Does the Slipper fit? Breaking down potential Cinderella teams.

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In this new piece, I’ll be doing, titled “Does the slipper fit?” Which, of course, is trying to figure out which potential Cinderella teams could make a run. To be considered “Cinderella,” I would consider that being a trip into the Sweet 16 at the very least. There are many formulas to making a Cinderella team, whether you think of George Mason in 06, FGCU in 2012, Loyola-Chicago in 2018, VCU making the final four, there’s so many that come to mind & there are many options to potentially be that this season. I’ll consider matchups heavily. If you’re a fan of a team that I wouldn’t consider having a slipper that fits, that isn’t indicative of how I feel about the team. 

Let’s get it rolling:

#11 Seed Syracuse Orange

It was a surprise seeing Jim Boeheim Orange get comfortably into the tournament, and many figured they’d make them dance, but more as a final four in a team. Despite being a marquee name, if an 11-seed can make a run, they could be characterized as a cinderella story. There’s talent on the roster with Buddy Boeheim, Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier & Marek Dolezaj, most notably. With the patented Cuse zone defense, teams with a decision-maker in the middle of that zone could carve them up. 

They get San Diego State & Matt Mitchell to thrive in that weak spot in the first round. Should they scoot past SDSU in the first round, three-seed WVU, Or 14-seeded Morehead State await.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

No, I don’t love the draw. Jim Boeheim’s thrived as an 11 seed in recent seasons, but getting San Diego State is brutal.

#11 Seed Utah State Aggies

Despite appearing in head coaching rumors at times, Craig Smith doesn’t get enough love for the transformation he did with his Utah State Aggies. Last season, USU shot a ton of threes led by Sam Merrill, but without him running the show with a more defensive-minded roster, Smith turned the team into a phenomenal defensive team while getting the ball to the bigs. 

The main big, Neemias Queta, is posting unreal stats on the season, destroying the post, backing everybody down using his size & using advanced stats has been the best defender in the country. Queta’s the star, and the team knows that, and others know their role on the team.

Lead-guard Rollie Worster’s development throughout the season is nothing short of remarkable, showing off tremendous playmaking skills. 

What it comes down to for me is, can the shooting be consistent? There are three shooters on the roster with Steven Ashworth, Brock Miller & Marco Anthony. The difference-makers. 

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT:

I like Utah State’s chances of knocking off 6th seed Texas Tech, but when you get to the 2nd round facing likely Arkansas, I don’t love those chances. Arkansas is a dangerous three-seed. 

I’m saying the slipper doesn’t fit. Round of 32, but that’s all.

#12 Seed, Winthrop Eagles:

I’ve raved endlessly about Pat Kelsey’s Winthrop Eagles team this season; from the first time they played against UNCG & Little Rock in the Louisville MTE, I knew there was something different about Winthrop.

Chandler Vaudrin was already a household name to die-hards of College Ball, a 6’7 PG that is nothing short of fantastic, garnering him Big South POTY for a reason. Vaudrin averages 12.2/7.2/6.9 on the season, a true stat-sheet stuffer. It isn’t just Vaudrin that contributes to the team.

Winthrop runs 11 deep every single game, something that in a tournament, you could be playing two games in four days. 

Despite only playing 15 MPG, D.J. Burns scores tremendously inside, averaging 10 PPG in those minutes. If Winthrop can be a potential Cinderella team, Burns needs to replicate a performance like the one he did against Campbell in the Big South championship game, dropping 22 points. Villanova doesn’t have a single person near the size of D.J. Burns. Look out for Nova finding a plan to contain the big-man in the first round.

Josh Corbin, the teams’ sharpshooter, is a tremendous shooter that can air it out from NBA-Range seamlessly. When Corbin gets onto-the-floor, you know what he’s doing. During the season, Corbin shot it 129 on the season. 111 came from the three-point range, nailing 42.9% of them. That’s going to matter for a potential run into March.

