We aren't far from the beginning of March Madness with the regular season winding down and teams gearing up for conference tournaments. So I dug deep and selected 10 teams that have the ability to be this year's Cinderella squad. The poll closes Friday at noon Pacific, so be sure to get your vote in on time. Also, check out Jeff Ames' piece about which mid-major women's basketball teams could make the Final Four.
BR-41 Colorao State is the highest ranked team of the bunch, winning 19 straight games dating back to Nov. 24 when the Rams fell to Penn by one point, 49-48. There's a lot to like about a team that sits at 22-1 that contains four scoring threats that are averaging double-digit point totals at the moment. Jamie Patrick (12.3 points per game) has the hottest hand of the group and is followed by Ellen Nystrom (10.6), Keyora Wharry (10.3) and Elin Gustavsson (10.0). Add in the fact that opponents are averaging just 51.1 points per game against CSU and you have a strong team that is poised to run deep into tourney play.
Florida Gulf Coast
Winning 15 games in a row, BR-71 Florida Gulf Coast is on fire right now. Posting an overall record of 22-4 (10-0 Atlantic Sun), the Eagles haven't lost since before Christmas when Mississippi State grabbed a 65-60 win over FGCU. If Kaneisha Atwater and Whitney Knight have anything to say about it, this team will go far. Atwater is posting 14.3 points per game while Knight is close behind with 12.6. Oh, and the Eagles are also outscoring opponents by an average of 15 points per game (64-49). #Wingsup
Rolling with 14 straight victories, BR-67 Arkansas State has its eye on the prize — which is winning the Sun Belt Conference title outright. The Red Wolves are well on their way to claiming the crown and obtaining an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament as the team is 20-3 (14-0 league) at the moment. Wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State and Tennessee Martin highlight their campaign. Aundrea Gamble is a scoring machine for Arkansas State, posting 18.3 points per game while Khadi Brown-Haywood has 16.7 and Amanda Lawson is chipping in with an even 10.0.
New Mexico State
BR-106 New Mexico State is a team to keep an eye on down the stretch. Winners of 12 straight, the Aggies sit at 21-3 (10-0 WAC) and have grabbed wins over Seattle, New Mexico and San Jose State. Sasha Weber (13.0 points per game), Moriah Mack (11.0) and Brianna Freeman (10.7) are leading the charge for a team that is averaging 70 points per game while stifling opponents to 59.5 per game. Don't sleep on New Mexico State, they're a lock to take home the league title and make some noise down the stretch.
BR-132 Quinnipiac might have started the season slow, but the Bobcats have really stepped up as of late, winning 12 straight, including a huge victory over MAAC rival Iona, 62-61, last week. Scoring is a bit of a concern for Quinnipiac as just one player is averaging double digit point totals — Maria Napolitano with 10.1. The Bobcats are putting up an average of 66 points per contest and are allowing 59.5, making every game a nail-biter in the process.
Ohio is not a team to be taken lightly by any means with a 19-4 record (11-1 Mid-American). The Bobcats were rolling with a 12-game winning streak before suffering an embarassing setback to Buffalo, 51-43. Since then, though, Ohio has picked up two solid wins over NIU and Toledo to get back on track. Food for thought: Ohio beat Florida Gulf Coast and Indians earlier this season. Look for Kiyanna Black (18.7 points per game) and Quierra Lampkins (14.0) to take over a game on any single night. They will have to be shut down for any team to have a shot against the Bobcats.
BR-70 Drake may have hit a small roadblock over the weekend, falling to Indiana State, but don't let that fool you. The Bulldogs are as solid as you can get, racking up a 17-7 record (10-3 MVC) on the year. Note that Drake beat out Indiana State 80-55 earlier in the season, too. Lizzy Wendell has been phenomenal this year for the Bulldogs, notching 20.5 points per game while Maddy Dean and Sara Rhine are posting 12.6 apiece. That's a serious trio.
Going 12-1 in the Big Sky Conference (19-5 overall) is nothing to sneeze at and BR-112 Montana State has done just that this season. The Bobcats can flat out score, picking up more than 100 points twice this season while averaging 75.9 points per game. The team's defense is pretty solid as well, holding opponents to an average of 62.8 per game. The three-headed monster that runs the offense includes Jasmine Hommes (15.4 points per game), Peyton Ferris (14.0) and Riley Nordgaard (10.7).
South Dakota State
BR-50 South Dakota State is running wild in the Summit League, going 11-1 and 21-4 overall. This is a team that knocked off DePaul 88-79, Arkansas 76-69 and Pittsburgh 55-54 during its campaign. Macy Miller has shined the brightest on the roster, averaging 15.8 points per game while Kerri Young is adding 10.8 on a nightly basis. As a team, the Jackrabbits are scoring 70 per game while limiting opponents to just 59 per game. Not a bad margin of victory heading into the home stretch.
BR-96 Abilene Christian is putting together a great season, tallying a 20-3 record (11-1 Southland Conference) and has its sites set on the NCAA Tournament. The team has went 15-1 in its last 16 games, with its only blemish coming in a loss to Lamar — a team that it beat 90-62 two night before losing to it 63-54. All five starters on this roster are averaging double digit point totals with Alexis Mason (17.4 points per game) leading the way. Sydney Shelstead (14.0), Whitney West Swinford (11.0), Suzzy Dimba (10.3) and Lizzy Dimba (10.1) round out the list of the high octane offensive unit.