Furman is a Cinderella Team for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Furman is a Cinderella Team for the 2021 NCAA Tournament
Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

This year the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. God willing this will pass soon and we will have March Madness next year. In this article, we look at a potential Cinderella Team for 2021.

What is a Cinderella Team?

Cinderella teams are unknown schools that become the darlings of a specific NCAA Tournament. Certain conditions help determine a true Cinderella team.

A Cinderella team has to come from a mid-major conference and be seeded No. 9 or lower. Also, it can’t be favored in their first game of the NCAA Tournament.

Davidson in 2008, Loyola Chicago in 2018 and UMBC in 2018 are some of the most recent examples of true Cinderella teams for March Madness.

Davidson reached the 2008 Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed, with Stephen Curry leading the way. In 2018, Loyola Chicago made it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed, beating No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 7 Nevada and No. 9 Kansas State along the way. They ended up losing 69-57 against No. 3 Michigan in the Final Four on March 31st, 2018.

No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia 74-54 on March 16th, 2018. It was the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed. This upset by UMBC ended a 135-game losing streak for No. 16 seeds in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament.

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Furman Paladins

Furman finished conference play with a 15-3 record, just one game behind East Tennessee for the Southern Conference regular season title. Wofford beat them 77-68 in the Southern Conference Tournament quarterfinals, preventing a potential rubber match against East Tennessee with the Tournament championship on the line.

This team split their regular season series with East Tennessee and Wofford, which evidences their issues winning big games. Another example of this was their 81-78 overtime road loss against Auburn on December 5th. All these setbacks can be something positive for Furman down the road.

Every team has to learn to win and last year’s experience will help Furman have a better idea of what it takes to be successful on a regular basis.

Losing last year’s leading scorer Jordan Lyons is a tough blow. Lyons averaged 16.4 points per game and he is Furman’s all-time leader in wins and 3-point field goals made.

How Furman Will Replace Lyons

The good news for Furman is that they already know how to deal with losing their best player. Last year Furman improved their conference record by two wins after losing Matt Rafferty, their leading scorer and rebounder from 2018-19.

It will be up to Noah Gurley, Clay Mounce and Mike Bothwell to step up their game and fill the void left by Lyons. Gurley, Mounce and Bothwell all averaged double-digits in scoring, so they’re clearly capable of producing. Mounce led the team with 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals and they will also have their playmaker Alex Hunter back. Hunter averaged a team-best 3.7 assists per game.

Jordan Lyons averaged 2.2 turnovers per game, more than what this year’s backcourt averaged combined last season. This will help Furman. Lyons made just 2.4 of his 7.2 3-point attempts last season (33.6 percent). The number of shots they make from beyond the arc can improve as well.

Furman made their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 1979-80. They can be a tough out for teams like Baylor, Gonzaga and Villanova (+900 to win the NCAA Tournament at BetOnline) in March. I will definitely keep an eye on them for my NCAA Basketball picks.