You hear that?
Lean in real close. That’s the sound of a glass slipper being oh-so-gently slipped onto Cinderella’s foot.
And boy do we have some dashing gals to take a gander at for this year’s ball. It’s well documented that America shuts down during the first weekend of March Madness, and Cinderella stories are the primary culprits of office revolution.
Speaking of revolution, being an underdog has been ingrained in America’s DNA from the days of George Washington and the Revolutionary War. We can’t get enough of it. From the birth of our nation, to the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980, to present day the underdog story forges into a legendary tale that lasts forever.
Now, while this may seem like a cop out, every team’s chances of making a run comes down to matchups. So on top of the delicious ice cream I’m serving all of you with these Cinderella candidates, I’m going to put a cherry on top of this sundae and dish out the ideal team each of these Cinderellas would like to face.
Super High Seed (Sweet 16 dreams)
FLORIDA GULF COAST — Projected #14 seed. #31 in offensive reb %. #13 in 2 pt fg%. 19-2 in last 21 games.
Dunk City is back!
Can you say Dunk City Remix?! While Coach Andy Enfield may have moved on to USC, these high flying Eagles are still slammin and jammin with AUTHORITY.
That was from their Atlantic Sun Conference championship win this past weekend, and if that video doesn’t do it justice this team is taking NO prisoners. They boast the same traits of the 2015 team as they lead the nation in dunks and have one of the highest 2 pt fg% in the country (#13). While FGCU’s record may initially seem unimpressive at 26-7, they created daunting roadblocks early in the year with tough losses to the likes of Florida, Baylor, and a devastating 1 point loss to Michigan St all away from home. Redshirt senior Marc-Eddy Noreila, a glue guy at the power forward spot, didn’t play in 4 of their 7 losses. FGCU’s only other top 75 opponent, UT Arlington, (projected #12 seed) they smacked up by 13.
The most fun team in America is 19-2 in their last 21 games. They’ve got the experience. They’ve got the swag. The bandwagon is a’comin and you best not miss it.
Brandon Goodwin (6’2 redshirt junior) — 18.2 pts, 4.6 reb, 4 ast, 51.5 fg%
Demetrius Morant (6’9 senior) — 10.7 pts, 8 reb, 1.5 blk, 75 fg%!
Ideal Matchup: Butler (Projected #3 seed). While the Bulldogs may have their way on offense against Dunk City Remix’s middling D, their effective fg% on D and especially 2 pt fg is horrendous (#232). They’re also not a good rebounding team…if Butler starts clanking on the offensive end it will be 1 and done. And so will their postseason.
Very High Seed (Sweet 16/Elite 8 dreams)
UNC WILMINGTON — Projected #12 seed. #21 in offensive efficiency. #9 in 2 pt fg%. #1 in limiting turnovers. 29-5.
Much like the Dunk City Remix Eagles, the Seahawks are flying high. Leading the Colonial conference in points scored, this crew flies up and down the floor with a plethora of athletes. The only thing more colorful than this cast of characters is their highlighter unis.
Star CJ Bryce (pictured above) and sidekick Chris Flemmings both made 1st team in the CAA with the 6’5 tandem combining for 33.4 pts, 11 reb and 5.1 ast per game. Not only do they play seamlessly and position-less together, but the Seahawks LEAD THE NATION in limiting their turnovers. Every time down they’ll get an opportunity to score some points, empty possessions aren’t in their vocabulary.
The dynamic Goliath destroyer though is Devontae Cacok, the beast in the middle. Not only did this man win defensive player of the year in the CAA, he LEAD THE NATION in fg% at 80%! He also grabs boards like nobody’s business, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
With their projected 12 seed path, you gotta love UNCW’s chances to take down a 5 and a 4 seed in succession. Not exactly an insurmountable path to reach the Sweet 16. After their conference tourney win, star CJ Bryce proclaimed to his crowd of fans “We’re not done yet!”
I’m taking him at his word.
CJ Bryce (6’5 sophmore) — 17.6 pts, 5.5 reb, 3 ast
Chris Flemmings (6’5 senior) — 15.8 pts, 5.5 reb, 2.1 ast
Devontae Cacok (6’7, 240 soph) — 12.3 pts, 9.6 reb, 1.3 blk, 1.1 stl. 80 fg%. #27 ORB, #13 DRB (in the nation)
Ideal Matchup: Notre Dame (projected #5 seed). While Notre Dame is very good offensively their defense is nothing to write home about and the Fighting Irish don’t cause many turnovers. Notre Dame is also very small and atrocious on the boards. With the Seahawks getting good opportunities every time down the floor (multiple opportunities b/c of ND’s poor rebounding), I like their chances in a shootout game.
Very High Seed (Sweet 16/Elite 8 dreams)
MIDDLE TENNESSEE — Projected #11 seed. #3 in def reb. #26 in limiting turnovers. 27-4. 17-1 in 2017.
Another team that is BACK! I’ll let Juwan Howard take it from here and tell you what the Blue Raiders accomplished last March as a #15 seed:
And shock the world they did, taking down a Michigan State team that many had pegged to win the National Title in one of the greatest upsets of all time. A year later, these boys won’t be shocking anybody when they show up in March.
The big differentiator this year though is newcomer Arkansas transfer JaCorey Williams, a redshirt senior who’s leading the team at 17.5 pts and 7.4 reb per game. Middle Tennessee is extremely balanced both inside and out, as they flood the perimeter with shooters who hit at a 43+ percentage from downtown.
This senior-laden squad went 3-1 against top 75 opponents, their 1 loss coming in an away 3 point loss at highly ranked VCU. Since the confetti rained down on New Year’s they’re an immaculate 17-1. Conference USA has been put on NOTICE with the Blue Raiders running through the conference like Leo DiCaprio on a yacht full of models.
Conference USA had to learn the hard way, now it’s the rest of the country’s turn.
JaCorey Williams (6’8 redshirt senior) — 17.5 pts, 7.4 reb, 53.5 fg%. #91 DREB.
Giddy Potts (6’2 junior) — 15.5 pts, 5.5 reb
Reggie Upshaw (6’8 senior) — 14.1 pts, 6.8 reb, 2.5 ast.
Ideal Matchup: Iowa St (projected #6 seed). Iowa St is very good and I certainly wouldn’t want to face them in March. That being said, Iowa St is very bad at defending the 3 (175th) and is a very bad rebounding team at both ends. I’d look for Middle Tennessee to limit the Cyclones fg attempts with their elite defensive rebounding, and kick out to open shooters from deep on the offensive end who will tickle the twine.