Posted on: October 26, 2008 1:41 am
Edited on: October 26, 2008 1:48 am

Potential Cinderallas in the 2009 NCAA Tournament

<o:p>With College Basketball right around the corner, I was thinking about a few potential Mid-Major teams that could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Now I'm not going to list teams from Atlantic 10, Conference USA, MWC or teams that are getting consideration as a top 25 team because I don't consider those teams to be Cinderella teams as a lot of those teams have gotten some preseason hype. </o:p>


Cornell Big Red logoCornell Big Red(Ivy League)-This team has the potential to be the best team in the Ivy League since the great Princeton team of 1996. Cornell has a great backcourt led by guards  Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale. All of them are great 3 point shooters, and the 3 point line moving back shouldn't affect them at all. Losing center Jason Hartford will hurt, but Cornell has enough returning to offset that. Adam Foote should continue to improve, and he should be able to average close to a double-double. Marc Van Burck should also make an impact inside, but even without him this Cornell would be special. Right now, Cornell looks like the best in the Ivy League by far. The return of the 3 guards, and the development of Adam Foote give them a chance to suprise somebody in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. <o:p></o:p>

Siena Saints logoSiena Saint(MAAC)-Last season Siena was able to blitz Vanderbilt in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament blowing them out 82-63. Eventhough they lost in the next round to Villanova 84-72 it showed that Siena has the potential to play with the best teams in the country. With the return of 6 of their top 7 players it looks like Siena should be even better this season. The biggest loss for Siena is the loss of 5th leading scorer Tay Foster, who was an excellent three point shooter, but the Saints have enough returning to make up for that loss. Kenny Hasbrouck, Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles all averaged over 10 points a game, and they all returns. All three of them are All-Conference players, and all 3 of them will be in the running for MAAC Player of the Year. Siena also returns point guard Ronald Moore, and forward Josh Duell. Moore should be better on his 2nd year of starting at point guard for Siena, and expect Siena to push the ball a lot this upcoming season. Overall, expect Siena to play tough against somebody in the 1st or 2nd round of the tournament. They have excellent shooters, and push the tempo. The key to beating this team it play good perimeter defense, and slowing down the tempo. <o:p></o:p>

VCU Rams logoVirginia Commonwealth Rams(CAA)-With the return of CAA Player of the Year Eric Maynor it looks like the Rams will once again be a force in the 3rd year for Coach Anthony Grant. Last year, VCU ran through the CAA with a 15-3 regular season record, but they were suprised by William & Mary in the Semifinals of the CAA Tournament, and they were left out of the NCAA Tournament. Losing Jamal Shuler will hurt, but the Rams are hoping for big seasons from two sophmores, who contributed in their freshman seasons. Sanders is one of the better defensive players in the CAA as a freshman, and he should continue to improve on that this season. Kearse has the potential to be a force on the offense, and he showed that at the end of the season last year. Also returning is guard Joey Rodriguez, who was the teams 4th leading scorer as a freshman. He likely won't start this year though because of the return of Maynor, but expect to see a lot of him playing the 1, and moving Maynor over to the 2. This VCU team looks like a force again. They'll be battle tested in the tough CAA with George Mason, Drexel, Hofstra, and Old Dominion all looking like they'll have solid teams this year. That being said, I do think two teams get into the NCAA Tournament from this conference. <o:p></o:p>

Belmont Bruins logoBelmont Bruins(Atlantic Sun)-Last time we saw the Bruins they were challenging Duke in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament, and they were one score away from pulling off a huge upset. With the return of 4 starters it looks like Belmont will be dangerous again. Losing Justin Hare will be tough, but Belmont has enough to make up for the loss. Shane Dansby is the top returning scorer and rebounder. He will be Belmont's best player this season, and he'll get the ball in the clutch. Also returning is forward Matthew Dotson, and guard Andy Wicke. Both are great three point shooters, and they combined for nearly 150 three pointers last season. Belmont should also be very deep with the return of their top 3 players off the bench and all three averaged at least 6 points a game. With the return of 7 of their top 8 players Belmont will be the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun. Jacksonville may challenge them, but I see Belmont pulling it off. Coach Rick Byrd is one of the best in the buisiness, and expect Belmont to be playing in March again. <o:p></o:p>

