BOSTON (CBS) – The brackets are set, the office pools are in full swing, and Dick Vitale is getting ready to stay up for three weeks straight. Behold March Madness, a tournament where truly anything can happen.
Every year, fans watch the first slate of games in the hopes of a top team falling to a mid-major, and every year the brackets don’t disappoint. A perennial Cinderella team is nonexistent, but there are five diamonds in the rough in this year’s field of 68.READ MORE: Dog daycare van reported stolen in Wrentham found
5 Potential Cinderellas To Watch In The NCAA Tourney:
1. Ohio State
Good guard play is a tried-and-true blueprint for success in the NCAA Tournament (just ask UConn), and Ohio State has just that in freshman guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell leads the team in points and rebounds per game with 19.3 and 5.6, respectively, to go along with his 5.1 dimes per game. The Buckeyes also shoot .486 from the field, which ranks 11th best in the nation. If #10 seeded OSU can light it up and knock off a slightly overrated #7 VCU in the first round, a potential matchup against #2 Arizona would determine their true Cinderella status.
Ah yes, the 5-12 matchup you’ve been waiting for. #12 seeded Buffalo is all warmed up and ready to dance, entering the brackets winners of eight straight and champions of the MAC Conference. Combine that with a savvy, former Duke standout coach Bob Hurley and you have a team primed for bracket busting. Buffalo faces #5 West Virginia, who is coming off a first-round exit in the Big 12 Tournament. You smell that upset?
3. TexasREAD MORE: Same fan catches two home run balls during Astros' 5-homer inning against Red Sox at Fenway Park
#11 Texas is a head scratcher. They’ve been consistently inconsistent all year, but their athleticism is undeniable. The Longhorns rank eighth in the nation in rebounds per game, which can prove pivotal in any one game. They’ve beat good teams, and they’ve lost to good teams. Could they get blown out in the first round and be done? Sure. Could they play with no fear on a neutral court and get past #6 Butler, who went 12-6 in a hoe-hum Big East Conference this year? Absolutely. After that would probably come Notre Dame, who is on fire but relies on jumpers a little too much to believe they’re upset-proof. Lookout for the Longhorns to still be dancing when 15 other teams remain.
Forget the fact that SMU is a #6 seed. If SMU is in the Final Four, they will be everyone’s Cinderella, and it could happen easier than you think. After starting the year 2-3, legendary coach Larry Brown’s Mustangs have been an astonishing 25-3 and winners of the American Conference. The top two teams in SMU’s South region, Duke and Gonzaga, appear the most vulnerable to upset due to injury concerns, recent shaky play, and a lack of big-game experience on Gonzaga’s part. No game will be easy for SMU, but their bracket matchups combined with their heat-check season suggest a potential trip to Indianapolis in April.
5. New Mexico State
For those that think this pick is crazy, remember Duke-Mercer? Florida Gulf Coast-Georgetown? Lehigh-Duke? Norfolk State-Missouri? If there was a top-two seed to go down the first weekend, it is absolutely Kansas. Contrary to Jay Bilas’ unwarranted, yet unending love for the Jayhawks, this KU team is overrated. This team lost by 25 points to Temple earlier this year. Sure, they’re full of high profile athletes, but a season lacking consistency and sprinkled with eight losses hasn’t shown that Kansas is ready for a deep run in the brackets, much less survive an upset bid to NMST. #15 New Mexico State, on the other hand, comes in on a 13-game win streak — something that can’t be overlooked. In a single-elimination tournament, it’s all about being hot at the right time. The slipper just might fit the Aggies’ foot.MORE NEWS: "It's been relentless": UMass Memorial workers once again under pressure from latest COVID wave
Disagree with my potential Cinderella picks? Sound off in the comments section below!