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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Past March heroes project which mid-major goes furthest this year

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Murray State was the most popular Cinderella choice among the members of past March darlings I polled. (US Pre …

In addition to asking past March heroes to share the ingredients they think mid-majors need to make a Cinderella run, I also had them pick a team capable of such success in this year's NCAA tournament.

There was only one repeat among the teams they chose.

Butler coach Brad Stevens listed a team that nearly knocked his Bulldogs out of the NCAA tournament two years ago. Ex-VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez picked a team that turned out to be his alma mater's opening-round opponent. And former Gonzaga coach and current Long Beach State coach Dan Monson selected a team that beat his 49ers this year.

Most picks were made prior to the unveiling of the brackets on Sunday, and each of the former players and coaches were asked to select a team besides their current or former school. Here's a look at who they chose and why:

Butler coach Brad Stevens: Murray State

"There are a few top teams in the tournament, but I think there are 30-40 teams that could probably go to the Final Four after that. I would never put that on anybody because it's really hard to do it and there's a lot of things that have to go your way to do it. I will say this: The Murray State team we beat two years ago was the real deal, and the most impressive person in that game was Isaiah Canaan. He was 4 for 4 from three as a freshman in the NCAA tournament. I don't know if there's ever been a freshman who went 4 for 4 in the NCAA tournament before or since. He's really good, really, really good. I've heard a lot of people say this team reminds them of that team, and we beat them by two and went on the national championship game."

Joey Rodriguez, former VCU point guard: Wichita State

"I really like Wichita. I remember playing them last year and I thought last year they were an NCAA tournament team. They're really good, really talented. They definitely have the ingredients, tools and senior leadership they need. I didn't think they had that many guys who could score, but guarding them was kind of like playing against us last year. They had so many guys who could put the ball in the basket."

Jason Richards, ex-Davidson point guard: Long Beach State

"Looking at Long Beach State, they're a really good team, lots of older guys and they played a very tough schedule, which will have them ready for the tournament.  That's one of the things their coach was trying to prepare them for. They wanted to prove they could hang with the best teams and they have. They have a great player in Casper [Ware]. They definitely have all the attributes you'd look for in a team who can make a run and they are battle tested. If they continue to play with confidence, they can make a run in the tournament."

Related NCAA tournament video on Yahoo! Sports:

Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew: Murray State

"Murray State has been fantastic all year. They're playing with a lot of confidence, so I definitely think that's a team that can make a run. They're quick. They can make shots. They have athleticism and size around the basket. They can finish above the rim. I think they're playing in such a great rhythm right now, I believe they're confident they can beat anybody in the country. When you have that type of confidence and you have some talent to go with it, again I think you're a tough matchup in the tournament."

Former Cornell forward Jon Jaques: Iona

"I've liked Iona all year. The 14 seed is a tough spot, but I really like Iona's offensive firepower. They have a lot of offensive weapons. I've seen [Scott] Machado a couple times and he's one of the best playmakers in college basketball. I know some people are down on their defense, especially after they lost in the conference tournament, but if a team gets hot in the tournament, momentum is hard to stop. If they get hot against BYU and carry that into the next round, who knows? They're definitely a team that's dangerous to say the least."

Long Beach State coach Dan Monson: Creighton

"I really was impressed with Creighton when we played them. They have that ingredient, that star player. They can score baskets. They're a very good offensive team. And they just seem to have a very good swagger and chemistry about them. The other thing that happens to mid-majors sometimes is they get pounded physically inside and with [Gregory] Echenique, they've got a legitimate post presence in there that can defend a Big East or Big 12 center. That's hard to come by at our level."

Note: Brad Stevens asked an open-ended question about the last time a freshman went 4 for 4 from behind the arc in the NCAA tournament. Thanks to @BGMull for pointing out John Goldsberry of UNC Wilmington was 8 for 8 on threes in the NCAA tournament against Maryland as a freshman in 2003.

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