Of course, we cannot forget about Adonis Arms, a tremendous sixth-man, but scuffled near the closing part of the season, dropping his percentages to 40% overall & 34% from deep. There are no questions Arms can fill up the scoring column when feeling it, look out for him in the dance.

A few other names to remember are Russ Jones Jr, Kelton Talford & Chase Claxton, three players that make big performances in short spurts.

The Eagles get Villanova in the first round. Facing a Jay Wright-coached team is never an easy task, but in two games sans Collin Gillespie, Villanova is 0-2. Chris Arcidicano, a walk-on, plays big minutes & Vaudrin will slice & dice that defense with ease. So, we’ve established the top-piece that doesn’t make them a Cinderella yet, but will they win the 2nd game, earning them that ever-coveted slipper? That would put them facing the winner of North Texas & Purdue. For not revealing how I feel about North Texas, I think regardless of who snags a victory there, Winthrop has the capabilities to knock them off. 

There aren’t many players that can contain Trevion Williams, but D.J. Burns is built similarly and won’t let Williams back him down inside. 

Round three would be a doozy, giving Winthrop a date against Baylor. I see the journey ending there, but that would be quite the story if Winthrop is able to knock-off an elite team.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

It does! I have Pat Kelsey’s Eagles heading to the Sweet 16.

 #12 Seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

The Gauchos don’t have a long history when it comes to winning games in the NCAA Tournament, only one time in program history to be exact. Will that change this season?

JaQuori McLaughlin earned Big West POTY honors after boasting incredible figures of 16.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG & 5.2 APG, with tremendous efficiency. When you have a bonafide star like McLaughlin, you can win games in March.

He isn’t the only star on the roster; big-man Amadou Sow’s proven throughout his three-year career to be a tough force to move inside, strong with good footwork. In the first matchup, the Gauchos will see, it could be a field day for Sow against a more undersized Creighton frontcourt.

In Miles Norris’s three-year College career, he’s been well-traveled, starting at Oregon before spending a season at City College of San Francisco, now at UCSB. The value Norris adds to UCSB is immense, a long-four man that shoots it at 38% from deep & defends at a high-level. He could be the key for Joe Pasternack.

Adding another transfer in Josh Pierre-Louis made him the unsung hero for the Big West champs. The value JPL adds on the defensive-end is part of the reason the Gauchos are where they are. You can see it when watching, but eyes can deceive you at times, so let’s take a peek at stats. Josh Pierre-Louis has an obscene 5.2 dBPM this season, an unsung hero for UCSB & could guide them to a victory on defense.

The status of sixth-man Ajare Sanni will be one to follow throughout the week. He suffered an injury in the championship game against UC Irvine. They can win sans Sanni, but they are better with him.

If Sanni cannot go, look for Devearl Ramsey, Brandon Cyrus & Destin Barnes to pick up some of the scoring load that he’ll leave behind.

In the R64, Creighton faces UCSB, which could either result in a barrage of three’s falling from Creighton, or they’ll build bricks with the missed three’s. With the inconsistency, I see UC Santa Barbara winning this one.

In the Round of 32, it’ll be a date either with Ohio or Virginia. No doubt both of those potential matchups could be tough, but I see UCSB likely winning two games in the tournament.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

Yes, UC Santa Barbara can be making a run in the NCAA Tournament and make history for the program.

#12 Georgetown Hoyas

If you told me a week ago that I would even be thinking about Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas, I wouldn’t believe it for a single second unless you told me half the team decided to transfer. That run getting them to the NCAA Tournament was nothing short of a miracle, winning four games in four days; what an incredible run.

Georgetown undoubtedly is talented, with Jahvon Blair leading the charge, Dante Harris looking like a future star, Jamarko Pickett & Qudus Wahab is a phenomenal player. Look for Wahab to put out a big performance in the NCAA Tournament if the Hoyas can win games. Wahab’s the complete difference-maker, a big-body that learned from the best big-man to ever play Basketball depending on who you ask.

