The 2019 NCAA Tournament is finally set to get rolling, and when building brackets everyone will be searching for that top sleeper selection. The one team who can turn the tides and differentiate your bracket from the rest of the field. There’s always risk when choosing a potential sleeper, but we’re going to take the deep dive into the top options.
While finding the best sleepers who can win one game is tough to do, instead, we’ll take a deeper perspective and evaluate the teams who could become true Cinderellas. These are the groups who have the talent and upside to pick up more than one win, but potentially make a run to the Sweet 16 or even further.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that each team is worth picking without additional research, but each team below has the upside to become the sweetheart of college hoops this year.
5 Best NCAA Bracket Sleepers & Cinderella Picks
Before we dive fully into the sleeper/Cinderella picks, it’s worth noting that the “sleepers” here aren’t just double-digit seems. They’re teams who can pull off either first or second-round upsets and make a run in the dance. With that said, let’s start with the Buffalo Bulls, who are one of the most dangerous groups.
It’s hard to ignore a team that posted a 31-3 record and just won their conference championship by 14 points. There’s no question that people won’t “sleep” on the Buffalo Bulls, but they may not give them quite enough credit heading into the tournament. The first of their three losses this season came against a top-25 team in the Marquette Golden Eagles, while the other two (conference losses) were by a combined six points.
The Bulls currently sit at No. 22 in the KenPom rankings, which grade how strong a team is at this exact moment. They find themselves ahead of Kansas State, Villanova and Marquette, among others. Behind guards CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris, along with forward Nick Perkins, Buffalo has the makings of the general basketball fan’s perfect bandwagon team this March.
Nevada Wolf Pack
The Nevada Wolf Pack disappointed in the Mountain West tournament, falling to the San Diego State Aztecs in the semifinals. But that loss shouldn’t overshadow what this team did during the 2018-19 season. Although they aren’t the same type of Cinderella team Buffalo is, people still refuse to stop sleeping on the Wolf Pack.
This is a team that went 29-4 this season, but the issue for many is that they haven’t faced the caliber of test that comes with facing a top-10 team. Nevada defeated then-No. 20 ranked Arizona State early in the year but didn’t face a team like Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee or North Carolina, for example.
But their KenPom ranking currently sits at No. 25 and results speak for themselves. Don’t ignore this group when filling out your bracket.
Wofford grabbed the attention of the country from their first game, as they hung with the UNC Tar Heels throughout a tough game. While they went on to lose that matchup by 11, the Terriers had cut the lead to five points with five minutes remaining. That was the starting point of the team’s strong season, and they impressed from then on.
Their other losses this season came against three tournament teams in the Oklahoma Sooners, Kansas Jayhawks and Mississippi State Bulldogs. Wofford finished out the year by winning 20 straight games and taking their conference title with a double-digit win in the championship game.
Murray State Racers
Bet against expected top NBA draft prospect Ja Morant at your own risk. While Murray State is led by the star guard who’s averaging 24.6 points, 10.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds this season, the Racers have solid role players alongside him. The likes of Shaq Buchanan, Tevin Brown and Darnell Cowart all average double-digits in scoring and produce in other areas from a statistical standpoint.
Although I like the above teams a bit more than Murray State due to all-around talent, it’s hard to ignore what the Racers did. They nearly knocked off the SEC champion Auburn Tigers in a road game and reeled off an 11-game winning streak to finish out the year and win their conference title.
I’m here for the Oregon Ducks and their late season run. Something clicked for this team down the stretch after starting the year out 15-12, they proceeded to win eight straight games and win the Pac-12 title. Over that span, Oregon defeated the conference’s top seed in the Washington Huskies twice (once by 20 in the championship game), as well as Arizona State twice and Utah once.
The Ducks appear to have turned a corner and betting against them will be tough to do. Their outlook in this tournament is interesting, and they have the upside to do legitimate damage if the red-hot run continues on into the NCAA tournament.