Who could shock the NCAA Basketball odds this year becoming the next Cinderella Team? Here are some teams you might want to watch out for.

During the past few NCAAB seasons, teams such as Butler, Virginia Commonwealth, and George Mason have shocked the world and nearly cut down the nets at the end of the season. A team does not have to be a mid-major, however, to become a March surprise.

Let’s take a look at a few teams that are not generally considered top-25 material heading into next season who may have the ability to win a few games in the Big Dance. The top-25 is courtesy of Andy Katz, and the NCAA Basketball odds are from The Greek. 

UCLA Bruins (+1800) 

Reeves Nelson

UCLA is going to have an amazing frontcourt in 2011-2012 with Reeves Nelson, Joshua Smith, and the Wear twins (transfers from the University of North Carolina) leading the way. Opposing teams are going to have major issues matching up with the Bruins under the basket. 

NCAA Basketball Bettors can also be assured that UCLA will play bruising defense, a Ben Howland staple. Strong defensive efforts and dominance in the middle could carry UCLA deep in the tournament. 

The potential weakness for UCLA is in the backcourt. The loss of Malcolm Lee to the NBA is going to hurt from a scoring and experience perspective. The Bruins will need to hope that Lazeric Jones’ poor shooting last season was due to a wrist injury.

Backups Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb must continue their development, and newcomers Norman Powell and De’End Parker will be counted on for immediate help. If the Bruins get solid guard play, they have the other elements necessary to surprise the betting odds against them. 

Michigan State (+2500)

First of all, the Spartans have Tom Izzo. He is one of the top NCAA Tournament coaches in history, and he makes Michigan State a contender. 

I believe that the 2010-2011 Michigan State Spartans were an anomaly. The team never gelled due to a combination of thugs (I’m talking about you, Korie Lucious and Chris Allen) and nagging injuries. Izzo is smart enough to ensure that the personnel issues improve and the injuries have to let up, don’t they? 

The Spartans will depend upon several things to happen in order to be a player during March Madness. Draymond Green needs to be a leader and improve his game. Valpo transfer Brandon Wood must prove that this game will translate to the Big Ten, and he will need to make the big three-point shot when called upon by the team.

If Russell Byrd can return from surgery, he will will give Michigan State another solid perimeter option. Other Spartans, such as Keith Appling and Derrick Nix, must improve their games (Nix needs to report to practice in-shape, as well). Izzo will depend on his recruiting class, notably Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, to make an impact. Trice may be the starter at point guard, according to Izzo. 

There are a lot of “ifs” with the Spartans, but that will be true of any team outside the top-25. My money is on a bounce-back season for MSU. Izzo’s club is not talented enough to challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten title, but a run in March is not out of the question. 

UNLV (+8000) 

UNLV Looks to shock the odds makers

I am convinced that Dave Rice is going to do a fantastic job in the desert for his alma mater. He has embraced UNLV’s past by reaching out to Tark (the “Jaws” theme may be returning to Thomas-Mack, according to reports) and hiring Stacey Augmon as an assistant. He also plans to run-and-gun a bit like Tark. The players have responded positively, and no transfers have taken place since Lon Kreuger’s departure.

Assuming Chase Stanback’s DUI issue doesn’t become a major issue, the Rebels have a nice nucleus with four of their top five scorers back. UCLA transfer Mike Moser is also ready to jump into the mix. 

This one is a gut feeling, but I think the Rebels have a very good year. The team is athletic, knows how to play defense, and will be fun to watch on offense. Expect a little magic to return to UNLV basketball in 2011.

It’s a Gamble 

A futures wager on any of these teams is a basketball betting high-risk/high-reward proposition. I feel strongly that all three will make the field of 68, but would not guarantee much more than that. A Final Four run is possible, along with a first-round loss. 

Good luck finding next year’s Cinderella.