and even harder to play against, running elite shooting wing Tevin Brown off an array of staggers and pindowns to get him open shots. Big man KJ Williams has scored 25 or more points seven times this flavor and is an impressive within-out force, while guards Justice “Juice” Colina and Trae Hannibal bring high-major athleticism and attacking ability off the bounciness. And on defence, the Racers practice a tremendous task running teams off the three-signal line and limiting opponents to 1 shot, a strong recipe for March success.

Despite playing in a relatively weak OVC, the Racers earned a No. seven seed, which positions them better for success in the circular of 64. Drawing San Francisco is a challenge, though. If they get past the Dons, can they topple an aristocracy team in Kentucky in the 2nd round and make the Sugariness sixteen? That potential Bluegrass state rivalry game would be all kinds of fun, though Williams would certainly take his easily total dealing with Oscar Tshiebwe.

7. Indiana (No. 12 seed, Eastward Region)

No, Indiana doesn’t exactly fit your traditional “Cinderella” label. But if there’s a team that can go from the Kickoff 4 to a deep run like UCLA did final season, it’south the Hoosiers. IU is coming off an inspiring run at the Large X tournament that secured its place in the Large Dance, with wins over Michigan and Illinois before bravado a belatedly lead against Iowa in the tournament semifinal.

So what has been the key for IU’southward late-season surge? The play of point baby-sit Xavier Johnson. Caput omnibus Mike Woodson has been openly critical of his flooring general at times this season, merely Johnson has been sensational of late. In his last eight games, Johnson is averaging eighteen points, four rebounds and nearly seven assists, and this is a different team when he’s ambitious attacking downhill to complement low-post presence Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Plus, the bracket plays out well for the Hoosiers. They draw a Wyoming squad in the First Four that limped to the finish line to close out the regular season, then would face off with a Saint Mary’s squad that isn’t overwhelming from a talent standpoint. And if the Hoosiers tin can get by a potential matchup with UCLA in the second round, No. 1 seed Baylor feels vulnerable due to injuries.

eight. South Dakota Country (No. thirteen seed, Midwest Region)

The 30–4 Jackrabbits won’t accept lost for more than than three months past the time the brawl is tipped in their first NCAA tournament game. This is a programme that has been in this spotlight earlier, with shut losses to the likes of Baylor, Maryland and Ohio State in the outset round of the Big Dance in the last decade. But this twelvemonth’south group has the best chance in programme history of winning a March Madness game.

Why? Southward Dakota Land is elite on the offensive finish. The Jackrabbits rank in the top 15 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric, topping the nation in both iii-point field goal percent (a ridiculous 44.2% from deep) and constructive field goal percentage (topping Gonzaga and Purdue at 59.7%). They take care of the ball, are loaded with shooters and have several weapons that can beat out you. The biggest question is whether they can get enough stops—this isn’t an overly athletic team and information technology’south struggled to defend high-major contest this season, giving up 104 points to Alabama and 87 points to Washington. That might not be quite as big a business against a Providence team that isn’t that explosive on the offensive cease, and advanced metrics have suggested the Friars have overachieved for most of the season. Can the Jackrabbits finish Providence’s incredible run in close games?

Chattanooga celebrates its SoCon tourney title


The Mocs earned their trip to the dance on a memorable buzzer beater by Jean-Baptiste.

9. Chattanooga (No. 13 seed, South Region)

If you’re looking for a mid-major that won’t be physically overwhelmed past high-major size and athleticism, the Mocs are your all-time bet. If you lot took the names off the front of their jerseys, you’d think Chattanooga was a high-major team. Information technology has big, physical guards and athletic bigs who can baby-sit on the perimeter. Star point guard Malachi Smith stands six’4″ and was recently ranked among SI’southward top-50 players in the nation, averaging more than xx points, six rebounds and three assists per game on ridiculous efficiency. Center Silvio De Sousa has revitalized his career with the Mocs after a tumultuous tenure at Kansas and is a defensive monster thanks to his ability to move his feet and switch onto guards. And then there’southward early March hero David Jean-Baptiste, a gifted scoring baby-sit who pairs well with the physical Smith in the backcourt.

This squad isn’t a flashy 1—it’ll look to control tempo in its first-round matchup confronting Illinois and rely on its defense in the half court. If he can stay out of foul problem, De Sousa is about as strong a matchup with Illini big man Kofi Cockburn as possible for a mid-major team, given his aristocracy recruiting pedigree and loftier-major experience. And with offensive and defensive efficiency marks both in the KenPom top 100, this is a balanced group that can win a game or two.

10. Davidson (No. 10 seed, Westward Region)

This might be the all-time Davidson team Bob McKillop has had since Stephen Curry was introducing the country to the pocket-size individual school in N Carolina. This team doesn’t have a future NBA star similar Curry, but it does share his penchant for drilling threes in bunches. The Wildcats rank in the tiptop x nationally in three-bespeak percent, knocking downwardly more than 38% of their perimeter attempts on the flavor. Information technology was shooting that lifted the Wildcats to a nonconference win over Alabama, drilling 12 of 24 threes against the Tide in a matchup that volition be somewhat comparable talent-wise to the Wildcats’ first-round appointment with Michigan State.

The main knock on Davidson would be a lack of overall athleticism (especially compared to teams such as MSU and potential 2d-round matchup Duke), but the Wildcats do have excellent positional size. Big men Luka Brajkovic and Sam Mennenga stand 6’10” and 6’9″, respectively, and starting wing Hyunjung Lee stands 6’vii”. All three are capable of striking outside shots, with Lee and Brajkovic among the best shooters in the state at their respective positions. When Lee, Brajkovic, Foster Loyer and Michael Jones are on the floor, Davidson has four shooters who are capable of taking over a game from beyond the arc. Plus, Davidson’southward criminal offence is incredibly difficult to fix for because of how it cuts and shares the basketball game.

More March Madness Coverage:


Men’due south Bracket Breakdown: A Region-by-Region Guide


SI’southward Experts Make Their Bracket Picks

• Five Tips for Filling Out Your Bracket

Source: https://www.si.com/college/2022/03/14/march-madness-cinderella-upset-picks-daily-cover

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