2018 March Madness picks: Four Cinderellas you should strongly consider
Here are the best picks in each region to win your heart -- and maybe your office pool
You still hunting through that bracket right now, trying to settle on a couple of double-digit seeds to pull off the big upset? Maybe you're the bold type, the kind of person that likes to drop a small-conference school in the Sweet 16.
Some people just like to watch the bracket burn.
There's a hopeful charm in such anarchy, though. I get it. So let's take a look at each region and pick out the tiny team with big hopes -- and a real chance of becoming the darling of the first weekend. Reminder:.
No. 12 Murray State Racers
Matt McMahon's team is in a tough spot against West Virginia. But the 26-5 champs out of the Ohio Valley Conference have the guard play -- Ja Morant's a top 20 freshman in the country and Jonathan Stark is a senior stud with a great 3-point stroke -- to keep up with the Mountaineers. The Racers haven't lost in almost two months. Meantime. West Virginia has been up and down over much of that same span.
A win there, and then talented but defensively problematic Wichita State could be next. A 12-over-5 happens almost every year. A 12 breaking through to the Sweet 16 is also fairly common. Murray State is a trendy upset pick with good reason.
No. 14 Montana Grizzlies
A true Cinderella is a 14 or 15 that basically know one you know in real life actually picks. Total shock factor. Montana is the team with that potential. Everyone is hot on Michigan. The Wolverines are a true 3 seed. They've earned it. They also don't play until about 9:50 ET on Thursday night. Long layoff for John Beilein's team. Montana has only dropped two games since Christmas, and it's a pretty stingy team in the paint. Plus, Michigan is a bad free throw shooting team (65.7 percent). The chance is there.
A win over Michigan and then a potential game against Houston? The Cougars are a solid No. 6, but that's a good opportunity for the Grizzlies to get a close game. This is the true dark horse Cinderella team in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Ahmaad Rorie is the name to know.
No. 12 New Mexico State Aggies
Chris Jans took over this program and coached the Aggies to a 28-5 record with wins over NCAA Tournament teams Davidson and Miami. Also beat Illinois and nearly beat USC, which should've made the field. Ranked 55th at KenPom with a top-15 defense, of course the Aggies have a shot against a team full of Clemson players that have never been in the NCAAs. This is my most confident 12-over-5 pick. There are players on this team who have been part of three tournament runs.
If NMSU can beat Clemson, then a small Auburn team is up next potentially. The Tigers are 2-4 since Feb. 17. Talk about a tempting double-digit-seed Sweet 16 pick.
No. 11 Loyola Chicago Ramblers
First up: No. 6 Miami. Then possibly: No. 3 Tennessee.
This is a case of a really strong team being put on a double digit line. The Ramblers were rightfully treated well by the committee. With a 28-5 record, including a win at Florida, Porter Moser's team plays slow and has solid size. It also shoots well from 3. Miami is shorthanded without its best player, Bruce Brown, and fits Loyola's style. That game matches up as one of the best of the first round.
If Loyola wins, it could play the third-seeded Volunteers, who frankly have a similar profile to Miami. The Vols are a good team but definitely beatable. Loyola's Marques Townes, Clayton Custer and Aundre Jackson are a terrific three-man force. You'll enjoy watching this team.
And you'll love it even more when at least one of the squads above delivers as promised.
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