Early 2023 NCAA Event Cinderella Watch: Which mid-major staff will win essentially the most video games in March Insanity?


At this level a 12 months in the past, Saint Peter’s sported a 5-6 document and ranked No. 228 within the NET. Little did we all know that the Peacocks have been about to start one of the outstanding runs in faculty basketball historical past. There have been different much more achieved mid-major groups who made the NCAA Event discipline final season, but it surely was Saint Peter’s that superior the furthest.

The Peacocks made all of it the best way to the Elite Eight as a No. 15 seed and have been the one mid-major staff to even attain the Candy 16 (no, Gonzaga doesn’t rely). Although the Peacocks’ season got here to an finish with a 69-49 loss to North Carolina within the East Regional remaining, the Saint Peter’s run showcased what we love concerning the Massive Dance.

If you happen to have been in search of a mid-major staff to make a run, the safer guess would have been No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s, No. 7 seed Murray State, No. 8 seed San Diego State or any variety of packages with extra curb attraction than Saint Peter’s. However in the end, the Peacocks strutted previous Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue on their manner into the historical past books as the most lasting No. 15 in event historical past.

Whereas we might not see such a outstanding run once more for a few years, there are a number of high quality mid-major groups in faculty basketball once more this season. For this week’s version of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are selecting the the mid-major program they consider is most able to profitable a number of video games within the 2023 NCAA Event.

Saint Mary’s (16-4)

The Gaels misplaced main scorers Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass from final season’s squad, which earned a No. 5 seed within the NCAA Event and reached the second spherical. It isn’t stunning that storied coach Randy Bennett rapidly reorganized to discipline one other wonderful staff. However it’s stunning that Saint Mary’s might have really improved after such consequential personnel losses, and it would not be surprising to see this staff attain the second weekend of the NCAA Event.

Saint Mary’s was No. 8 within the NET and No. 8 at KenPom.com as of Tuesday and is on observe for a No. 6 seed within the NCAA Event, in keeping with CBS Sports activities Bracketology Professional Jerry Palm. Arguably the largest issue within the Gaels’ resilience is the play of freshman guard Aidan Mahaney. Ranked a top-150 prospect within the nation by 247Sports, Mahaney is taking part in out of his thoughts. In wins over Loyola Marymount and San Francisco final week, he scored 21 and 25 whereas making 18 of 35 pictures from the sector. Since coming into the beginning lineup in early December, he is scoring 16.9 factors per recreation on 52.5% taking pictures, together with a 46.4% mark from 3-point vary.

This staff is 10-1 since Mahaney entered the beginning lineup, and its 4 losses this season are by a mixed 15 factors. When Saint Mary’s misplaced to UCLA within the second spherical of the Massive Dance final season, the Bruins merely could not miss. However the Gaels have a stout protection once more this season, and with some higher luck, they are going to make the Candy 16 for the primary time since 2010. — David Cobb

FAU (17-1)

Getting into the 2022-23 season, FAU coach Dusty Might had a 66-56 document in 4 (principally) forgettable seasons. Three of these 4 seasons completed with profitable data, however not by a lot, and infrequently was it even within the dialog to be a contender within the Convention USA race. Might and FAU have caught lightning in a bottle this season, although, in among the best and most underdiscussed tales within the sport. The Owls are hooting their option to relevance behind a 17-1 begin that landed them within the AP High 25 on Monday for the primary time in program historical past. 

No different staff has an unblemished document in C-USA play — actually, no staff has misplaced fewer than two video games — which makes FAU the clear favourite proper now to win the league as issues stand proper now. That’d be the primary C-USA title and second regular-season convention championship in program historical past for the Owls

The 17-1 document is not any mirage, both. The metrics love FAU. It’s No. 13 (!) within the NCAA’s Internet rankings, No. 35 at KenPom and No. 34 at BartTorvik.com. This staff has the products to make the tourney and make noise whereas in it. — Kyle Boone

Primarily based on Tuesday morning’s CBS Sports activities High 25 And 1, my first reply to this query can be Florida Atlantic, which I had within the day by day rankings a full seven days earlier than the Owls entered the Related Press High 25 ballot for the primary time ever on Monday. My second reply can be Saint Mary’s. However Cobb understandably took the Gaels, and Boone understandably took the Owls. So I will simply transfer on to my third possibility — Boise State.

Leon Rice’s Broncos are good once more regardless of shedding 4 of the highest six scorers from final season’s staff — amongst them main scorer Abu Kigab and third-leading scorer Emmanuel Akot, the latter of whom transferred to Western Kentucky, the place he is unlikely to make the 2023 NCAA Event contemplating the Hilltoppers are 3-4 in C-USA and ranked a hundred and sixtieth within the NET. Akot’s former teammates are doing simply superb, although. After stumbling out of the gates and shedding two of the primary three video games, Boise State has gained 13 of its previous 15 and shot all the best way as much as twentieth within the NET and twenty seventh at KenPom.com. The Broncos have overwhelmed the Colorado staff that beat Tennessee, the Texas A&M staff that is 4-0 within the SEC, the Saint Louis staff that is overwhelmed Windfall and Memphis, and the Utah State staff that is additionally within the top-50 at KenPom.

Is it the most effective resume on the planet?

In fact not.

However it’s a resume ok that CBS Sports activities Bracketology Professional Jerry Palm is at the moment projecting the Broncos as a No. 10 seed within the NCAA Event. In the event that they keep away from extra unhealthy losses, add some Quadrant 1 victories and win a second straight Mountain West title, that projected seed will clearly enhance — maybe to one thing like a No. 5 seed or No. 6 seed. In that case, the Broncos would have a practical path to the Candy 16, which might be superb contemplating this system continues to be pursuing its first win within the NCAA Event regardless of making the Massive Dance eight earlier occasions between 1976 and final season. — Gary Parrish

A flashback from earlier this season. Gonzaga had simply overwhelmed Xavier on the PK85 and I used to be speaking to Mark Few about his reduction over going 2-1 in that occasion. Few was laying out why this was the hardest nonconference schedule he’d ever put collectively, and after itemizing off all of the high-major packages on the slate, he threw in one thing to the impact of, “And by the best way, we have additionally obtained to play Kent State in every week and that’ll be a nightmare.” 

Few knew of what he spoke. The Golden Flashes led Gonzaga for a superb portion of that recreation, finally falling 73-66. In actual fact, Kent State’s solely three losses this season have come in opposition to groups which can be a mixed 52-5: Gonzaga, Charleston and Houston. In opposition to Charleston, on the street, Kent State fell by two. At Houston, arguably the most effective staff in faculty basketball, Rob Senderoff’s staff misplaced by simply 5. After which it almost stole the sport in opposition to Gonzaga. 

The Golden Flashes are the most effective staff within the MAC, and the explanation why they’re my decide for this week’s query: level guard play and protection. Kent State ranks top-20 nationally in defensive effectivity. That is going to be there come March. It additionally has Honest Carry, who averages 17 factors and 5 assists per evening and is arguably a top-10 lead guard in faculty hoops. Senderoff’s quietly been getting it carried out at Kent State ever since he obtained there in 2011. He is by no means had a staff this well-rounded. A viable Cinderella candidate right here, which is not new to this faculty. Bear in mind 2002?  — Matt Norlander



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