– Posted by Zurg –
Wichita State (31-0) completed the first undefeated regular season since Saint Joseph’s in 2003-04 with a 68-45 win over Missouri State on Saturday – becoming the seventh team in college basketball history to accomplish this feat.
The debate will go on for another fifteen days whether Gregg Marshall’s team should receive a 1-seed in March Madness, but I’m not interested in that right now.
What interests me more than this year’s Wichita State team is last year’s Wichita State team.
I am enamored with Cinderella, and I want to know what teams have the potential to be the 2014 version of 2013 Wichita State.
There are other examples, of course. To define Cinderella in this post, I will be using 2006 George Mason (11-seed), 2011 VCU (11-seed), and 2011 Butler (8-seed), in addition to 2013 Wichita State (9-seed).
First, let’s profile these four teams:
2006 George Mason:
Led by Jai Lewis and Tony Skinn, the Patriots won 23 games in the regular season and (for one week) were ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in school history. George Mason ended up receiving an at-large bid despite being upset by Hofstra in the CAA tournament, which prompted much criticism from the media. In the tournament, Jim Larranaga’s team defeated Michigan State, defending champion North Carolina, Wichita State, and 1-seed Connecticut on its way to the Final Four. George Mason lost its national semi-final game against eventual champion Florida, but many still consider their run one of the best by a mid-major program ever.
Shaka Smart brought his Rams where they had never been before: the Final Four. The 2011 VCU squad stood tall at 20-6 (12-2) on February 9, 2011 before dropping 4 of its last 5 regular season games. Shaka Smart’s team bounced back, however, and advanced to the championship game of the CAA tournament (where they lost to Old Dominion). To large amounts of media criticism, VCU was selected as one the final at-large teams in the NCAA Tournament field, having to play in the “First Four” against USC. Of course, VCU advanced past Southern California, and then past Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas along the way to the Final Four. Fellow Cinderella team Butler defeated the Rams in the national semi-final, but their tournament run will be remembered as one of the best NCAA underdog stories of all time.
Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs were coming off a trip to the National Championship in 2010 (where they had lost to Duke in one of the best national championships in recent memory). The team returned Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack, and Andrew Smith, but its hopes of being a true national contender were shot down by Gordon Hayward’s decision to leave school for the NBA. Butler battled all year in the Horizon League, however, and eventually won the conference tournament to earn an 8-seed. The Bulldogs defeated CAA champion Old Dominion in the first round, then moved past 1-seed Pittsburgh, 4-seed Wisconsin, 2-seed Florida, and 11-seed VCU to return to the National Championship for the second-straight season. They lost to Kemba Walker and Connecticut, but Butler’s run to back-to-back national title games will not be forgotten.
2013 Wichita State:
Considered to be the 2nd best team in the Missouri Valley behind Doug McDermott and Creighton, Wichita State finished the regular season 30-9 (12-6) before losing the conference championship to those very Bluejays. Undeterred, however, the 9th-seeded Shockers went on to “shock” the college basketball world with wins over Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, LaSalle, and Ohio State to earn the school’s second Final Four berth. Gregg Marshall’s team ended up losing to eventual national champion Louisville in the Final Four, but they led by as many as 12 in the second half.
So, what do these teams have in common? What characteristics are we looking for to identify a potential Cinderella?
Let’s rank them in terms of adjusted Offense:
- 2011 VCU, 112.3
- 2013 Wichita State, 110.3
- 2011 Butler, 109.8
- 2006 George Mason, 108.3
And in terms of adjusted Defense:
- 2006 George Mason, 91.7
- 2013 Wichita State, 91.8
- 2011 Butler, 95.1
- 2011 VCU, 98.0
That leaves us with an average adjusted Offense of 110.2 and an adjusted Defense of 94.2.
Which teams fit the mold in 2014? Here is a chart of some teams that follow the pattern these past four Cinderella teams have left:
So, there you have it. Two weeks before you even have the bracket, you know 6 potential Bracket Busters to keep your eye on. There are some familiar teams in there, and I included “power conference” teams that will likely have lower seeds (“Seeds as of Today” are via Bracket Matrix).
I will be referring back to this post in a couple weeks to see if any of these teams end up with favorable (and favorable potential) matchups.
Long live the underdog.
Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@BEandBeyond) what you think!