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Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness 2013: Predicting This Year's Cinderella Team

Every year March Madness proves to be one of the most exciting months in all of professional sports. One of the reasons the madness is so much fun is the joy in following a cinderella team deep into the tournament and seeing how far they can get. Some teams don’t make it past the third round, other teams become synonymous with cinderella like George Mason or North Carolina State.

 No. 6 Memphis Tigers

The Tigers are a borderline Cinderella team, as not many people are favoring them to make it very far in the tournament. But as a sixth-seed in the Midwest, the Tigers actually have a decent chance of surviving to face Louisville in the Elite Eight. The biggest knock on the Tigers is the fact that they are terrible from the charity stripe and their lack of free throw accuracy makes them a big risk down the stretch of games. But they’re not climbing out of the snake pit here, they’re facing potential matchups with a sketchy Michigan State team in the Round of 32 and an even sketchier Duke team in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Tigers can fix their woes from the free throw line, they’ll be able to thwart any comebacks that may arise in games they get a lead in. Look at the Conference USA title game, where a powerful Southern Mississippi team came charging back with major momentum, but were held off by the Tigers again and again. It’s not a sure thing, but they deserve to be watched closely as their road to the Elite Eight would be torn through by a team just a step above them.

How Far Could They Go: Elite 8
How Far Will They Go:  Round of 32


 No. 12 Oregon Ducks

Many people believe that Oregon should have received a higher ranking than they did in the tournament, but they drew a 12-seed anyways. The only thing this does is set the Ducks up for an epic run through the Midwest bracket as they are essentially an 8-seed disguised as a 12-seed, meaning they should be favored a lot more than they are. If you take a look at Oregon’s potential match ups, you begin to see that the Ducks have a slight edge in more than just one of them, beginning with their first game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Oklahoma State struggles from three-point range and the Ducks lock down style of defense shuts down most attempts to score on them. But the Ducks also out-hustle their opponents, and Oklahoma State could just get worn out. The next matchup is likely against Saint Louis, who don’t turn the ball over but don’t have the sexiest of offenses either. This screams defensive matchup where neither offense takes off and the team with the most grit (Oregon) wins out. I’m hard pressed to say the Ducks make it past the Sweet 16 unless Louisville somehow gets upset before the round. But Oregon is primed to do some serious bracket busting before their eventual exit from the dance.

How Far Could They Go: Sweet 16
How Far Will They Go: Sweet 16


 No. 11 Bucknell Bison

Here’s a matchup that is slowly starting to become a situation where the lower seed is favored over the higher seed. But unlike the Minnesota Gophers, who are favored to beat the higher seeded UCLA Bruins, the Bucknell Bison have longevity on their side and a ROund of 64 win could launch them on a tear in the East bracket.  The Bison lucked out when they grabbed a spot in the lower half of the bracket as it means they won’t run into a really good team until the play Miami. Butler isn’t a push-over, but they’re not the dominant team that went to back-to-back national championship games either. What works for the Bison is  Mike Muscala, who is perhaps the best player in the tournament. If he heats up, Bucknell will be next to impossible to stop but their Cinderella chances hinge entirely on him.

How Far Could They Go: Sweet 16
How Far Will They Go: Round of 32


 No. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini

I said that a Cinderella team is defined by being a 10-seed or lower, but clearly I’ve abused that rule twice now. What a Cinderella team really is, is a team that really has a slim chance of advancing, but keeps tapping into something special to continue a run. Usually this something special is a star player, but for the Illini it’s two players. When Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are lighting things up from three-point land for the Illini, Illinois is unstoppable. It’s hard to come back when you’re literally getting drilled with three’s and the Illini duo do it better than couple of players in college basketball when they’re hot. But the key phrase there is when they’re hot. If Paul and Richardson start cooling off on the perimeter, the Illini have to fall back on the rest of the team and it’s really not that impressive. Things are so shaky with Illinois that a bad Round of 64 game for Paul and Richardson could end with Illinois going home right away. Everything hinges on those two players, but if they’re feeling it and stroking it against a team like Miami, the Illini could bust a lot of brackets this March.

How Far Could They Go: Final Four
How Far Will They Go: Round of 32


 No. 5 UNLV Rebels

This pick perhaps abuses the initial Cinderella law the worst, but UNLV is seeded way too high for some people’s liking. In fact, most experts believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that UNLV will be upset by California in the Round of 64, but don’t act so fast on UNLV.The Rebels aren’t the most consistent of teams and that’s a killer in March, but like most Cinderella candidates, the Rebels chances rely on one player: Anthony Bennett — a.k.a. the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. We saw what Anthony Davis was able to do with Kentucky last year, granted the Wildcats were a No. 1 seed. But the power of a No. 1 overall pick significantly gives you an advantage and it doesn’t hurt that Bennett has a pretty decent supporting cast as well. If the consistency issues can be worked out, watch out for the Rebels, as a so-so Syracuse team might not have what it takes to stop them in the third round.

How Far Could They Go: Sweet 16
How Far Will They Go: Round of 64


Tags: 2013 NCAA Tournament March Madness Memphis Tigers NCAA Basketball Oregon Ducks UNLV Rebels

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