2022 March Madness: Who are this year's Cinderella teams?
Shane McNichol picks out five teams who could write a new Cinderella story at March Madness 2022.
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Every March, the NCAA Tournament creates a new set of household names across the country. Some of those come from the players on the best teams who make the biggest plays that affect the chase for a championship.
More often, however, those names come from the ranks of the double-digit seeds who make miracles happen in March. Every March, without fail, multiple teams seeded 12 or higher win a first-round game and at least one double-digit seed finds its way to the Sweet Sixteen. The stars of those teams become immortalized in the minds and hearts of college basketball fans forever.
We’re mere hours from a new crop of Cinderella stories joining the ranks of the great upset artists of all time. Here are five candidates to make waves in this year’s bracket.
The magic from the Ramblers last trip to the Final Four in 2018 is slowly starting to wear off. Head coach Porter Moser has left for Oklahoma, and just one contributor from that team is still at Loyola.
The blueprint laid out by that team does remain intact though.
The Ramblers program prides itself on defense by building a roster of switchable, rangy players who all play with a high basketball IQ, especially on the defensive end. New head coach Drew Valentine already looks like the right man for the job, picking up where Moser left off.
The last remaining player from the 2018 team, Lucas Williamson, is now a star in the Missouri Valley Conference. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in this tournament and gives Loyola a go-to scoring option as well.
And yes, Sister Jean is still the team chaplain at just 102 years old. If the Ramblers play as well as they have all season, get ready for plenty of camera shots of her again as they run through the Midwest region.
Speaking of schools with a history as a Cinderella, Steph Curry’s alma mater deserves a mention as well.
Bob McKillop is a legendary coach on the sidelines, now in his 33rd year running the show at Davidson. Despite his many years in the game, he continues to innovate, blending old school motion offense concepts with the 3-point revolution that his protégé Curry has popularized.
All five Davidson starters shoot 38 percent from 3-point land or better, leaving defenses scrambling to chase shooters on the perimeter.
The Wildcats are led by Foster Loyer, a Michigan State transfer who will get a chance for revenge against his former team in the first round. Loyer was a sparingly used reserve for the Spartans but has blossomed into a floor general for McKillop.
A win over his former team could spark Davidson on a run, including a win over in-state opponent Duke in the 2nd round. Duke’s listless defense could find itself dizzied by the nonstop action by the Davidson offense.
The Raiders have lost just once since January 5, albeit against a lower level of opponent in the Patriot League. Wisconsin will present an entirely different animal. Colgate should have a chance, though, thanks to the styles of play of the Raiders and Badgers.
The formula for a major upset often focuses on a slow, methodical game to create a higher variance outcome, plus a flurry of 3-pointers to swing that outcome.
Colgate loves to launch 3s and shoots the long ball at the second-best percentage in all of college basketball. Wisconsin won’t speed the pace up, leaving the door open for Colgate.
The Raiders can beat anyone on their hottest shooting night, yet with a matchup against a Wisconsin team nursing injuries and not playing their best basketball, Colgate might be ready for a glass slipper.
The Catamounts won the America East conference for the fourth time in six years, but in their two previous trips to the NCAA Tournament in that span, they came away without a win. Vermont certainly had their chances, ranking in the top 80 of KenPom’s metrics both of those seasons.
This year, the analytics say the Catamounts are even better, currently ranked 59th by KenPom. Vermont shoots the third best percentage on 2-point shots in the nation and leads all of college basketball in cleaning the defensive glass. That makes for a tough out in a tournament setting.
Senior big man Ryan Davis leads the way in the scoring column, yet if there’s going to be a hero this month, bet on fifth-year senior guard Ben Shungu, who excels at both ends of the floor and is the heart and soul of this Vermont roster.
Iowa has become such a trendy pick to reach the deep rounds of this tournament, fresh off a win at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Before the Hawkeyes can navigate into the deeper reaches of the Midwest Region, they’d need to beat a Richmond team that will not go down easily.
Richmond is led by the duo of Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden. Those two, thanks to the change in eligibility rules during COVID, have combined for 11 seasons in college basketball. These are not just upperclassmen. They are veterans who know how to win.
The Gilyard-Golden pick and roll combination should give Iowa’s defense fits. On the other end of the floor, Gilyard will make his presence felt. He’s the all-time NCAA leader in steals, forcing Iowa to track him all over the court.
The Spiders coach has done this dance before, leading Richmond to the 2011 Sweet Sixteen. This team is good enough to reach those heights again.