Searching for Cinderella
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
With every man on Earth soon to be engrossed in the frenzy that is March Madness, FSLR will be covering it like the 2007 Patriots against the spread. That is to say: we’ll be all over the action. Even though the entire bracket isn’t complete, we still know the majority of the field, and that gives us a great opportunity to search for the 2014 version of VCU or Florida Gulf Coast.
North Dakota State (projected seed: 12) – NDSU fits all the criteria (and the glass shoe) for a Cinderella story come tournament time. An electric scorer that can get hot at any time? Taylor Braun (18.1 ppg) checks that box. Necessary experience to not only handle, but thrive under pressure? Three of the starting five are Seniors. An intriguing team stat that could put them over the edge in a given game? Actually, they have two: 12th in the country in turnover prevention percentage and 1st in the country in field goal percentage. In short, North Dakota State is a highly efficient squad that takes care of the ball, can handle the pressure, and has a player that can put the team on his back. If they end up with a 12 seed, I love their chances in the first round no matter who they play.
Mercer (projected seed: 13) – On opening night, this Mercer team proved that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with all season long by playing Texas to a close 76-73 game (albeit still a loss). However, this team never backs down from a challenge, largely due to the abundant experience throughout the entire roster. In fact, Mercer’s starting 5 are all Seniors, a stat that only the Bears can lay claim too among the whole tournament field. If David is going to conquer Goliath, a little wisdom only helps, right? Led by point guard Langston Hall who averages a cool 14 points per game, Mercer knocked off Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun conference for a tournament bid, but that might be just the beginning of their magic.
Saint Joseph’s (projected seed: 11) – Quick NCAA trivia: before Wichita State this year, which D1 basketball was the last to have an undefeated regular season? Let’s put it this way, if the answer was Kentucky, I wouldn’t be putting the question under the Saint Joseph’s heading. So even though the Hawks certainly have an interesting history nugget in their back pocket, does that mean they can hang with the rest of the field come tourney time? Let’s take a look: Senior guard Langston Galloway clearly runs the show (averaging 17.3 ppg and making 43% of his three pointers). Due to his high likelihood of knocking down multiple threes, Galloway can take over a game at a moments notice. Similar to the teams listed above, Saint Joseph’s is also oozing with experience; 3/5 of their starting five are Seniors. Not only that, but their lineup is extremely balanced (4/5 starters average more than 10 ppg).
Stephen F. Austin (projected seed: 12) Stephen F. Austin has the second-longest winning streak in college basketball right now; the Lumberjack’s have won 28 straight games. To put that into perspective, the last time they lost was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Florida went 18-0 in their conference and is ranked number 1 in the AP poll. Wichita State went 18-0 in their conference and is ranked number 2 in the AP poll. Stephen F. Austin went 18-0 in their conference and are… unranked. The media doesn’t give love to the small school in Texas, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. A hot team like this entering the tournament can be extremely dangerous; you’ve been warned.