The 2023 NCAA Tournament provided us with one of the best Cinderella stories in the event's history, when No. 16 seed FDU captured the hearts of the nation by slaying No. 1 seed Purdue. Not only did the Knights become the second-ever No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, but they did it with the nation's smallest lineup. Taking out the Boilermakers and 7-foot-4 star Zach Edey made FDU an immediate sensation.

That incredible story sets a high bar for Cinderella hopefuls in 2024. With Thursday's first-round games approaching (and don't forget about the First Four action on Tuesday and Wednesday), there are plenty of double-digit seeds lurking with the potential to become national darlings.

Even if nothing quite so outlandish as a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed occurs, there is always the potential for a double-digit seed to make a run or for a team like FAU to get hot. The Owls reached the Final Four as a No. 9 seed last season, which certainly qualified them Cinderella for Cinderella status in many people's eyes.

The bracket is full of Cinderella scenarios and hypothetical matchups that could create a memorable run from someone this March. So, as you fill out your bracket and decide which squad with long-shot odds is worth a look, here is one team from each region to consider.

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No. 14 seed Oakland (23-10)

First up: No. 3 seed Kentucky. Then possibly: No. 6 seed Texas tech.

Oakland upset Xavier on the road and played competitive games with Ohio State and Illinois early this season. Considering Kentucky lost to UNC Wilmington at home, the Wildcats aren't 100% trustworthy against a team of this caliber. If the Grizzlies pull off the upset, their coach will likely become the talk of the sport. Greg Kampe is the country's longest-tenured coach and has led three teams to the NCAA Tournament. If he won his first game in the Big Dance at age 68, it would make for quite a story. His squad has been tested and has the veteran leadership required to make noise.


No. 12 seed McNeese (30-3)

First up: No. 5 seed Gonzaga. Then possibly: No. 4 seed Kansas.

McNeese beat VCU, UAB and Michigan on the road by double digits before running through the Southland Conference without much resistance. The Cowboys are coached by former LSU coach Will Wade, who is on a redemption tour after his tenure with the Tigers ended in 2022 amid an NCAA investigation. This team is ruthlessly efficient on offense and forces significantly more turnovers than it commits. With a handful of former power conference players in the rotation — led by ex-TCU guard Shahada Wells — McNeese won't be awestruck by Gonzaga. If the Cowboys do pull an opening-round upset, a second-round date with a struggling Kansas team may await. The Jayhawks aren't their usual selves, and neither is Gonzaga, which makes this a manageable path for McNeese.


No. 12 seed UAB (23-11)

First up: No. 5 seed San Diego State. Then possibly: No. 4 seed Auburn

San Diego State could overwhelm most typical No. 12 seeds with its physicality and defense. But not UAB. The Blazers are an excellent rebounding team and get a ton of their points at the free-throw line. Yaxel Lendeborg is a rim-protecting and shot-blocking machine, and Eric Gaines is a difference-making guard on both ends. The winner would likely face Auburn, which would make for a compelling showdown between two teams from Alabama. The Tigers are playing well, but haven't been beyond the first weekend of the Big Dance since 2019. All the pressure would be on Auburn.


No. 11 seed New Mexico (26-9)

First up: No. 6 seed Clemson. Then possibly: No. 3 seed Baylor

New Mexico gets a Clemson team that has lost three of its last four, including an embarrassing 21-point defeat against Boston College in the ACC Tournament. It's pretty clear the Tigers are only a No. 6 seed because of what they accomplished in November and December. The Lobos are playing significantly better as of late, entering off a Mountain West Tournament title. If they beat the Tigers, a second-round date with Baylor seems relatively manageable. The Bears are one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams, but New Mexico ranks 21st nationally in 3-point defense.

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