College basketball Cinderella teams for 2022-23
The Cinderella story in college basketball is always one of the highlights to end the season, and now we take a look at our picks for potential Cinderella teams this upcoming season. There were three Cinderella teams in the 2022 NCAA Tournament; 8-seeded North Carolina, 10-seeded Miami Florida, and 15-seeded St. Peter's.
North Carolina took down #9 Marquette, #1 Baylor, #4 UCLA, #15 St. Peter's, and #2 Duke then lost in the Championship game to #1 Kansas. Miami (FL) beat #7 USC, #2 Auburn, and #11 Iowa State, then fell to #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight. St. Peter's surprised #2 Kentucky, #7 Murray State, and #3 Purdue, to eventually have their luck run out against to #8 North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Cinderella team picks for 2022-23
#1. Liberty Flames
Last season, Liberty surprisingly lost in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament to Bellarmine, when I thought they were an automatic to win that championship and challenge some teams in the NCAA Tournament. With the return of Darius McGhee and more experience gained for the program, Ritchie McKay and the Flames are in for a big season ahead.
The most important player on the team and the 2021-22 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, Darius McGhee returning to school for his fifth season and hoping to take his team to an NCAA Tournament seems to be the only logical outcome. McGhee averaged 24.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals. The senior was the second-leading scorer in the country last season, trailing Keegan Murray (822) in total points by just 10 points in less games played and trailing Peter Kiss (25.2) in points per game by just 0.6.
This season, it looks like McGhee will be competing with Antoine Davis (Detroit Mercy) for the scoring title, but my guess is that McGhee will be more focused on winning this season than just the stats. The Flames are returning three of their four top scorers from last season, even though behind McGhee, everyone else averaged less than 10 points. With Shiloh Robinson and Kyle Rode in line to add more to the team this season, expect a higher-scoring Liberty team that can still shut teams down defensively.
#2. Grand Canyon Antelopes
With the brother of Scott Drew (Baylor head coach), Bryce Drew and the Grand Canyon basketball program are heading in a very positive direction after a 22-7 regular season record in 2021-22 and were bounced from the WAC Tournament by New Mexico State, who ended up beating UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and took Arkansas down to the wire in the second round.
Last season, the Antelopes did not play any ranked opponents, but did challenge Wyoming early in the season, nearly took down Arizona State on the road, and escaped a neutral site game against San Francisco with a win. The toughest opponents on the schedule for this upcoming season are Nevada (road), Wichita State (neutral), Wyoming (road), and North Texas (neutral). I wouldn’t be shocked if the Antelopes finish this season with 26 or more wins and easily handle the WAC on their way to an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite losing two of their four top scorers from a year ago, the Antelopes are still in a very good position, especially with the return of leading scorer and best shooter, Jovan Blacksher ready to run it back. Blacksher averaged 15.8 points, 4.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and shot 39.4 percent from behind the arc in his sophomore season. The 5-foot-11 guard will be joined in the backcourt by Presbyterian transfer guard, Rayshon Harrison, who averaged 17.1 points and 3.0 assists in 32 games played last season. Another guy I think that will make a huge difference for the Antelopes this season is freshman big man, Isaiah Carr, who is a 3-star 7-footer from Las Cruces High School in New Mexico. In recent seasons, Bryce Drew has had success with big men, but had little-to-nothing to work with in 2021-22.
Watch out for the Antelopes to turn some heads in the 2023 NCAA Tournament! They will be the St. Peter’s of 2023!