5 Small Schools to Know for the 2024 NCAA Tournament

In this post, we do a deep dive into which Cinderella teams could pose serious problems for their Power 5 opponents.
Duquesne is a small school you need to know for the 2024 NCAA Tournament, mainly because of Dae Dae Grant.
Duquesne is a small school you need to know for the 2024 NCAA Tournament, mainly because of Dae Dae Grant.

Want to know what the most exciting part of March Madness is? It’s finding out which Cinderella teams can knock off a few Power 5 schools on their way to a Sweet 16 berth. Everyone loves a good underdog story.

There’s just something exhilarating about David beating Goliath, and it happens more often than normal this time of the year. So, on that note, here are 5 small schools you may want to know for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

1. Duquesne Dukes

The Dukes are on a major roll right now, and that could spell big trouble for No. 6 seed BYU on Thursday at 12:40 PM Eastern Time. Duquesne is fresh off an A-10 Tournament title run that saw them take down Dayton and VCU.

The Dukes are a 9.5-point underdog against BYU, which looks like way too many points in most experts' eyes. Duquesne would have already been motivated enough, but head coach Keith Dambrot (LeBron James’s high school coach) recently announced that he’s retiring after the NCAA Tournament. 

You can bet (pun intended) that the Dukes will play their hearts out for their beloved coach. BYU is a good team, but they’ll have a tough time slowing down Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III.

2. McNeese Cowboys

Not many people have heard of McNeese, even though it’s where legendary Detroit Pistons guard Joe Dumars played his college ball. The Cowboys went 30-3 this season are are more than capable of pulling off an upset against No. 5 seeded Gonzaga.

Oddsmakers are giving McNeese a fair amount of respect, as they’re only 6.5-point underdogs against the Bulldogs. Four of the Cowboys’ starting 5 are upperclassmen, so experience isn’t an issue with this squad. Also, 4 of those 5 starters average 11.4 points per game or more.

Gonzaga has a ton of talent, but Shahada Wells (17.8 ppg) can put this McNeese team on his back and will them to victory. Win or lose, the Cowboys will be fun to watch on Thursday evening.

3. Drake Bulldogs

Drake may be from the MVC, but they aren’t going to sneak up on too many teams. They may only be a No. 10 seed, but oddsmakers have made them a slight favorite over Washington State on Thursday night in the first round. That fact alone speaks volumes about this Bulldogs squad.

Drake rattled off 28 wins this season, which is no easy feat no matter which conference your team plays in. The Bulldogs are led by a 6’7” junior guard named Tucker DeVries, who leads the team in points (21.8 pg), assists (3.6 pg), and steals (1.6 pg). They also have a 6’10” big man named Darnell Brodie, who will match up well with any of the Wazzou forwards.

4. James Madison Dukes

Lots of experts are high on this James Madison team and with a record of 31-3, it’s easy to see why. The Dukes were one of the top teams in the Sun Belt this year, and they know how to fill it up on the offensive end (12th in points per game and 42nd in 3-point shooting).

JMU gets No. 5 seeded Wisconsin in the first round on Friday evening. The Badgers had one heck of a run in the Big 10 Tournament, as they knocked off Purdue as a large underdog. As tough as Wisconsin is, they may have trouble slowing down Terrence Edwards Jr., who leads James Madison in both scoring (17.4)  and assists (3.5).

5. Grand Canyon Lopes

It’s a shame that the committee matched up GCU with Saint Mary’s in the first round. The Lopes are more than capable of pulling off the upset, but the basketball purist in me would have loved to have seen them seeded quite a bit higher. Grand Canyon finished up at 29-4 this season and they had no trouble with UT-Arlington in the WAC Title Game.

Tyon Grant-Foster is the straw that stirs the drink for GCU, as he’s led the team in scoring in 10 straight games. The 6’7” senior guard is averaging nearly 20 points per contest and his length could pose some serious problems for Saint Mary’s backcourt. 

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