Potential NCAA Tournament 'Cinderellas'
by Trevor Whenham - 03/19/2008
Nothing captures the imagination of casual sports bettors more than an NCAA Tournament 'Cinderella'. We all love an underdog, and every year people throw millions of dollars away trying to pick which obscure team is going to shock the world and go deep. The obsession has grown dramatically ever since George Mason made their improbable run to the Final Four. Smart bettors know that chasing the longshots is mostly a sucker's bet, but it's still fun to look for them. There are serious bragging rights on the line if you call an upset before it happens, so it's seductive to try to sniff them out. Now, I don't really think that this is going to be a tournament full of big upsets - more like 2007 than 2006. Still, here are five double-digit seeds that stand the best chances of making some noise:
5. Baylor - If you believe in fairytales then this is your team. Five years ago this team was ripped apart when one teammate shot and killed another. The tragedy uncovered a program that was a total mess, and it was torn to the ground and rebuilt. That they were able to get to the tournament this quickly is remarkable, and if you watched the selection show on Sunday then you know how much it excited the team. That kind of excitement could make big things happen, and they will have the added advantage of a huge fan following if they start to win and people start to hear their story. They don't have an easy draw, but both Purdue and Xavier have struggled lately.
4. St. Mary's - If you walked into the Gaels' dressing room you might think that you had taken a wrong turn and ended up Down Under. They have four Australians on the roster, and it has worked well for them. They have wins over Gonzaga, Oregon and Drake, and were a strong second in their three-bid conference. Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson are an impressive one-two punch, and they could surprise some people. Miami is a reasonably soft draw, and though Texas is a better team than St. Mary's they can be beaten if they are caught off guard.
3. Arizona - you can't really call a team from a power conference a Cinderella, but Arizona is included here because they are only a No. 10 seed. The Wildcats have their problems, and they have been handicapped by a bizarre coaching situation this year, but they have three likely future first round NBA Draft picks on the roster, and they have shown through the year that, though not consistent, they are talented. They have played an incredibly tough schedule both in and out of conference, so they won't be surprised by the level of talent. West Virginia and Duke are both teams that could be vulnerable if Arizona plays their best.
2. Saint Joseph's - If you don't know much about St. Joe's then the first thing to remember is that senior guard Pat Calathes is a good player. Really good. He and his teammates beat Xavier twice down the stretch, and they made the final of their conference tournament. The biggest asset the Hawks have is Phil Martelli, the AP Coach of the Year in 2004. He took this team to the Elite Eight that year, and he knows what it takes to succeed. He gets his team up for tournament formats, as shown by two good NIT runs since the Elite Eight bid.
1. Davidson - There is no question that the Wildcats belong on top of this list. They were the undefeated champs of the Southern Conference. They challenged themselves more in the non-conference season than almost any other team, facing UCLA, Duke, North Carolina and others. They lost those games, but they obviously were made stronger by it. Now they have the longest unbeaten streak in the country, and one of the best players in the country, too. Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA player Dell, is a scoring machine. If teams aren't prepared for him, and perhaps even if they are, then he will make them pay.