The first matchup is against a Colorado team that’s a darling for the analytics, coming in 17th in KenPom, and boasts an experienced star guard with McKinley Wright. Hypothetically, should G-Town get past Colorado, they get the winner of FSU/UNCG.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

Despite going on a miraculous run to snag the Big East title, I don’t see the slipper fitting here. Georgetown is a fun story, but not only do I have them falling to Colorado, a game that could go either way, but they’ll struggle if they get FSU. 

#12 Oregon State Beavers:

Speaking of remarkable Oregon State, getting into the NCAA Tournament is right up there. I didn’t expect the Beavers to be a potential bid-stealer, but I was incorrect. It was a bit puzzling they earned a 12 seed, with some ugly losses on their resume, losing to Portland & Wyoming, horrific losses.

There’s talent for Oregon State, but was that a flash in the pan or legit? I love the shooting on the roster with Jarod Lucas, Maurice Calloo, Gianni Hunt, while Ethan Thompson & Zach Reichle can hit shots, but not consistently.  

The development of Warith Alatishe throughout the season is partially why Oregon State fins itself in the NCAA Tournament. Alatishe averages nearly a double-double on the season, trying to guide the Beavs to some tournament wins. 

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

No, it doesn’t. I don’t trust Oregon State to knock off Tennessee, but I certainly don’t see them knocking off Oklahoma State in the 2nd round if the Cowboys snag a victory. It’s a fun story, but it’s come to a close.

#13 Seed Ohio Bobcats

Despite coming in as the fifth seed in the MAC Tournament, it’s clear the Bobcats were vastly better than that. A bonafide star in Jason Preston leads the attack with incredible numbers, a true do-it-all game-changing guard. Preston boasted unreal numbers with 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG & 7.2 APG. Preston makes his teammates better, whether it’s Dwight Wilson, Ben Vander Plas, or Ben Roderick. Part of the reason why Preston’s one of the top players in the entire country. 

If Preston plays with a score-first mentality, he’s capable of dropping 30 points in a game while also dropping eight assists. He’s a big-game player that’ll thrive here.

The first-round matchup is against Virginia, a team that hasn’t even gotten to Indy & won’t until Friday. They won’t practice until they get to Indy friday, so after a week plus of no practice or games, they’ll face an Ohio team that loves pushing the pace. I would be frankly stunned if Ohio can’t succeed here.

Here’s where problems arise, Ohio vs. UCSB in the Round of 32 for me. So, this will be interesting. Should they play the Gauchos? I see UCSB winning, but if it’s Creighton, give me Ohio.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

It could! Should they face UCSB like previously mentioned, they’ll lose in my eyes. If not, I think they beat Creighton and defeat and moves onto the Sweet 16.

#13 Seed Liberty Flames

The Flames during the Ritchie McKay era continually are a threat if they make the NCAA Tournament. Two years ago, 13-seeded Liberty knocked off Virginia Tech in the Round of 64, but they face a different team this time. For my money, Oklahoma State’s the best four-seed in the tournament, a tough draw for the Flames.

No question, talent is there for Coach McKay. You have the current A-SUN POTY in Darius McGhee, dropping 15 PPG, dropping 30+ on multiple occasions, while Chris Parker man’s the point guard spot coming from the D2 level. Elijah Cuffee is a steady wing, Blake Preston took over for Scottie James and thrived, but the matchup is too much for the Flames to handle.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

I’m sure you can guess what I’m going with here. No, it doesn’t fit. Facing Oklahoma State is a brutal first-round matchup.

#13 seed North Texas Mean Green

What a huge win for North Texas, getting them into the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Western Kentucky. Coach McCasland is a winner; he’s won everywhere he goes and now faces Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. 

The guard trio of Javion Hamlet, Drez McBride & James Reese is tremendous; three guys that can score from anywhere on the floor look for those three to produce here. The issue is Purdue has Trevion Williams, a huge player inside & 7’4 Zach Edey. Facing a smaller North Texas team, not having a single-player over 6’10, but the one 6’10 player is a monster in Zachary Simmons. Just a tough matchup for North Texas. If the Mean Green forces a bunch of turnovers, an upset is possible, but they could face Winthrop/Nova in the second round. 

