Early 2023 NCAA Tournament Cinderella Watch: Which mid-major team will win the most games in March Madness?

At this level a 12 months in the past, Saint Peter’s sported a 5-6 file and ranked No. 228 in the NET. Little did we all know that the Peacocks have been about to start one in every of the most outstanding runs in school basketball historical past. There have been different much more achieved mid-major groups who made the NCAA Tournament discipline final season, nevertheless it was Saint Peter’s that superior the furthest.

The Peacocks made all of it the method to the Elite Eight as a No. 15 seed and have been the solely mid-major team to even attain the Sweet 16 (no, Gonzaga doesn’t rely). Although the Peacocks’ season got here to an finish with a 69-49 loss to North Carolina in the East Regional remaining, the Saint Peter’s run showcased what we love about the Big Dance.

If you have been on the lookout for a mid-major team to make a run, the safer wager would have been No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s, No. 7 seed Murray State, No. 8 seed San Diego State or any variety of applications with extra curb enchantment than Saint Peter’s. But finally, the Peacocks strutted previous Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue on their method into the historical past books as the longest enduring No. 15 in match historical past.

While we might not see such a outstanding run once more for a few years, there are a number of high quality mid-major groups in school basketball once more this season. For this week’s version of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are selecting the mid-major program they consider is most able to successful a number of games in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Saint Mary’s (16-4)

The Gaels misplaced main scorers Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass from final season’s squad, which earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reached the second spherical. It’s not shocking that storied coach Randy Bennett shortly reorganized to discipline one other wonderful team. But it’s shocking that Saint Mary’s might have truly improved after such consequential personnel losses, and it would not be stunning to see this team attain the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Saint Mary’s was No. 8 in the NET and No. 8 at KenPom.com as of Tuesday and is on observe for a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, based on CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. Arguably the largest issue in the Gaels’ resilience is the play of freshman guard Aidan Mahaney. Ranked a top-150 prospect in the nation by 247Sports, Mahaney is taking part in out of his thoughts. In wins over Loyola Marymount and San Francisco final week, he scored 21 and 25 whereas making 18 of 35 pictures from the discipline. Since coming into the beginning lineup in early December, he is scoring 16.9 factors per sport on 52.5% taking pictures, together with a 46.4% mark from 3-point vary.

This team is 10-1 since Mahaney entered the beginning lineup, and its 4 losses this season are by a mixed 15 factors. When Saint Mary’s misplaced to UCLA in the second spherical of the Big Dance final season, the Bruins merely could not miss. But the Gaels have a stout protection once more this season, and with some higher luck, they will make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. — David Cobb

FAU (17-1)

Entering the 2022-23 season, FAU coach Dusty May had a 66-56 file in 4 (principally) forgettable seasons. Three of these 4 seasons completed with successful data, however not by a lot, and barely was it even in the dialog to be a contender in the Conference USA race. May and FAU have caught lightning in a bottle this season, although, in one in every of the greatest and most under-discussed tales in the sport. The Owls are hooting their method to relevance behind a 17-1 begin that landed them in the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time in program historical past.

No different team has an unblemished file in C-USA play — in reality, no team has misplaced fewer than two games — which makes FAU the clear favourite proper now to win the league as issues stand proper now. That’d be the first C-USA title and second regular-season convention championship in program historical past for the Owls

The 17-1 file isn’t any mirage, both. The metrics love FAU. It is No. 13 (!) in the NCAA’s Net rankings, No. 35 at KenPom and No. 34 at BartTorvik.com. This team has the items to make the tourney and make noise whereas in it. — Kyle Boone

Based on Tuesday morning’s CBS Sports Top 25 And 1, my first reply to this query could be Florida Atlantic, which I had in the each day rankings a full seven days earlier than the Owls entered the Associated Press Top 25 ballot for the first time ever on Monday . My second reply could be Saint Mary’s. But Cobb understandably took the Gaels, and Boone understandably took the Owls. So I’ll simply transfer on to my third possibility — Boise State.

Leon Rice’s Broncos are good once more regardless of shedding 4 of the high six scorers from final season’s team — amongst them main scorer Abu Kigab and third-leading scorer Emmanuel Akot, the latter of whom transferred to Western Kentucky, the place he is unlikely to make the 2023 Considering the NCAA Tournament, the Hilltoppers are 3-4 in C-USA and ranked one hundred and sixtieth in the NET. Akot’s former teammates are doing simply high quality, although. After stumbling out of the gates and shedding two of the first three games, Boise State has gained 13 of its previous 15 and shot all the method as much as twentieth in the NET and twenty seventh at KenPom.com. The Broncos have crushed the Colorado team that beat Tennessee, the Texas A&M team that is 4-0 in the SEC, the Saint Louis team that is crushed Providence and Memphis, and the Utah State team that is additionally in the top-50 at KenPom.

Is it the greatest resume in the world?

Of course not.

But it’s a resume adequate that CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm is at present projecting the Broncos as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they keep away from extra unhealthy losses, add some Quadrant 1 victories and win a second straight Mountain West title, that projected seed will clearly enhance — maybe to one thing like a No. 5 seed or no. 6 seeds If so, the Broncos would have a sensible path to the Sweet 16, which might be wonderful contemplating the program continues to be pursuing its first win in the NCAA Tournament regardless of making the Big Dance eight earlier occasions between 1976 and final season. — Gary Parrish

A flashback from earlier this season. Gonzaga had simply crushed Xavier at the PK85 and I used to be speaking to Mark Few about his aid over going 2-1 in that occasion. Few was laying out why this was the hardest nonconference schedule he’d ever put collectively, and after itemizing off all the high-major applications on the slate, he threw in one thing to the impact of, “And by the method, we have additionally acquired to play Kent State in every week and that’ll be a nightmare.”

Few knew of what he spoke. The Golden Flashes led Gonzaga for a very good portion of that sport, ultimately falling 73-66. In reality, Kent State’s solely three losses this season have come in opposition to groups which can be a mixed 52-5: Gonzaga, Charleston and Houston. Against Charleston, on the highway, Kent State fell by two. At Houston, arguably the greatest team in school basketball, Rob Senderoff’s team misplaced by simply 5. And then it practically stole the sport in opposition to Gonzaga.

The Golden Flashes are the greatest team in the MAC, and the cause why they’re my choose for this week’s query: level guard play and protection. Kent State ranks top-20 nationally in defensive effectivity. That’s going to be there come March. It additionally has Sincere Carry, who averages 17 factors and 5 assists per evening and is arguably a top-10 lead guard in school hoops. Senderoff’s quietly been getting it performed at Kent State ever since he acquired there in 2011. He’s by no means had a team this well-rounded. A viable Cinderella candidate right here, which is not new to this college. Remember 2002? — Matt Norlander

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