Everybody loves a Cinderella, and several mid-majors would be more than happy to fill the role in 2011. Here are the three top candidates
This is an article from the March 21, 2011 issue
Gordon Hayward came within three inches of sinking his 46-footer at the buzzer of last year's title game, a heave that almost gave Butler the upset of a lifetime over Duke. This year, look to Belmont to carry the mid-major torch. The Bruins (30--4, 19--1), led by shooting guard and top scorer Ian Clark (12.4 ppg), punched their ticket with an 87--46 beatdown of North Florida in the Atlantic Sun title game and will face No. 4 seed Wisconsin in Tucson. The nation's second-most-prolific three-point-shooting team (9.4 per game), Belmont can wear down opponents with its depth; 11 players averaged between 10 and 25 minutes. Two of their losses came against Tennessee; after the second, a 66--65 thriller in December, Vols coach Bruce Pearl vowed he would do "everything I can not to schedule them again."
Other mid-majors to watch:
• Old Dominion (27--6, 14--4) won a second straight CAA tournament crown. The Monarchs opened the season with a near win against Georgetown and went on to beat Xavier and George Mason. They'll take on Butler in an 8/9 game in Washington, D.C.
• Utah State (30--3, 15--1) won the WAC regular-season and tournament titles. The No. 12 seed Aggies' tough D (they rank sixth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency) just might be enough to get them past No. 5 seed Kansas State in Tucson.