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

Nope, tough draw. I think they can win a game if things go right, but two is a stretch. 

#13 seed UNC Greensboro Spartans

The Spartans are fun to watch using their defensive intensity, and they check a major box of containing a star player in Isaiah Miller, but their draw is so rough. Getting a Leonard Hamilton coached FSU team is not a favorable draw, especially with the amount of length, shooting & athleticism on the team. If UNCG is able to snag a victory here, forcing turnovers & hitting, three’s is paramount.

The R32 game would be much more favorable for UNCG, facing either Colorado or Georgetown.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

I like this UNCG team a fair amount, but a brutal draw will have them falling round one.

#14 Seed Colgate Raiders

Matt Langel’s offense is a dangerous team, one of the top offenses in the country year-after-year, but in a truncated 15 game season, Colgate’s effective field-goal percentage ranked 5th in the country at 57%. 

For a team, When you possess a high-octane offense that scores from anywhere on the floor, with five big-time scorers in Jordan Burns, Jack Ferguson, Tucker Richardson, Nelly Cummings with Keegan Records & Jeff Woodward inside. The defense is great, but not bad by any means. 

It’s tough to get a real gauge on Colgate without playing non-conference games, but they can compete with anyone.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

Facing an elite defensive team in Arkansas is a problem for Colgate. I don’t see them getting past Arkansas. They’ll compete, but ultimately talent wins out.

#14 Abilene Christian Wildcats

In his time at Abilene Christian, Coach Golding’s proven that he’ll find ways to win games ugly, using their defense that turns the opposition over often, leading the country in defensive turnover percentage.

I have reservations about the offense; they can be inconsistent at times & Clay Gayman has to start hitting shots again. Gayman missed the final three regular-season games and came back ice-cold in the conference tournament, going 0-9 from deep. 

I’d focus on a more perimeter-oriented attack when playing from the half-court, not running in transition off turnovers against this Texas team they get in round one. The Longhorns boast a plethora of NBA-level big’s, in Kai Jones, Greg Brown & Jericho Sims, likely neutralizing Kolton Kohl, let Gayman, Reggie Miller & Coryon Mason get looks from outside. 

Thankfully, for ACU, Texas is plagued by turnover issues far too frequently. Use your pressure on the Horns, with Airion Simmons being everywhere, and turnovers will come. 

Should ACU snag a victory here, Round two will be against a much more careful BYU team or the winner of UCLA/MSU.

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT:

Unfortunately, Abilene Christian’s lack of star power & consistent offense makes them not a true Cinderella team. I don’t see them winning a game.

#15 Seed Oral Roberts Golden Eagles:

If you’ve followed me for any period of time this season, odds are you know I am enamored with ORU. A tremendous team, without a doubt, led by the countries top scorer in Max Abmas, one of the best pure scorers I have ever seen in my life. Stars win games in March, and ORU not only has Abmas, but Kevin Obanor is right there too, averaging 18 & 10 as a stretch-four while shooting 45% from deep. The best duo from a non-power conference school. 

ORU shoots it from deep 46% of the time, nailing them at a 38% clip, making for a dangerous team with two bonafide superstars. If the Golden Eagles hit triples, watch out for a potential upset here.

Only eight teams, 15 seeds in NCAA Tournament history, have won a game in the dance, ORU gets a favorable matchup against a questionable Ohio State team. If ORU faced a team with a lot of sizes, they’d be in trouble, considering they aren’t a big team, but neither is Ohio State. I’d expect Liddell & Sueing to thrive here, but I think Oral Roberts can absolutely win the Basketball game. 

So can they win two? I think so, knocking off two scuffling teams in Virginia Tech & Florida could definitely be on the horizon no matter which team they face. 

DOES THE SLIPPER FIT?

THE GLASS SLIPPER FITS! The Oral Roberts Eagles will be a Cinderella team in my eyes this season. 

Thanks for checking out this piece that took quite a while to get all my thoughts fit in the way I wanted.

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