The Cinderella Rankings: January

It's never too early to start finding that Cinderella team.

They're the double-digit dynamo that destroys brackets everywhere. The quiet, dangerous squad that sends the big boys home and reminds us all of what helps to make March Madness special.

There's some candidates already emerging as we start the new year and teams get into the meat of their conference schedules. Who are some of the names that you need to keep in the back of your mind when filling out your bracket? Here's our early look at some of the contenders.

Just to note, to be in the Cinderella Rankings, a team can't be in the Power Five, the American, or the Big East. They also can't be ranked in the top 25; these are the true underdog teams that can make some noise.

1) Saint Mary's (15-2) — The Gaels are pretty well-known (and often ranked), so they may disappear from this list if they can knock Gonzaga off the West Coast perch. Saint Mary's averages 51.2% from the field for the season (4th best in the nation) and they average less than 10 turnovers a game (8th in the nation), so teams not only have to shoot well to beat them, they have to play just as clean as the Gaels won't beat themselves.

2) Nevada (15-3) — The name to keep an eye on is Caleb Martin, an incredible shooter who leads one of the deadliest offensive attacks in the country. He partners with the aggressive rebounding prowess of Jordan Caroline to create a well-balanced squad that can create all sorts of problems for bigger programs. I definitely like the non-conference win over another solid mid-major in Rhode Island.

3) Vermont (11-5) — I love teams with veteran leadership that can really shoot the ball well. The Catamounts fit this perfectly and thus, sit in the rankings. Trae Bell-Haynes is good enough to start on a lot of Power Five teams and Vermont can really shoot the ball, especially from behind the arc, where they are shooting over a forty percent clip. Vermont gave Kentucky a massive scare at Rupp early this season and won't be afraid of the big stage. They're for real.

4) William and Mary (11-4) — The theme continues, as the Tribe leads the nation in three-point percentage (46.2) and third in field goal percentage (52.1). They've got five guys who average double digits and Matt Milon and Connor Burchfield can really, really shoot the ball well. Two things keep them from being ranked higher. One, they haven't had a close game, let alone a win, against a Power Five team. Secondly, they're a poor rebounding team, so if they're not on fire, they'll lose in the tournament. But if they out.

5) Penn (11-5) — The Ivy League has played spoiler like few conferences have and this year, no one in the league is even close to as good as the Quakers have been. Penn will be the disciplined, patient, half-court team that will drive opponents and opposing fan bases insane. This isn't about season statistics; this is about history. Never count out the Ivy champion. Never.

6) Boise State (13-3) — The Mountain West should be more than a one-team league and should have more than one dangerous team. The Broncos have a nice win at Oregon and a decent win over Loyola-Chicago, though the Ramblers need to make a move in the Missouri Valley to make that win look better. Boise has a lot of size and can pick up a lot of garbage points, especially with German sensation Christian Sengfelder inside.

7) Liberty (11-5) — The Flames slow it down and play aggressive on defense, as opponents are shooting just 38 percent for the season on Liberty. The Flames have a nice win on the road at Wake Forest and gave Houston a very nice scare, as well. Any team known for playing defense this stingy is more than capable of tripping up a high seed.

8) Rhode Island (11-3) — Three losses that really aren't that bad; plus, I like the win over Providence. I really like Jared Terrell, who could be a huge name come March. He'll need a little more offensive punch helping him out though. E. C. Matthews can help take some relief off of him, while Andre Berry must be big inside to make a Rhody run.

9) Louisiana (14-3) — The early losses aren't great (Ole Miss, Wyoming), but the Cajuns seem to have found their stride and look to be in command of the Sun Belt. If Malik Marquetti has a streaky game from behind the arc to couple with Frank Bartley's usual strong performance, they could be a double-digit nightmare.

10) Old Dominion (12-3) — A team that doesn't shoot very well, yet continues to find a way to win as they don't beat themselves anywhere else. The Monarchs take care of the ball and pass it extremely well, with a 1.48 assist-turnover ratio for the year so far. It's always dangerous when you have a team that can win, despite the stats telling you otherwise, time and time again (think Bill Snyder's Kansas State football teams year after year). This is one of those teams that defies the odds; therefore, they have to be included.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site