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March Madness – Top 4 Cinderella Picks

March Madness is a time where fans love betting on underdogs, and there’s nothing better than seeing double-digit seeds advance in the tournament (assuming they don’t knock out your favorite team). Generally, one of the sexiest upset picks is the 12 seed over the 5 seed. Since that’s generally as low as fans love going, we’re going to drop even further for our potential “Cinderella Stories.”

This article will outline a few teams that are projected to be seeded 13 or lower, who can make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Keep in mind, a run for this low of a seed is one, maybe two, wins. These teams are highly unlikely to break into the Elite Eight, or even Sweet Sixteen. Also, it’s highly unlikely multiple of these teams advance, as low seeds don’t win that often. These are simply teams that have the best potential for their seed. For the seeding, I’m using ESPN’s latest updated bracket (March 13th).

 

Vermont (13)

Vermont still has to get through UMBC in the America East Conference Championship Game, but I fully expect them to avenge a devastating championship game loss last season (and two two losses this season). They have found plenty of success this season, recording a 26-6 record thus far. They rank 83rd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin (+8.44). They also rank near the top-100 of the NCAA in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. One main problem for Vermont is that they rank 287th in the NCAA in strength of schedule.

Vermont’s lack of elite competition doesn’t necessarily eliminate them from finding success in the NCAA Tournament, though. They have three reasonable losses to Kansas, Louisville, and Lipscomb, who rank 17th, 19th, and 51st in AdjEM. Each of these losses came on the road, as well. Vermont also struggled in a home matchup with Bucknell, although Anthony Lamb and Stef Smith combined to shoot 5-24 in that game. Their only other two losses both came to UMBC, which are and should be seen as bad losses. With that being said, their home matchup against their new rivals was played without Anthony Lamb, who is a major difference-maker, and the focal point of the team.

Vermont certainly has their flaws, as they are allowing their opponents to shoot 35.5% from beyond the arc this season. They also struggle to produce steals, but they also don’t commit turnovers on offense, essentially canceling that out. Defensively, they’re also one of the better teams in the NCAA in opponent 2-point percentage (46.6%). Most importantly, Vermont follows a specific gameplan. They control the pace in games, while limiting their opponents second chance opportunities. Overall, they rank fourth in the NCAA in opponents offensive rebounding percentage (22.1%). Vermont is also an elite free throw team, while limiting their opponents opportunities. The disparity in free throws will give Vermont an extreme edge over their opponents, while also creating potential foul troubles for the opposition.

Anthony Lamb, the leader of the Vermont offense, averages 7.2 free throw attempts per-40 minutes this season. He’s also the team’s leader in points (21.1), rebounds (7.8), steals (0.9), and blocks (2.0) per game. Furthermore, the forward ranks second on the team in assists (2.2) per game. As if that isn’t enough, Lamb is the epitome of versatility, shooting 52.2% from the field, 36.4% from beyond the arc, and 76.9% from the line. His talent is a bitter-sweet feeling, as if a team can slow him down, they have an edge on Vermont, but he’s also the type of player that can nearly single-handedly advance them to the Round of 32. They also have five players in their rotation that shoot 36% or better from beyond the arc and seven players that shoot 77% or better from the line. The disparity in three-point points and free throw points could be too much for an opposing team to handle.

 

Northeastern (13)

Follow Justin Bales on Twitter! (@BalesSJustin)

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