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Potential Cinderella’s in the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Here’s you do NOT want to play on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Winthrop Eagles head coach Pat Kelsey (center) reacts during the second half against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 83-70. Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Here at DK Nation Headquarters (our living room, shoutout 2020-2021!), we’ve watched a LOT of college basketball the last two months. More than is actually healthy if you ask our significant others.

And from that you can start to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the double digit seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament. Some teams do one thing really well. Others have an unusual style that might be difficult to prepare for. And some just got lucky in the bracket with an opponent they match up well against.

So here are three teams we think have the potential to run through a team or two during the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

No. 12 Winthrop (+6.5) vs. No. 5 Villanova

It’s almost cliche to talk about the 5/12 game as where the upsets come from, but you’ll have a hard time finding a case where the dog been more live than this one. Winthrop is 23-1, ran through the Big South Tournament like a hot knife through butter by winning all three games by 17 points or more. But it’s how they do it that should scare Jay Wright and the Collin Gillespie-free Villanova Wildcats: Very, very fast.

The Eagles are 11th in Division I in pace, and Villanova is 320th out of 357. The Eagles go quick and love to run and shoot the three. Villanova has been one of the most successful teams of this century, but they generally plays with all the excitement of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Whomever controls tempo wins this game.

No. 13 Ohio (+9) vs. No. 4 Virginia

Virginia’s plodding style of play and Pack Line defense leaves it particularly vulnerable to matchup nightmares. Remember the 2018 NCAA Tournament loss as a No. 1 seed to No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County... but that ultimately leads to success as well as they won the whole thing in 2019.

But the Ohio Bobcats will present a particular challenge because they can shoot the lights out: The 29th-best adjusted offense in the country according to KenPom, and an eFG of 55.8, good for 13th in all of Division I. And that’s before considering Virginia was forced to withdraw from the ACC Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.

If you can move it then shoot it, you can beat Virginia. They’ll need Jason Preston and Ben Roderick to have a day, as both are over 40% from downtown on the season, but it’s very much within the realm of possibility here.

If you want history on your side. the Bobcats took North Carolina to overtime in the Sweet 16 in 2012, the last time they were in this tournament.

No. 12 Georgetown (+5) vs. No. 5 Colorado

Are we cheating a bit here taking a major conference champion? Absolutely. But you know the Buffaloes saw their draw during the Selection Show and started muttering under their breath.

Georgetown might be the hottest team on the planet, eviscerating Creighton 73-48 in the Big East Championship Game to get Patrick Ewing a title in Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas shot 17-32 in the final from two point range, and 10-26 from downtown. Creighton? 8-25 from two, 9-34 from three, and they got outrebounded 35-23.

Not much was expected of Georgetown after Mac McClung transferred to Texas Tech, but GU just has waves of guards led by Jahvon Blair, and posts in Qudus Wahab and Jamorko Pickett that can score and protect at the rim. For the season they’re 41st in adjusted defense, but in the last week they might be first alone.