Every year, some relative unknown comes along and smashes the NCAA Basketball odds at March Madness. We'll show you how to find out who's foot fits in that glass slipper.
Jason's 2015-16 record as of March 2: 8-8 ATS, 1-2 Totals
In Part 1 of our five-part March Madness series, we stressed the importance of putting undervalued teams in your March Madness picks, especially when those teams are matched up against overrated, big-name programs. Today in Part 2, we're going to scour the Division I landscape and see if we can find ourselves some potential Cinderellas. These are the teams from the mid-majors and the low majors who have the best chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament, and have also done the best job of beating the spread thus far.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (21-8 SU, 17-7 ATS)
You may remember the Rams from their trip to the Final Four in 2011; they upset five straight opponents that year, including the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks (–11). As we go to press, this year's squad is tied for first place with St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10. Ken Pomeroy has VCU ranked No. 39 overall in efficiency, and Sports-Reference has the A-10 itself ranked eighth among the conferences. Senior guard Melvin Johnson (21.8 PER, +7.1 BPM) has really stepped it up this year under new head coach Will Wade, who used to coach another team on our Cinderella list.
Wichita State Shockers (23-7 SU, 18-10 ATS)
Here's another familiar March Madness mid-major. The Missouri Valley Conference used to be called the “seventh major” back in the day; the Shockers made the Final Four in 2013, were given a No. 1 regional seed in 2014, and reached the Sweet Sixteen last year, all under head coach Gregg Marshall. Yet hardly anyone seems to pay attention. Wichita State has already won the MVC regular-season title and ranks No. 7 on the Pomeroy charts, ahead of Louisville and Kentucky, but the Shockers aren't on the AP or the Coaches polls. Sacrilege.
Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (27-3 SU, 17-9 ATS)
Digging a little deeper into the Cinderella mine, we find the Trojans, who have thoroughly dominated the Sun Belt this year. Ah, the Sun Belt. Sports-Reference has this conference ranked No. 18 out of the 32 Division I members, but the Trojans have played well enough to check in at No. 44 on the Pomeroy charts, ahead of both Florida and Florida State. This is a breakthrough year for the program under rookie head coach Chris Beard, who spent 10 years at Texas Tech working as Bobby Knight's right-hand man.
Chattanooga Mocs (26-5 SU, 15-11 ATS)
Here's Wade's former team, now in its first year under Matt McCall. The Mocs are one game up on the competition in the Southern Conference, an even lower major than the Sun Belt at No. 21 on the Sports-Reference charts. Poor quality of competition leaves Chattanooga just No. 108 overall on Pomeroy's rankings, but the Mocs have a gimmick: They run one of the slowest paces in Division I. Minimizing possessions is a great way to level the playing field, and the Mocs are also great at forcing turnovers. You can't beat the March Madness odds if you don't have the ball.