American Eagles logoAmerican Eagles(Patriot League)-Early on it looked like American was going to go through a struggle, but they were to get hot late, and then sweep through the Patriot League Tournament on their way to the NCAA Tournament. With the return of Garrison Carr and Derrick Mercer in the backcourt expect American to have the best backcourt in the conference. Both guys can defend, and they also are deadly from the outside. Bryce Simon returns at the Small Forward position, while Brian Gilmore should break in at the other forward position after serving as the 6th man last year. The big loss for this team is the loss of forward Cornelio Guibunda, but many feel that South Florida transfer Frane Markusovic. American has the tools that most Mid-Majors need to upset higher seeded teams, and thats a good backcourt. Look for this team to possibly give a 5th seed or a 4th seed a tough game in the 1st round, but they do need to get past Navy first in the Patriot League. <o:p></o:p>

Creighton Bluejays logoCreighton Blue Jays(Missouri Valley)-Creighton was extremely young last year, but they were still able to put together a solid team. With the return of 4 out of 5 starters expect Creighton to be the best team in a weaker Missouri Valley Conference. P'Allen Stinnett was the top scorer for Creighton last season as a freshman, and he should put up bigger numbers in his 2nd year of college basketball. Booker Woodfox, Josh Dotzler and Cavel Witter also return in the backcourt giving  Creighton the best backcourt in the Missouri Valley. Kenny Lawson Jr. returns up front,  and he should be able to improve in his sophmore season. The bench was also solid last season, and they should be very good as well. The biggest losses this team endured was the loss of guard Nick Bahe, and Dana Watts, but expect Dana Altman to have another good team in Creighton, and expect another tournament berth. <o:p></o:p>

Western Mich. Broncos logoWestern Michigan Broncos(Mid-American Conference)-Western Michigan was able to win the MAC West last season, and with the return of MAC Player of the Year David Kool it looks like they should win it again. The big loss for WMU is the loss of center Joe Reitz. Donald Lawson is expected to replace Reitz inside, but he doesn't need to put up huge numbers because of the experience the Broncos have returning. Western Michigan returns 5 of their 6 top players, and 4 of those guys are seniors telling you that this team not only is extremely hungry and talented, but experienced as well. As I look more at this team, the more I like. Many are saying that Kent State, Miami(OH), Akron or Eastern Michigan should win this conference, but I go to disagree with them and take this Western Michigan team. <o:p></o:p>

Wright St. Raiders logoWright State Raiders(Horizon League)-The past few years the Horizon League Champions have made some noise in the NCAA Tournament with Butler, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee both making runs in the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders return two seniors in the backcourt in Vaughn Duggins, and Todd Brown. They also return guards Will Graham, and Troy Tabler so the backcourt should be set, and have no problems. Up front they lose Jordan Pleiman, and they're counting on two seniors. Cory Copperword, and Scott Grote are two highly thought of transfers, and they'll be the key to how good Wright State is. If they are able to contribute I do think Wright State will be the best team in the Horizon. If not, then Wright State will likely go to the CBI or the NIT, and finish behind UW-Green Bay, and Cleveland State. Still this team is dangerous, and could make some noise in March. <o:p></o:p>

San Diego Toreros logoSan Diego Toreros(West Coast Conference)-Okay I lied a little bit, San Diego is getting some top 25 consideration, but I still think this team is running under the radar. Remember this team knocked off Preseason Top 5 UConn last season in the NCAA Tournament. If I'm not mistake San Diego doesn't lose single player from last season's team so experience won't be the issue. Brandon Johnson is one of the best guards you've never heard of, and had his best games against big name opponents(UConn, Kentucky). Gyno Pomare had a huge game against UConn last year, and was able to play brillantly against Hasheem Thabeet. Rob Jones had a really good freshman season, and he returns as well. De'Jon Jackson was the guy, who hit the stunner to beat UConn, and should continue to be a solid contributer. Overall, San Diego is probably the best of the bunch I just listed. I do think they are the 2nd best team in the WCC, and Gonzaga should watch out because this team will challenge them. <o:p></o:p>

Other Teams to Watch: South Alabama(Sun Belt Conference), George Mason(CAA), Cleveland State(Horizon League), Drexel(CAA), Kent State(Mid-American Conference), Oakland(Summit League), Gardner-Webb(Big South)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com