Drake is one of our favorite potential Cinderella teams for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
Drake is one of our favorite potential Cinderella teams for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.Dylan Heuer

10 Potential Cinderella Teams for the 2024 NCAA Tournament

With March Madness right around the corner, we identify our top 10 potential Cinderella teams for this year's tournament.

It is nearing the middle of March, which means only one thing. The Madness is coming! Whether you’re an avid watcher of college basketball or merely a casual fan during March and April, this is one of the most exciting times of the year.

Millions of sports fans fill out brackets every season, hoping to assemble that elusive perfect bracket. Since a perfect bracket is nearly impossible, fans settle to try and beat out the other teams in their pools, whether it be a work thing or an annual tradition between them and their friends.

Whatever the rationale for filling out a bracket is, everyone is trying to get an edge on their competition, hoping to identify their favorite Cinderella teams that could make a run for the Final Four, potentially even the national title.

With that in mind, we have compiled our top ten Cinderella stories heading into the tournament. These aren’t necessarily in any order, but all of these teams have something about them that could propel them against a better seed in a one-game format. After all, it is March, and anything can happen.

South Dakota State

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits have a great history with the NCAA Tournament. They have made the big dance six times since the 2011-2012 season, indicating how dominant this team has been in the Summit Conference. While they are 0-6 in those appearances, this year could be different.

They are ranked 136 in the Kenpom rankings, a ranking system that tends to predict success in the tournament, which might indicate that they will be knocked out early. However, they did score nearly 75 points per game in the regular season, allowing 71.6 PPG in the process.

Hopefully, their defense can hold up in the tournament, making for a Cinderella run for the ages. Zeke Mayo, their top scorer, could be the difference-maker in a one-and-done appearance and a deep run for this team.


Montana has made the NCAA Tournament eight times in the past 25 years. They tend to be a high seed, which always brings them into Cinderella territory when they make it into the big dance.

Montana is currently ranked 145 in the Kenpom standings, slightly lower than South Dakota State. However, they did score more than 75 PPG during the regular season, and they allowed 71.8 PPG on the defensive side of the ball.

They could present as a similar team to South Dakota State if they are lucky. If their offense gets rolling early in the tournament, Montana might find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen, perhaps advancing even further.

If Montana is to make a Cinderella run, look for their top scorer, Aanen Moody, to pull his weight in a big way for this team.


Who knew that a toothpaste company would have a chance to be a Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament? All jokes aside, Colgate has a pulse on what they must do to make it into the big dance.

They have made appearances in four of the past five tournaments, losing in the first round of each one. Conventional wisdom might indicate they are on a similar trajectory this season, but we’re not sure this should be the case.

They are ranked 150th in the Kenpom, mainly due to their lack of offense throughout the year. They only scored 70 PPG, which could be worrisome in the tournament. However, their defense was the seventh-best in the country this season, only letting up 64.3 PPG throughout the year.

Colgate could turn into a scary team if their defense shows up in the first round and they can find their footing on offense.


Drake could be a very interesting team in this year’s tournament. They are ranked 50th in the Kenpom, an indication of what the advanced analytics think of what they can do.

After scoring an astounding 80.3 PPG and only allowing 70.6, Drake might just make some noise down the stretch, especially if they continue their barrage of scoring. Even though their defense is superb, if they can score 75+ points in their tournament games, Drake will be tough to stop.

They have four players that average double-digits on the offensive end, which could prove to be another positive for this team. If their top scorer, Tucker DeVries, is having a tough game, Drake can be comforted by the fact that they have other players who can pick up his slack.

St. Mary's is always a threat to make a deep run in March.
St. Mary's is always a threat to make a deep run in March.

Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s is another school that the Kenpom rankings are in love with. They are currently the 20th-best team by their estimations, indicating that this team does many things well.

St. Mary’s might have only averaged 73.2 PPG on offense, but they make it up on defense, only allowing 58.7 PPG on the year. Strong defenses tend to do well in the tournament. With this mentality in mind, look for St. Mary’s to be a sneaky Elite Eight team this year.

They don’t necessarily have any high-ceiling scorers, but with five players averaging more than 10 points per game, this team can spread the ball around, which is another good sign for them.

McNeese St.

We have another Kenpom darling on our hands with McNeese State. Even though they haven’t made it to the NCAA Tournament since the 2001-2002 season, this team is ranked 63rd by Kenpom. They scored 78 PPG on the season and had a top-five defense in the country.

McNeese State presents very similar to Colgate in the fact that they do a lot of things very well, with defense as the primary focus. If their star players, Shahada Wells, and Christian Shumate, can continue their dominant ways, McNeese State could easily turn into a Cinderella story this year.


The Kenpom rankings seem to like high-scoring teams, at least this year. Samford is ranked 81st by their metrics despite having a defense that allows nearly 74 PPG. However, their offense was the story throughout the year, as they were the fifth-highest-scoring team in the nation, averaging nearly 85 points per contest. 

The Bulldogs have only made the tournament twice in their history, with their most recent appearance coming in the 1999-2000 season.

Samford runs a system their fans have named 'BuckyBall' after head coach Bucky McMillan. They will push the tempo defensively, running a full-court press for the entire game. It is often this type of unique style that causes higher seeds real problems in the NCAA Tournament.


Oakland hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since the 2010-2011 season. They haven’t been ranked below a 13 seed in their three appearances in the big event, which might tell fans that, at least from a historical perspective, this team hasn’t done well under pressure.

While that might have been true in the past, every year is different.

Oakland was a middle-of-the-pack team as it pertains to offensive scoring and defensive points allowed, but they have a few players that could rise to the occasion in March.

Trey Townsend is the team’s leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, and if he gets hot, there’s no telling how high this team’s ceiling can be.

James Madison 

James Madison has received a lot of media attention over the past several months. Their football team was among the best in the country for many weeks, and now their men’s basketball team has a chance to make an impact in the NCAA Tournament.

JMU is ranked 61st by Kenpom, mainly due to their impressive scoring numbers. They averaged 83 PPG this year, a top-15 mark among eligible schools.

Similarly to other teams on this list, if their strong offense can hold up throughout March, they just might find a way to reach the Sweet Sixteen, at minimum.

Look for Terrence Edwards Jr. and T.J. Bickerstaff to lead the team in rebounds and points, hoping to bring this school their first tournament win since 1983.


At one point last season, Charleston was ranked 18th in the nation. They ended up making the tournament as a 12-seed, losing in the first round.

After seeing their disappointing loss last year, Charleston seems poised to make a deeper run this year, especially when considering that their offense scored 80 PPG. This is a strong mark for any NCAA team to reach, and it tends to be an indicator of success in the big dance.

Charleston might surprise a few people this season with a well-rounded roster without any major stars.

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