Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Cinderella Watch List: 2020 Edition
It's time for the annual list of the glass slipper.
Who's got what it takes to be this year's Cinderella? Who is the Butler, the Loyola, the George Mason in waiting?
Given the number of upsets so far this season, March looks to be wilder than ever. So, we're coming up with a list of the candidates most likely to cause havoc to your bracket.
As always, the following rules apply:
* No ranked teams. Dayton, San Diego State aren't Cinderellas; they're contenders.
* No Power Six teams (I count the Big East as a Power conference in hoops). I might've considered Rutgers, but no.
With that being said, let's get to the list.
1) Stephen F. Austin — They walked into Cameron Indoor Stadium and left with a win. Need I say more? The Jacks are 24-3, have won 11 straight and are an extremely difficult matchup for just about any team. I would not want to face Kevon Harris in the first round, much less after. SFA in the Sweet 16 wouldn't be too much of a shock.
2) Yale — BEWARE THE IVIES OF MARCH. The Bulldogs are 20-6, beat Clemson on the road and lost tough ones, all by single digits at Oklahoma State, Penn State (a better loss this year than most), and North Carolina (a worse loss this year than most). In the mold of most Ivy champions, Yale is disciplined, patient, and can drive teams insane with their crisp execution.
3) Vermont — While most of the better mid-major teams are guard-driven, I like how the Catamounts have great inside/outside balance. Anthony Lamb and Ryan Davis create a pretty formidable front-court; one that took down St. John's at the beginning of the season. Vermont also faced Virginia, Cincinnati, and Yale on the road this year. They're battle-tested and are used to being in the Big Dance. They won't be rattled come March.
4) Bowling Green — Two reasons why I really like the Falcons. First, Justin Turner is a beast that has to be contained for teams to have a shot at beating Bowling Green. That's way easier said than done. Second, I like that the Falcons go nine-deep regularly. Teams with fresh legs come March are double-digit nightmares.
5) Liberty — The Flames are 26-3 and, after dropping two straight, have won their last seven by double digits, including avenging a 5-point loss by Stetson by whipping them by 29 in their rematch. Liberty's strength of schedule is to be desired; LSU was their toughest matchup and the Tigers beat them handily. However, teams that are just so used to winning are very, very dangerous in March. Liberty will be a confident bunch.
6) Hofstra — The Pride have surged to the top of the Colonial Athletic Conference, winning their last eight in a row. They're fairly short, playing a four-guard rotation, but Desure Buie is worth the price of admission. Veteran guards tend to pull upsets in March. Watch out for Hofstra.
7) Wright State — I mentioned earlier how I liked Vermont's strength in their front-court play this season. I really love Wright State's scrappy front-court, as well. Loudon Love is a name to remember this March; he's an undersized 6-8 center (yep, center) that almost averages a double-double per game and has a pit bull mentality inside the paint. They'll have to hold off Northern Kentucky in the Horizon, but the Raiders are on the radar for sure.
8) Radford — One month ago, the Highlanders weren't on the radar, barely above .500. Since then, they've won 9 straight, lead their conference and seem to have found their groove. Love again the depth; Radford has 10 guys that average double-digit minutes. Someone besides Carlik Jones is going to have to step up offensively for them to make a run at a glass slipper, but Radford's a team on fire right now.