03/18/10 — NCAA tournament column

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NCAA tournament column

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 18, 2010 1:48 PM

Each March an underdog steps into college basketball's spotlight and captures the heart of America with a captivating run in the NCAA tournament.

That is, of course, unless that underdog happens to knock off your favorite team along the way. This year's tournament is no different as several teams are capable of making Cinderella runs.

Here's five teams that could potentially bust your bracket:

* New Mexico: The third-seeded Lobos (29-4 overall) enter today's game with Montana having won 15 of their last 16 games. Mountain West Conference player-of-the-year Darington Hobson is on pace to be the first player in program history to lead the team in points scored, rebounds and assists.

Hobson is one of four Lobos who have a double-figure scoring average and New Mexico has six wins over teams in the tournament field.

The Lobos would face a favorable potential matchup in the second round against the Clemson-Missouri winner.

* Murray State: The Racers (30-4) have already set a school record for wins in a season and have lost just once since the start of 2010. The No. 13 seed, MSU faces fourth-seeded Vanderbilt today.

Speedy Siena blew out the Commodores 83-62 in 2008, the last time a Vandy team reached the Big Dance.

With four players scoring in double figures, the up-tempo Racers might just live up to their moniker and send the Commodores packing in the first round once again.

* Cornell: Like Murray State, Cornell (27-4) has also set a school record for wins in a season. The 12th-seeded Big Red shoot 84 percent from the free throw line over the final three minutes of regulation and overtime.

Cornell is the Division I leader in 3-point percentage and third in 3-pointers made per game. The Big Red also has wins at Alabama and UMass, and a five-point loss at Kansas.

* UTEP: The 12th-seeded Miners play an up-tempo style and scored 85-plus points six times this season. Four starters average in double figures and UTEP has won 16 of its last 18 games.

The Miners (26-6) led Conference USA by holding opponents to 39 percent shooting. Should UTEP defeat fifth-seeded Butler on Friday, they would meet the Vanderbilt-Murray State winner with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

* Siena: All five starters have NCAA tournament experience as they were part of the 2008 upset of Vanderbilt and a 74-72 double overtime win over Ohio State last season. Four Saints score in double figures and Siena (27-6) is battle-tested, having faced four tournament teams during the regular season.

The 13th-seeded Saints face upset-ripe, fourth-seeded Purdue on Friday. The Boilermakers are without injured second-leading scorer Robbie Hummel and were bounced in the second round of the Big Ten tournament by Minnesota.