2009 NCAA Tournament Teams to Watch

Last Updated: March 17th, 2009 by Travis Edwards (Bankroll Sports Contributor)

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One of the most interesting aspects of the NCAA Tournament is the upsets. Every year there are plenty of heart breaking losses and exciting underdog stories that highlight the March Madness venue. The unexpected is always certain in March and that is what makes the NCAA Tournament so intriguing. Every year fans embrace a breakout underdog that will steal the spotlight from the top names in the country. In the basketball world, we call that the Cinderella team. One of the toughest things to do when filling out your bracket can be predicting some of these unexpected upsets and teams that will emerge from the darkness to shine in the spotlight. Last year Davidson was the Cinderella story. Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats surged from their 10th seeded position into the elite eight barely losing to the Kansas Jayhawks who later went on to win the National Championship. Before you complete your brackets this year, we will try to break down the best suited teams that could be the breakout story and wear the Cinderella slipper in 2009.

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Usually by the NCAA Tournament, there are clear favorites on the teams that will be expected to win it all. While of course many people will expect the Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina teams to do well there are plenty of less popular names to consider. Perhaps this year more than any, there are many teams who definitely have the capability of knocking off the top seeds. For example, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons appeared unbeatable earlier this season. The Demon Deacons started a perfect 16-0 and were the number 1 team in America for many weeks. However, after a sluggish second half of the season the Demon Deacons are only a 4 seed in the tournament. While a number 4 seed is not considerably a low seed, there are still plenty of lower seeds that could surge in their brackets and there is not a team in America that looks forward to playing a team like Wake Forest.

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One of the first teams on the radar to break out in the NCAA Tournament is the Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette got off to a brilliant start in the brutal schedule that is the Big East. The Golden Eagles come in the Tournament as a number 6 seed slated to take on Utah State in the opening round. Marquette will be favored to win the first round, but may be an underdog in round 2 where they will likely meet No. 3 seeded Missouri. Missouri was the surprise team of the Big 12 this season and their match-up with Marquette would be very compelling. We got the winner of this game coming out of the bottom part of the bracket meaning they take down Memphis and challenge Connecticut for a spot in the final four. Missouri is a very solid team that won the Big 12 Tournament Championship during conference week leading up to the big dance. However, last time the Tigers were matched up with a smaller type team like Marquette they were blown out by Kansas 90-65. The Golden Eagles smaller lineup and tremendous backcourt make them extremely tough for Missouri to beat. We take a gamble on the Golden Eagles soaring into the elite eight in exciting fashion.

Another team to keep an eye on is the Clemson Tigers. Clemson was another ACC team that got off to a perfect 16-0 start before hitting the blunt of conference play. However, the Tigers blasted Duke midway through the season handing Coach K one of the biggest losses of his career 74-47. Clemson struggled down the stretch in the ACC losing 4 of their first 5 games. One might think the Tigers have lost their way in the 2nd half of the season. On the other hand Clemson will come out of the gates taking on Big 10 opponent Michigan. While the game is expected to be close, if the Tigers come out knocking down outside shots like they tend to do it should be enough to handle the Wolverines. The Tigers will get Oklahoma most likely in the second round and this could be the first really big upset of the entire tournament. Oklahoma would have an extremely difficult time defending the outside shooting that makes Clemson so dangerous. If the two Tigers’ guards K.C Rivers and Terrence Oglesby get hot, you can say goodnight. While these two games may be a long shot for Clemson to overcome, their style of play could present problems for their early round opponents that could work to their advantage.

Even though we mentioned the Clemson Tigers being a surprise team in the South bracket, the Syracuse Orange could also be a surprise team from the lower half of the bracket. Syracuse has the most manageable path of any 3 seed in the tournament. Syracuse gets South Florida in round 1 and the winner of the Arizona State vs. Temple match-up for round 2. The Orange men could easily find their selves in the sweet sixteen taking on anyone from Oklahoma, Michigan, or our surprise pick Clemson in that game. Syracuse could manage a victory against any of these opponents on any given night. Syracuse made a strong run in the Big East Tournament beating Connecticut in the 6 overtime thriller before losing in the Championship game to Louisville. Considering that lone loss was the Orange only defeat in the last 3 weeks of basketball they appear to be peaking at the right time. Would it be crazy to predict Clemson to beat Oklahoma, and then Syracuse beat Clemson? Maybe, but whoever they do play we will take Syracuse to be the biggest surprise threat in the South.

In our final area to keep your eye we turn our focus to the East bracket. There are a number of possible scenarios if you are looking for an underdog in this bracket. The Villanova Wildcats would be a good candidate to take coming of the bottom half of the bracket. Villanova will most likely be favored to win their opening two games and could meet up with No. 2 seed Duke in the sweet sixteen. The Wildcats sets screens, and roll off the ball very well scoring points on cuts to the paint. That is the very type of team Duke has struggled with this year. Not to mention this seems to be the area in the tournament the Blue Devils have failed to get past over the last few seasons. On the upper side of the bracket if there is any team that could knock off Pittsburgh it would be Florida State. The Seminoles knocked off North Carolina in the ACC Tournament and they have played very well at times this season. Standout guard Toney Douglas gives the Seminoles a chance in any close game considering he is one of the best guards in the country. If any team was to pull off an early upset over Pittsburgh, it could be the Seminoles chance to shine.

In attempt to cover every bracket, we finally move a little focus to the Midwest. The Midwest could possibly be the toughest bracket top to bottom in the tournament. The USC Trojans could come out to surprise people if they keep up their momentum that propelled them to their first Pac-10 Tournament Title in history. However, in the end we will expect some familiar faces to square off to represent the Midwest. Louisville defense should carry them solidly through the first two rounds and possibly throughout the tournament. On the lower side of the bracket we may expect a very familiar name to emerge. No. 3 seeded Kansas is different and young team compared to the 2008 National Championship team. However, they captured the Big 12 regular season crown and played extremely well as the year progressed. We will expect the higher seeds to prevail in this bracket avoiding any big upsets. While the upsets may happen in the Midwest, we will just say we predict that Cinderella will come from one of the other brackets in the tournament.

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Posted in NCAA Basketball - Last Updated on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 @ 10:13 pm (EST)
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