NCAA Basketball: 5 Potential NCAA Tournament Cinderellas

The 2016-17 NCAA basketball season is about to get underway and it is never too early to begin looking at what fans should expect. Each and every year, there are a handful of teams that are favorites to win a championship. That is the case this season as well, but there are quite a few darkhorse contenders as well.

It is going to be an interesting season to say the least. Every fan wants to see an NCAA tournament Cinderella run and there are quite a few teams that could fit that bill this year.

Looking ahead at the upcoming season, Duke is widely viewed as the favorite to win this year's championship. Behind the Blue Devils, the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Kentucky Wildcats, and North Carolina Tar Heels are all expected to be contenders as well. Those are the main teams in the running.

All of that being said, which five teams should be viewed as potential NCAA tournament cinderellas this season?

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Last season, Middle Tennessee was a Cinderella team but ended up losing before making a run to the Final Four. They could be a team to watch once again this season. Middle Tennessee isn't going to get a lot of hype throughout the regular season, but due to their good coaching and team atmosphere, it wouldn't be shocking to see them have a shot at making a run in the tournament again this season.

Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter has more talent on this year's Purdue basketball team than he has ever had. There are no more excuses for coming up short with another loss in the first or second round of the tournament. Purdue may not be viewed as a "Cinderella" team by most, but they are certainly a darkhorse contender when it comes to championship hopeful teams.

Rhode Island Rams

Heading into the 2016-17 college basketball season, the Rhode Island Rams are receiving some national attention. No one expects them to make a Final Four run in the tournament, but they have the makeup of a Cinderella team. Rhode Island may end up disappointing those who are hyping them up early, but there is a strong chance that they will make the tournament and make some noise in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats

It has been quite some time since the Cincinnati Bearcats were viewed as serious contenders in college basketball. Cincinnati is hoping to break out this season and prove that they still deserve respect. Mick Cronin is one of the most underrated coaches across the nation and he should feel very confident that his team can not only make the tournament, but also make a run at competing for a few wins.

Saint Mary's Gaels

Another smaller school with hype surrounding them this season is the Saint Mary's Gaels. They are currently being ranked in the top-25, although that may be a bit high of a ranking when everything is said and done. Saint Mary's is without question a team to watch when it comes to Cinderella stories this season and it will be interesting to see if they fold under the pressure.

Expect to see more than just these five teams compete for a Cinderella story, but these five are definitely teams to keep an eye on. Anything can happen this season and even the teams at the top of the rankings have holes that can be exploited. If there was ever a season for a Cinderella team to win a championship, it would be this year.

Do you think one of these five teams could compete for a championship this season? Who are other potential Cinderella candidates that weren't mentioned in this article? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

[Featured Image by Michael Conroy/AP Images]