By Drake Weissman
Although colleague Josh Stonberg released a list of his four cinderella teams for the upcoming NCAA tournament just a few weeks back, I have chosen to reinvestigate the topic in hopes of producing a more up-to-date and comprehensive list and to provide my own input onto the conundrum that is March Madness. I appreciate your efforts, Joshua, but I must present to the public the true cinderella teams:
1.Colorado State Rams
The largest reason I see this team making a deep tournament run is its uncanny similarity to Wisconsin’s offense. Led by senior JJ Avila, a 6’8 senior forward averaging 16.9 ppg, who plays exactly like Frank Kaminsky, (he sets screens, makes post moves, can step out to the three-point line) the Rams primarily run the flex offense, effectively spreading the floor and opening up cutting lanes. In addition, the Rams have six players averaging 8 ppg or more so, similar to Wisconsin, they have the ability to generate offense in a variety of ways. A dominant, hybrid big man, a high-powered offensive set, and an array of scorers; you tell me that’s not the recipe for tournament success.
Yes, I know it’s not football season, but I’m serious when I say the Tigers have a legitimate chance at making a run this year. When you take a team that has been through 5 overtimes and has lost to the undefeated Kentucky by two (Kentucky’s smallest margin of victory this year) and pair that with a rebounding duo and consistent scoring, you get a cinderella team. While its fair to make the argument that they have some bad losses, there’s a reason they’re in my cinderella list and not in the Top 25. Sophomores Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey stand at 6’10 and 6’8 respectively and are a dual threat to say the least. Martin averages 16.9 ppg and 9.0 rebounds and Mickey averages 16.0 ppg and 9.9 rebounds. To say that’s not a matchup problem would be like saying Duke doesn’t pay the refs.
What if I told you only one team had two players in the top 16 in ppg in the country? That’s right. The Iona Gaels, out of my home-county Westchester, lead the MAAC conference with a record of 26-7 as a result of the efforts of 6’9 David Laury and 6’4 AJ English, each of whom averages 19.9 ppg. The Gaels have one of the most highly powered offenses in the country. Aside from Laury and English, Schadrac Casimir (14.9 ppg) and Isaiah Williams (13.6 ppg) also contribute on the offensive end. Trust me on this one: the Gaels can compete with any team in the country solely because of their offensive production.
Disclaimer: although I am a college basketball guru and have researched extensively on this year’s cinderellas, I am no more likely than my cat Jerome to predict any of these games correctly. But, I mean, trust me. I’m legit.