Stealing the Spotlight...The Underdogs of the Tourney
March 18, 2010
1 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
The Saints have two of the major components of a bracketbuster: tournament experience (first-round wins over Vandy and Ohio State in the last two tourney's) and standout seniors (Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore). Seeing as Purdue has struggled mightily since Robbie Hummel's season-ending injury, the Saints could be eying a third straight opening-round win.
2 of 10Kohjiro Kinno/SI
This looks like the most competitive Ivy League to enter the tourney field in recent memory and could give Temple trouble in Round 1. The Big Red are lethal from beyond the arc (as evidenced by their 43.4 percent mark from beyond the arc, tops in America) and gave Kansas a huge scare in Allen Fieldhouse back in January. Guard Ryan Wittman (pictured) and center Jeff Foote provide Cornell with a solid inside-outside combo.
3 of 10Jeff Lack/Icon SMI
Old Dominion was consistently impressive this season, winning the regular-season and conference titles in the Colonial Athletic Association -- a league that had four 20-win teams. The Monarchs knocked off Georgetown back in December, so it's apparent that they're ready to play with the big boys. ODU's first-round opponent, Notre Dame, has played well in the last few weeks, but the Irish seem to be overseeded as a 6 seed.
4 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
The Miners boast and enviable combo in the paint in Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie, but when guard Randy Culpepper (pictured) gets going, this team becomes very dangerous. UTEP seems to match up pretty well against its first round opponent, Butler.
5 of 10Danny Murphy/Icon SMI
Murray State cruised through the regular season, finishing with 30 wins and a 17-1 record in the Ohio Valley Conference. (The Racers also swept the conference's regular-season and tournament titles.) Murray State is very efficient on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, but the most notable thing about this team is its extreme offensive balance: six players average between 9.5 and 10.6 points per game. The Racers drew Vanderbilt in the first round.
6 of 10Derrick Tuskan/Icon SMI
San Diego State
The Aztecs really made their mark during Championship Week, taking down New Mexico and UNLV on their way to the Mountain West tournament title. San Diego State's star pupil is freshman forward Kawhi Leonard (15), but the Aztecs are well-balanced offensively with seven players averaging between 6.3 and 12.8 points per game. Tennessee has struggled with consistency this season, but the Vols better bring their "A" game against S.D. State.
7 of 10Marc Sanchez/Icon SMI
Gaels biggie Omar Samhan backs up his brash demeanor with some serious production (20.9 points and 11 rebound per game). St. Mary's barely missed the tournament last year, and the Gaels are looking to show they're Big Dance worthy. If they can upset Richmond in the first round, they'll have a chance to make their presence felt, taking on No. 2 seed Villanova.
8 of 10Carl Auer/Icon SMI
Tom Penders' Cougars earned their tourney bid by shocking heavily favored UTEP in the Conference USA tournament championship game. It's been 18 years since Houston last appeared in the Big Dance, but this team could be very dangerous for first-round foe Maryland. The Cougars star is Aubrey Coleman, who just so happens to lead the nation in scoring at 25.6 points per game.
9 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
The Aggies won their third straight regular season title in the WAC, posting a 14-2 conference mark. Prior to losing to New Mexico State in the WAC tournament title game, Utah State had rolled off 17 consecutive wins. In last year's NCAA tournament, the Aggies barely lost to Marquette (58-57), so they'll be out for blood against Texas A&M.
10 of 10Jesse Beals/Icon SMI
The Grizzlies finished third in the Big Sky, so their only chance at making the NCAA tournament was to win the conference tourney -- which they did, in unbelievable fashion. Trailing by 20 points to Weber State at halftime of the Big Sky title game, Montana rode senior guard Anthony Johnson to an improbable 66-65 comeback win. Johnson, who finished with 42 points on the night, scored 34 in the second half, including the Grizzlies' final 21 points. New Mexico, you've been warned.
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