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5 teams that can bust your bracket in the 2019 NCAA tournament

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These teams can be the next Loyola-Chicago.

NCAA Basketball: Old Dominion at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean took the NCAA tournament by storm as the darling Cinderella that rumbled all the way to the Final Four before losing their glass slipper in the semifinals. While they laid out the blueprint of how a mid-major can make a deep tournament run, the Ramblers failed to make the field this year.

We missed out on a couple fun teams in Campbell (featuring the amazing Chris Clemons) and Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. But never fear. We’ll still have some fun.

So, who can be this season’s Loyola-Chicago?

Liberty Flames (12-seed, East)

The Flames were likely not going to get into the tournament without winning the A-Sun tournament. Lipscomb was the top-seeded team in the tournament, but the Flames rattled off wins over Jacksonville, North Florida, and Lipscomb to go dancing. Former Virginia assistant Richie McKay is at the helm, and he’s an outstanding coach. The Flames don’t have any super impressive regular-season wins, but they’re in the KenPom top-100 in defense and top-60 in offense.

Scottie James leads the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game, and he’s the guy everyone will love to hate because he committed one of the most egregious flops of the season. They did make this amazing “One Shining Moment” video, too:

Liberty faces Mississippi State in the first round, and could get an in-commonwealth clash with 4-seed Virginia Tech if both advance.

Yale Bulldogs (14-seed, East)

The Ivy League tournament auto-bid, Yale took down Princeton and Harvard to go dancing. The Elis have a win over Miami and got crushed by Duke (it’s OK, Yale, a lot of teams did), but they have a formidable offense (No. 44 on KenPom). Junior guard Miye Oni is outstanding and can pour on the points (17.6 points per game). Azar Swain is connecting from three at a 42 percent clip, and the 6-7 Blake Reynolds keeps defenses honest with a 45 percent (33-for-73) mark from three and can score inside with an eFG% of 64 percent.

The Bulldogs face LSU in the first round in a game that could turn into a super fun track meet. Their defense is questionable, but Yale can get buckets.

Yale was last in the NCAA tournament in 2016, and they took down Baylor in the first round (which gave us the amazing video of Taurean Prince explaining rebounding) before falling to Duke by seven in the second round.

Old Dominion Monarchs (14-seed, South)

Don’t sleep on the Monarchs. Old Dominion went into the Carrier Dome and handed Syracuse a 68-62 loss back in December, less than a month after knocking off VCU. They squeaked through the C-USA tournament with a one-point win, a two-point win, and a six-point win. ODU faces Purdue in the first round, then could see Villanova.

Keep an eye out for BJ Stith, the C-USA Player of the Year, who leads the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game. If you recognize the name, it’s because he’s the son of Virginia legend Bryant Stith (and actually transferred to ODU from UVA ... a lot of Virginia ties). Ahmad Caver has also been phenomenal with 16.5 points per game, although he’s a volume shooter (38 percent from the field, 30 percent from three).

ODU coach Jeff Jones previously coached at American and the University of Virginia (his alma mater). He was an assistant under Terry Holland at UVA for eight years before taking over as head coach at the age of 29, making him the youngest head coach in ACC history. Jones has been battling prostate cancer, and making the postseason was a clearly emotional thing for him and the team.

Murray State Racers (12-seed, West)


He’s a lottery pick at the minimum, and could hear his name called right after Zion Williamson. Here’s a taste of what he can do:

Morant is pure fun and athleticism and the kind of talent that can take over any game. The Racers don’t have any really impressive wins on the season, but hung with Auburn in the non-conference and got in after winning the Ohio Valley tournament.

If nothing else, the first round game will be amazing as Morant squares off with Marquette’s Markus Howard. Two of the most fun players in the country.

Belmont Bruins (11-seed, East)

It’s a long shot that any team from the East makes a Cinderella run as Williamson stands in the way (I guess he’s a combination of the evil stepsisters and stepmother in this analogy, but if they were all combined into one super-human that was unbelievably good at basketball), but all the fun Cinderella teams are in the East.

Belmont is a fun pick. The Bruins lost to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, making them sweat it out as an at large. They have to play Temple in one of the play-in games, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem for the Bruins. KenPom has Belmont with the 20th most efficient offense in the country, and Dylan Windler can do it all for the Bruins.