College Basketball Primer: Early Cinderellas, Sleepers and March Madness Busts

College Basketball Primer: Early Cinderellas, Sleepers and March Madness Busts

The week after the Super Bowl is the unofficial starting point of college basketball for casual fans. With that in mind, here’s a primer on March Madness with the Cinderellas, Sleepers, and Boobs you need to know.

With the latest version by Joe Lunardi Bracketologywe simulated the NCAA tournament 10,000 times to determine the most likely champion and the teams that can make or break your group.


When you think of a Cinderella run, Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago come to mind. Last year, the Ramblers reached the Final Four as 11th seed. Which team will wear the glass slipper this year?

These are the Cinderella teams (double-digit seeds) with the best chance of reaching the Sweet 16:

Wofford (19-4, 11-0 Southern): 19.2% chance

Wofford is the first Southern Conference team in 10 years to start the league 11-0. Of the four losses on the Terriers’ record, three came against ranked power conference programs.

Wofford could be a mid-major, according to KenPom adjusted efficiency margin, The team is ranked 31st nationally.

Indiana (13-9, 4-7 Big Ten): 17.6% chance

The Hoosiers ended a seven-game losing streak with a decisive win over No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday. Indiana upset the Spartans as underdogs by 13.5 points in East Lansing.

Archie Miller’s side suffered a scare when star striker Juwan Morgan suffered a shoulder injury in Saturday’s game, but he returned to training this week and will not miss any time. When Indiana is healthy, it can beat the best teams in the country.

Texas (12-10, 4-5 Big 12): 15.5% chance

Don’t let the record fool you, this Texas team is good. The Longhorns have the ninth-toughest roster in the country, but are still in the top 25 in defensive efficiency. The Horns will have a difficult time in the tournament.


If you want to win your group pool, you need to choose teams that avoid others. Here are the teams seeded fifth or worse with the best chance of reaching the Final Four:

Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten): 11.7% chance

Ethan Happ is a potential 1st-team All-American. The Wisconsin forward is averaging 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Happ’s play has helped the Badgers win five straight, including victories over two ranked opponents.

Iowa State (18-5, 7-3 Big 12): 6.5% chance

Generally, Dark Horse Candidates To reach the Final Four, you must have an adjusted offensive efficiency of 114.0 or higher and an adjusted defensive efficiency of 96.2 or lower. Iowa State is one of nine teams in the country to meet both qualifications.

Texas Tech (18-5, 6-4 Big 12): 6.3% chance

Texas Tech ranks third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, first in effective field goals allowed (41.7%), fourth against three-pointers (27.3%) and is also ranked 26th nationally blocked shots (4.8 per game).

They say the defense is on the move and the Red Raiders are well-positioned to make a deep run in March.


Watch out for fourth-seeded or better teams that could blow up your bracket.

Marquette (19-3, 8-1 Big East): 4.2% chance

Marquette is No. 10 in the AP Top 25 but is ranked 26th in ESPN’s BPI and KenPom. The Golden Eagles have done most of their damage at home and are undefeated this season, but…see notes…there are no NCAA Tournament games being played at Fiserv Forum.

Villanova (18-4, 9-0 Big East): 3.6% chance

Ten in a row. The defending champions are on the rise and many have forgotten Villanova’s struggles early in the season, when the team suffered four losses by mid-December and fell out of the top 25.

The Wildcats love the three-ball and 42.8% of all team goals come from behind the arc. Live in harmony with the three, die in harmony with the three. If Nova doesn’t make shots, it could be an early exit for Jay Wright’s team.

Houston (21-1, 8-1 AAC): 3.2% chance

The biggest downside for Houston is the team’s schedule. According to KenPom, the Cougars have only played the 146 toughest opponents and have only had two quality wins (wins against current top 50 BPI teams). It’s hard to trust a team that hasn’t proven their mettle on the field against the best in the country.

Avoid top seeding

Rick Barnes led Texas to the Final Four in 2003. If he could lead Tennessee to finals weekend, he would be the 16th coach to lead multiple teams to the national semifinals. As the top-ranked team in the country, Barnes has the Vols well positioned, but our model gives Tennessee the number one seed’s worst odds of reaching the Final Four (25.6%).

Defense was a problem for Tennessee as they allowed 68.0 points per game (91st). Can the Vols get enough stops once the tournament begins to meet the expectations of their rankings and seeds?

Best bid

Based on the difference between the implied probability and the predicted chance, Virginia is the team with the most value to win the national championship. At +850 odds, the implied probability of the Cavaliers destroying the Nets is 11.8%.

Action Network’s simulations give the team a 24.0% chance, second only to Duke (27.0%). After being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed last year, many players might overlook UVA, but that would be a mistake.

This article was originally published on from John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.

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