One of the key questions everyone keeps asking is this: Which teams can make a run like Georgia did last season? Remember last season the Bulldogs ran through the SEC Conference Tournament and shocked the world. Nobody saw it coming. The Bulldogs crashed the Big Dance from nowhere, grabbed a 14 seed, and had Xavier on the ropes in the closing minutes of the first round.
Minnesots & Illinois also made deep runs in the Big Ten Tournament before losing in the semifinals and finals. That's what is great about the system we have in college basketball. It's March and any team can still win the national championship (outside of Independents). So who could be this year's Georgia? Here's my five best guesses.
NOTE: Remember to qualify to become this year's Georgia type team the team must have absolutely no chance at an at large bid (or at least a minimal chance) and should not be among the favorites to win their conference tournament. This does NOT include teams like Georgetown, Notre Dame, UAB, or other teams not meeting the criteria. All the teams listed below would be Cinderella stories are none of them are considered one of the top FIVE favorites in their conference tournaments.
Five Potential Championship Week Cinderellas:
Auburn Tigers: It's March and we are still talking about Auburn basketball. Go figure. The Tigers are in the same crazy league Georgia was in last season and has been on fire lately. It's important to note that unlike Georgia the Tigers actually have a winning record in the SEC and appear to be on their way to a second place finish in the SEC West. The key to this is that nobody sees it coming. Auburn will be overlooked and needs to win the SEC Tournament to get in. Beware though because I also think Mississippi State could be a team to keep an eye on.
Northwestern Wildcats: The Wildcats have proven that they can win tough games. The Wildcats have wins over Minnesota, Michigan State, and Ohio State this season. At one point they were actually on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but since then they've fallen off their early season pace. Incredibly Northwestern is the only team from a BCS Conference never to make the NCAA Tournament. They look like they will be the #9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Baylor Bears: Last season Baylor was one of the best at large bid stories in the NCAA Tournament. This season they aren't even on the bubble entering the last week of their regular season. Despite the bad year, Baylor has one of the Big 12's best players in Curtis Jerrells. Jerrells can take over games and lead Baylor to a Big 12 title if the dominoes fall the right way. Before the season nobody would've been surprised if Baylor had finished in the top three in the Big 12. When everyone's back in the same boat in a must win situation anything can happen.
Washington State Cougars: Where has this team been all season? The Cougars have won three straight games over Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA to garner some national attention. The problem is that Washington State is still only three games over .500 and is now 8-9 in Pac 10 play. It's unlikely they can get back an at large bid. Right now WSU is line to be the #6 seed in the Pac Ten Tournament. Hot teams usually play well in their conference tournament.
Evansville Acers: I can't sit here and give all the love to the major conferences can I? Of course not. Let's just call this a big time hunch. The Acers are quietly in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley, but that's fine with them. In these smaller conference tournaments the pressure is on the 1 and 2 seeds, allowing other teams to quietly make runs. In the competitive MVC I think Evansville is the team that can do that.