Selection Sunday has passed and the field is set for the 2022 Men’s NCAA Tournament. And with the return of the tournament, each year people will browse the bracket and attach themselves to Cinderella teams they believe have an edge and are set up to deliver an upset. Here are two Cinderella teams to believe in, and two to leave as fairy tales.
Cinderella teams to buy
The Catamounts went 18-14 in the regular season and dominated the America East conference going 17-1 in conference play. Senior forward Ryan Davis led Vermont with 17.2 points per game. proving to be an offensive problem opposing teams struggled to solve.
Vermont is one of the better shooting teams in the country, firing at 58.9% on two-point attempts, the third-best percentage in the NCAA. They draw Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and on paper it is a good matchup for them. The Razorbacks are an average shooting team, and though they sport a good defense, Vermont’s shooting prowess should shine through.
The Fighting Sister Jeans! Apparently they are still using the Ramblers as their mascot, but it’s about time for them to pay homage to their team’s chaplain. Loyola Chicago went 25-7 in the regular season and 13-5 in conference play. Senior guard Lucas Williamson led the team with 14.0 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game.
The Ramblers are a Top 15 shooting team in the country according to KenPom. They rank 15th for two-point shooting percentage and 16th in three-point shooting percentage in the NCAA. The Ramblers also have an above-average defense, and if they were in a bigger conference they likely would’ve received a higher seed in the tournament.
Cinderella teams to sell
The Hokies are riding high after winning the ACC tournament as a No. 7 seed. They rank third in the country for three-point shooting percentage, and the long ball is what got them through their conference tournament. They take on the Texas Longhorns in the first round.
When a team lives and dies by the three-ball, a cold streak can spell the end of a run. Texas has an above-average defense on three-pointers, allowing teams to connect with only 31.8% of their attempts. Virginia Tech shoots 39.3% from behind the arc, but the Longhorns have the depth to contain the Hokies guards. Even if Virginia Tech wins, they would likely be rewarded with a matchup in the second round against Purdue.
San Diego State went 23-8 in the regular season and 13-4 when taking on Mountain West opponents. They were rolling in their conference tournament until they dropped the championship game against Boise State. The Aztecs were still able to make the tournament, but they start off in a trap game against the No. 9 seed Creighton. Based on seeding, this is the toughest matchup they could’ve drawn, as with a win they would likely face off in the second round against Kansas.
They can’t start game-planning for the Jayhawks just yet as a different bird presents a problem in the opener. Creighton is looking to prove that defense can win championships as they rank ninth in the country in two-point shooting percentage allowed. Their adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom is 92.1 which is the 18th best in the NCAA. Creighton matches up well with the Aztecs, and San Diego State may not make it out of the first round.