On the day after the anniversary of Gonzaga’s historic win over Florida in 1999 to reach the Elite Eight, it is fitting to discuss this year’s potential Cinderella teams. The 68-team field in the 2019 bracket has a lot of potential upsets in the first round so I’ve decided to point out which pick I would put all my money on in each region. It might not happen but hey, it’s all in good fun in the month of March.
#12 Liberty - Alright, to be honest, this pick is a dark horse pick for me. The tournament always has one really unknown team put their name on the map so I’m going with the Flames. I don’t know too much about Liberty except that it’s the first school Seth Curry went to before transferring to Duke. As for this season, Liberty had to take down a talented Lipscomb squad to be named the A-Sun Tournament champions. The Flames are a top-100 KenPom defensive team as well as top-60 KenPom offensive team and are a threat to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first round. Watch out for the 6’8” junior forward, Scottie James (13.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 67.6 FG%).
#5 Mississippi State vs #12 Liberty on Friday, March 22nd at 7:27 PM ET on TruTV
#12 Murray State - Ja Morant, Ja Morant, Ja Morant (24.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 10.0 APG, 50.3 FG%). I can’t stress this enough. He is one of the most exciting prospects to watch in college basketball (of course besides Zion Williamson). The first matchup for the Racers comes up against another scoring threat known as Markus Howard. I’m giving Ja the upper hand in this matchup because Markus is coming back from his wrist injury that he suffered against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament and he might not be 100% right. Racers over Golden Eagles.
#5 Marquette vs #12 Murray State on Thursday, March 21st at 4:30 PM ET on TBS
#12 Oregon - I’m sorry it has been all #12 seeds so far in my picks but, historically, the #5 versus #12 matchup has been known to have a lot of upsets in March Madness. #12 seeds hold a 47-89 record against #5 seeds (34.56 winning percentage) and in 29 of the last 34 years, the #12 seed has won at least one first round game.
As for the Ducks, they are hot. En fuego. Oregon is on a eight-game winning streak, 4 of those wins coming in 4 straight days to take the PAC-12 Tournament championship crown. Louis “The” King (12.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 42.9 FG%) is the leading scorer for Oregon and has really stepped up in the absence of Bol Bol. The Ducks drew a familiar opponent in the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that defeated Oregon in the round of 32 in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015. Wisconsin went on to the Final Four in both of those seasons but this year should be in favor of the Ducks who will be quackin’ to victory.
#5 Wisconsin vs #12 Oregon on Friday, March 22nd at 4:30 PM ET on TBS
#7 Wofford - Hold on, I know what you’re thinking. The Terriers are a 7 seed, how can they be considered a Cinderella team? Well because they are mid-major that no one has really heard of until this season. Wofford comes out of the SoCon and they finished the season 29-4 with a perfect 18-0 in conference play. The 7th placed seeding for Wofford is actually the highest of any team in the SoCon’s history. Fletcher Magee (20.5 PPG, 42.8 3P%) has a really unorthodox way of launching his shots from deep but they seem to go in. The Terriers have a lot of experience and shoot the ball well beyond the three-point line. I believe the Pirates of Seton Hall and (potentially) the Kentucky Wildcats will have some trouble against Wofford.
#7 Wofford vs #10 Seton Hall on Thursday, March 21st at 9:40 PM ET on CBS
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho