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Posted: Tuesday March 16, 2010 10:09AM; Updated: Tuesday March 16, 2010 9:13PM
Bill Trocchi
Bill Trocchi>INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Ten double-digit seeds that could wreak havoc on the bracket

Story Highlights

Cornell is a great three-point team that gave Kansas its biggest scare at home

Georgia Tech plays great defense but faces a challenge in the brutal Midwest

UTEP could surprise a Butler squad that went 3-3 against NCAA tourney teams

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edwin-ubilies.jpg
The fact that Edwin Ubiles and Siena have won first-round games the past two years should give No. 4 seed Purdue something to think about.
AP

A large part of the NCAA tournament's appeal has always been the Cinderella story, a small school making an exciting run through the bracket. When a double-digit seed survives the opening weekend and reaches the Sweet 16, its postseason is an unquestioned success. Over the past 10 years, 18 double-digit seeds have won at least two games. Nine of the last 10 tournaments have featured at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, with three reaching the Sweet 16 in 2002 and 2008.

So which double-digit seeds are the most dangerous in this year's tournament? Here are the top 10 to keep an eye on. The rankings are based on a combination of the quality of the team and the first two matchups in the bracket. Remember -- two of the following will most likely reach the Sweet 16.

No. 1: Cornell Big Red

No. 12 seed, East Region
Record: 27-4
How they reached the tourney: Won Ivy League
First-round opponent: Temple
Why they're dangerous: Cornell played No. 1 Kansas the closest of any of the Jayhawks' 19 victims at Allen Fieldhouse in a five-point loss in January. The Big Red have a star in Ryan Wittman, a quality 7-footer in Jeff Foote and five of their top six scorers are seniors. After Temple, a possible matchup with Wisconsin looms, a team that is 101st in defending the three.
Stat that matters: Cornell makes more three-pointers per game (9.8) than any team in the tournament and leads the nation with a 43.4 percent clip from three. Cornell made 20 in its second-to-last regular season game against Brown.

No. 2: Siena Saints

No. 13 seed, South Region
Record:
27-6
How they reached the tourney: Won MAAC tournament
First-round opponent: Purdue
Why they're dangerous: The Saints have proven to be a quality first-round opponent the last two years, beating Vanderbilt and Ohio State. Seniors Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore were all key contributors on both those teams. Purdue has to be hurting after its embarrassing blowout in the Big Ten tournament.
Stat that matters: Moore is 12th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.67-to-1. A steady hand at the point can be invaluable when facing the pressure of the NCAA tournament.

No. 3: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

No. 10 seed, Midwest Region
Record: 22-12
How they reached the tourney: At-large bid
First-round opponent: Oklahoma State
Why they're dangerous: The Jackets have two first-round picks in their starting lineup -- center Derrick Favors and forward Gani Lawal. Favors is coming on late in his freshman year, averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last eight games. The Jackets would be higher on this list if not for being sent to the brutal Midwest Region, where they will have to survive Oklahoma State and Ohio State to reach the Sweet 16.
Stat that matters: Georgia Tech is seventh in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 38.2 and held all four opponents in the ACC tournament under 40 percent shooting.

No. 4: St. Mary's Gaels

No. 10 seed, South Region
Record:
26-5
How they reached the tourney: Won WCC tournament
First-round opponent: Richmond
Why they're dangerous: Big man Omar Samhan was the only returning starter from last year's team that just missed the NCAA tournament, but the newcomers gelled and the Gaels challenged Gonzaga all season and whipped the Zags in the WCC final. Samhan averages 20.9 points and 11 rebounds a game and the Gaels are one of the best defenders of the three-point line (28.3).
Stat that matters: The Gaels are the third-best free-throw shooting team in the tournament (76.4).

No. 5: Minnesota Gophers

No. 11 seed, West Region
Record: 21-13
How they reached the tourney: At-large bid
First-round opponent: Xavier
Why they're dangerous: The Gophers had a four-game winning streak before the Big Ten final in which they won three games by at least 22 points. Minnesota has a balanced attack and shares the ball, plus Tubby Smith is one of nine coaches in the tournament with a national title on his resume. Matchups with Xavier and Pittsburgh will be tough but not completely unmanageable.
Stat that matters: Blake Hoffarber leads the nation in three-point shooting at 48.1 percent.

No. 6: Missouri Tigers

No. 10 seed, East Region
Record:
22-10
How they reached the tourney: At-large bid
First-round opponent: Clemson
Why they're dangerous: The Tigers come in a little under the radar after a slow finish to the season, but two of their final three losses were to Kansas and Kansas State. Missouri plays a unique up-tempo style that gives opponents trouble the first time they see it. Last year, Mizzou reached the Elite Eight and the Tigers catch an emotionally drained West Virginia in Round 2 after WVU's heart-stopping run through the Big East tourney.
Stat that matters: Missouri leads the nation in steals per game at 10.9 and Clemson is No. 258 in turnovers per game.

No. 7: UTEP Miners

No. 12 seed, West Region
Record:
26-6
How they reached the tourney: At-large bid
First-round opponent: Butler
Why they're dangerous: Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter and fellow big man Arnett Moultrie can match up with most frontcourts, and Randy Culpepper is a dangerous scorer who eclipsed 30 points three times this season. This is an athletic team that is probably underseeded and will face a Butler team that went 3-3 vs. NCAA tourney teams.
Stat that matters: From January 16 to March 12, UTEP won 16 straight games, including nine away from home.

No. 8: Florida Gators

No. 10 seed, West Region
Record:
21-12
How they reached the tourney: At-large bid
First-round opponent: BYU
Why they're dangerous: The Gators are very inconsistent, which means when they have their act together, they can play with anyone. Five players average double figures, so different people can pick up the scoring slack. Freshman Kenny Boynton is capable of exploding, and Chandler Parsons has been clutch.
Stat that matters: Billy Donovan has won his last 12 NCAA tournament games.

No. 9: San Diego State Aztecs

No. 11 seed, Midwest Region
Record:
25-8
How they reached the tourney: Won MWC tournament
First-round opponent: Tennessee
Why they're dangerous: San Diego State is athletic and is playing its best ball of the season with wins over New Mexico and UNLV (in Las Vegas) in the Mountain West tournament. Freshman forward Kawhi Leonard, who some say would have been the best player in the Pac-10 this year, was the tourney MVP and is averaging 12.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Stat that matters: San Diego State ranks 14th nationally in rebound margin, while Tennessee is No. 169.

No. 10: Old Dominion

No. 11 seed, South Region
Record:
26-8
How they reached the tourney: Won the CAA tournament
First-round opponent: Notre Dame
Why they're dangerous: ODU's first-round opponent, Notre Dame, has effectively transformed itself into a slow-down team late in the season, but the Monarchs are comfortable with that style. They have good size and are excellent rebounders and defenders. Playing a Big East team should be a good matchup. Six-foot-10 Finnish center Gerald Lee is the best player on a team that won the CAA regular season and tournament championships. And remember, the CAA produced first-round winners in 2006 (George Mason), and 2007 (VCU).
Stat that matters: ODU held 19 opponents under 60 points, including Georgetown and Dayton, and is fifth in the nation in scoring defense.

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