Before you bet the March Madness bracket, circle these mid-major Cinderella teams

Covers.com
·6 min read

Whether you’re betting the odds to win March Madness or building your NCAA tournament bracket, sniffing out potential Cinderella teams is a must. And with so much being made of the parity across college hoops this season, the 2020 Big Dance might be set up for a surprise mid-major program to run to the Final Four – or maybe even win the national title.

We still have a couple weeks before conference tournaments tip off and the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament isn’t until March 19, but you can start trying the glass slipper on these potential mid-major March Madness Cinderella NCAA basketball picks.

BYU COUGARS

CONFERENCE: WEST COAST
RECORD: 23-7 SU, 18-11-0 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: Gonzaga (L,W), Kansas (L), San Diego State (L), Houston (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +6,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: +850

A win over the third-ranked team in the country will put you on the radar of anyone betting the NCAA basketball odds, but BYU would still be a Cinderella if it can make waves in the national tournament. The Cougars stunned Gonzaga this past weekend and faced some stiff competition in non-conference play, including a close loss to San Diego State and hanging tough with Kansas for a half.

WHY BYU COULD BE CINDERELLA

Brigham Young can score with any team in the country, averaging almost 81 points per contest, and is lethal from long range – a trademark of past March Madness Cinderella runs. The Cougars top the country in 3-point percentage at 42.2 and knock down an average of 10.6 shots from beyond the arc an outing. Brigham Young is also among the most experienced teams in the country and have a proven superstar in Yoeli Childs, who is starting to heat up after dealing with a suspension and an injury earlier in the season.

NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS

CONFERENCE: MISSOURI VALLEY
RECORD: 23-5 SU, 17-8-1 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: WEST VIRGINIA (L), SOUTH CAROLINA (W), COLORADO (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +10,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

You know the Panthers from the ghosts of March Madness past, most notably Ali Farokhmanesh leading NIU over No. 1 Kansas in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Most recently, the Panthers bounced Texas in the Round of 64 and then suffered a historic collapse against Texas A&M in the Round of 32 in 2016. This program, which is once again the class of the MVC, doesn’t fear the big-name teams nor the pressure of the national stage.

WHY NORTHERN IOWA CAN BE CINDERELLA

Beyond the program’s resume as well as the conference’s history of producing Cinderellas (Loyola-Chicago in 2018), this year’s version of the Panthers looks a lot like the 2019 champion Virginia Cavaliers in terms of style and pace. Northern Iowa runs a methodical offense, chewing up the shot clock and firing at an efficient 48 percent from the field – including 39.5 percent from long distance. It also takes care of the little things, like hitting foul shots and keeping opponents off the offensive glass.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN LUMBERJACKS

CONFERENCE: SOUTHLAND
RECORD: 24-3 SU, 13-10-1 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: DUKE (W), ALABAMA (L)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +25,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

We’ve got to go back to November to recall the Lumberjacks’ massive upset over Duke as 27.5-point road underdogs at Cameron Indoor. Stephen F. Austin has stepped back into the shadows since that stunner but is quietly going about its business in the Southland, riding an 11-game winning streak into this week and suffering only one loss since December 8.

WHY STEPHEN F. AUSTIN CAN BE CINDERELLA

Take the fact that they beat Duke out of the equation for just a second. The Lumberjacks are a team that thrives on chaos, forcing almost 21 turnovers per game – most in the country. That produces a lot of easy buckets and is why SFA is clicking at an efficient 49 percent from the field and chewing up extra possessions, scoring more than 80 points per night on the year. The Lumberjacks also have plenty of upperclassmen and a strong bench… and they beat Duke in Durham. Dangerous.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE BUCCANEERS

CONFERENCE: SOUTHERN
RECORD: 25-4 SU, 14-12-0 ATS
NOTABLE OPPONENTS: KANSAS (L), LSU (W)
ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT: +15,000
ODDS TO MAKE FINAL FOUR: N/A

Not only has East Tennessee State battled the likes of Kansas and LSU, but it has its own stellar rivalry brewing at the top of the Southern Conference versus fellow mid-major stud UNC Greensboro, taking both meetings against the Spartans this season. That said, nothing is guaranteed in the conference tournament – even with ETSU suffering only one loss in its last 13 games.

WHY EAST TENNESSEE STATE CAN BE CINDERELLA

The Buccaneers are adaptable and can beat teams in various ways. They rank Top-50 in both points for and against, showcasing an efficient offensive attack that hits at a near 48-percent clip from the field and isn’t shy about throwing it up from deep either. Eastern Tennessee State has four players in double figures and seven players averaging seven or more per contest. That includes standout forward Jeromy Rodriguez, who is expected to return soon from a foot injury. Coach Steve Forbes cut his March Madness teeth with Wichita State earlier in the decade and knows what it takes to bust the bracket.

TOP ODDS TO WIN 2020 MARCH MADNESS

TEAM

ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT

Kansas Jayhawks

+800

Baylor Bears

+1,100

Gonzaga Bulldogs

+1,100

Duke Blue Devils

+1,200

Louisville Cardinals

+1,600

Maryland Terrapins

+1,800

Dayton Flyers

+1,800

San Diego State Aztecs

+2,000

Michigan State Spartans

+2,500

Kentucky Wildcats

+2,500

Oregon Ducks

+2,500

Seton Hall Pirates

+2,500

Arizona Wildcats

+2,800

Penn State Nittany Lions

+3,000

Villanova Wildcats

+3,300

Creighton Blue Jays

+3,300

Florida State Seminoles

+3,300

Auburn Tigers

+4,000

Ohio State Buckeyes

+4,000

Michigan Wolverines

+4,500

Iowa Hawkeyes

+5,000

Butler Bulldogs

+5,000

West Virginia Mountaineers

+5,500

Virginia Cavaliers

+5,500

Colorado Buffaloes

+6,000

BYU Cougars

+6,000

Xavier Muskateers

+7,000

Purdue Boilermakers

+7,000

Wichita State Shockers

+7,000

Memphis Tigers

+7,000

Houston Cougars

+7,000

St. Marys Gaels

+8,000

Indiana Hoosiers

+8,000

Texas Tech Red Raiders

+8,000

Wisconsin Badgers

+9,000

Tennessee Volunteers

+9,000

Marquette Golden Eagles

+9,000

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

+9,000

Florida Gators

+9,000

Providence Friars

+9,000

Before you bet the March Madness bracket, circle these mid-major Cinderella teams originally appeared on NBCSports.com