March Madness Cinderella Rankings: the Most Likely Teams to Pull Off Big Upsets


The Power Rankings is taking its yearly, first-week-of-the-NCAA tournament respite from analyzing the elites, and concentrating on the Cinderella (or at least Cinderella -ish teams) instead. These are the No. 11-or-lower seeds with the most obvious opportunity, with regards to pulling off upsets.

• Rhode Island Rams (Midwest No. 11, versus Creighton)

The home-brewed composite of cutting edge metrics that was written from a source on Monday’s Bracket Math column gives Rhody a 41.2% possibility of winning here, and that is using Creighton’s full-season numbers. When you consider the nonappearance of injured and disrespected Bluejays point guard Mo Watson, we think the chances are more likely about 50%, which makes URI the most likely first-round winner of the 11-or-higher seeds.

We are not doing this to support Rams’ shorts—the hero on this team is freshman guard Jeff Dowtin, who rolls them up at the waistband to hide that irregular band of Ram-horn graphics— however, adore the way they defended on the edge. On the off chances that you put each Division, I team in a matrix, with its defensive three-point rate (the ratio of 3PAs to overall FGAs a team permits), and defensive three-point accuracy permitted as the two axes, there isn’t any genuine relationship between the two. In any case, some couple of defenses appear to have aced the capacity as far as possible three-point attempts and deflate three-point rate, the best cases of which are Rhode Island, Duke and Saint Mary’s.

• Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (South No. 12, versus Minnesota)

We’re on the Middle Tennessee train for more than simply the delight of saying Giddy Potts. The Blue Raiders are not a simple team to get ready for, in light of the fact that they stir up defenses in unusual ways. You’re probably going to see three distinct looks the course of a game— a switching man-to-man, a 2–3 zone and an extended, trapping 1-3-1 zone—and keeping in mind that Middle Tennessee has been the majority-man throughout the season, its run through the Conference USA tournament had two lion’s share zone games.

The 1-3-1 is by all accounts Coach Kermit Davis’ curveball; however, he jumps at the chance to toss it right on time in the count after one of the Blue Raiders’ first made shots of a half. An opponent will inbound the ball, come up the court and see it developed this way.

To give you a feeling of how Middle Tennessee’s defenses change through the span of one-half, we charted the greater part of its halfcourt defensive possessions, in its win over Marshall in the C-USA title game. The Blue Raiders were significantly more prone to use zone taking after a made shot, with the 2–3 being their base zone D:

• East Tennessee State Buccaneers (East No. 13, versus Florida)

This is a gut-based (instead of analytics based) pick; the eye test proposes the Buccaneers are sufficiently athletic to hang with a SEC team, and we believe ETSU’s defensive pressure could give Florida issues.

The Bucs rank twentieth nationally in turnovers-forced percentage, at 22.0%, but we found a number buried deep inside that turnover data, that is especially insane: ETSU is the best team in the country at forcing turnovers on baseline-out-of-bounds plays. Per Synergy, the Bucs have constrained TOs on an absurd 31.7% of their opponents’ BLOB sets, which turns out to somewhat less than two turnovers for every game.

How in the hellfire is this event? It’s not all on stolen passes, but rather one thing ETSU declines to surrender— dissimilar to a great deal of D-I teams— is the deep-lobbed inbounds. The Bucs put a thrashing like-mad guy on the passer, and have other players chase the lobs like cornerbacks breaking up fade routes.

• Nevada Wolf Pack (Midwest No. 12, versus Iowa State)

The Wolf Pack are the ideal matchup for Iowa State since Nevada is turning into the Iowa State of the Mountain West, stacking up on talented transfer who are thriving in another program. Wolf Pack point guard Marcus Marshall, is precisely the type of second-chance guy Fred Hoiberg would’ve attempted to woo to Ames. Marshall had a verbal altercation— and after that a sudden dropping out— with Missouri State coach Paul Lusk in January 2015, which left in the wake of being suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Marshall’s career wasn’t precisely stellar up to that point— he played in only 25 games over his sophomore, and junior seasons at Missouri State because of injuries, the suspension and the transfer— but he’s rose as one of the country’s most proficient, scoring point guards, with a 121.3 offensive rating on 23.9% use. Nevada coach Eric Musselman, a long-time previous NBA head coach and assistant, now calls Marshall “the absolute best shot maker in late games I’ve had, including NBA players that I’ve coached.” I wouldn’t see any problems with seeing Marshall and Iowa State’s Monte Morris dueling it out, big shot for big shot, in the final minutes of their first-round game in Milwaukee.

• North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks (East No. 12, versus Virginia)

In an alternate bracket, the Seahawks may have been our No. 1, 2 or 3 Cinderella pick; we cherish head coach Kevin Keatts’ offense yet do not love its matchup with Virginia. How frequently do you keep running into the country’s stingiest defence— and a top 10 team overall in effectiveness— as the 12 in a 5–12 game?

On the off chances that UNC Wilmington pulls off this upset, it may be by using the pick-and-move finishing abilities of 6’7″ sophomore forward Devontae Cacok, who’s shooting a dazzling 87.0% (and scoring 1.70 PPP) on his 61 pick-and-move finish attempts, as indicated by Synergy. If NCAA tournament players with no less than 50 P&R finishing possessions this season, the next-closest guy isn’t even all that close; it’s Creighton center Justin Patton, at 70.2% (and 1.39 PPP) on 54 tries.

Cacok isn’t a three-point threat, so his involvement in the ball screen is all by means of rim-rolls, where he adores receiving lobbed passes.