Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, even when it comes to choosing the best candidates to shock the world in the early rounds of the men's NCAA tournament.

Bracket season will be here before you know it, and submitting the perfect bracket in March Madness is all about picking the right spot for a huge upset (or three).

In case you haven't been paying much attention to the mid-major conferences, we've got you covered with a ranking of the best Cinderella candidates.

Not all of these teams will make the tournament, but watch out for the ones that do—especially if they are matched with the right first-round opponent.

Note: Teams from the top nine conferences (ACC, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC and West Coast) were excluded.


10. Iona Gaels

What They Do Well: Rejections

At 6.2 blocks per game, Iona serves up rejections at one of the highest rates in the nation. But what sets the Gaels apart from the other teams up top is that those blocks come from everywhere.

Though Nelly Junior Joseph is leading the way with 30 blocks, four of Iona's five starters have blocked at least 16 shots, including 6'3" point guard Daniss Jenkins. Gotta keep your head on a swivel when facing this defense.


What They Don't Do Well: Shut Down Lead Guards

In its recent surprising blowout loss to Quinnipiac, Iona had no answer for 5'10" Dezi Jones, who went for 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

That was nothing new for Iona's D. In the loss to SMU, the combo backcourt of Zach Nutall and Zhuric Phelps finished with 44 points and six dimes. New Mexico's Jaelen House had 22 points and five assists. In each of their first five losses, the Gaels allowed at least 81 points and let someone 6'5" or shorter score at least 22 points.


Star Player: Daniss Jenkins (16.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 37.8% 3PT)

While he isn't quite putting up numbers like Jalen Pickett has been for Penn State, Jenkins has been Mr. Everything for the Gaels. He's leading the team in both points and assists, ranks second in rebounds and is a significant contributor in both steals and blocks. His biggest gem was going for 31-5-4-3-3 in the MAAC opener against Niagara.


9. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

What They Do Well: Turnover-Averse Offense

As was the case two years ago when Oral Roberts stunned both Ohio State and Florida in the NCAA tournament, this is a great perimeter-shooting team that rarely shoots itself in the foot with turnovers.

The Golden Eagles absolutely could not buy a bucket in their early 83-45 loss at Houston. However, they only coughed the ball up 10 times in that game against an outstanding turnover-forcing D, and they've shot 48.9 percent from the field and have averaged 86.4 points per game since that disaster.


What They Don't Do Well: Defend or Manufacture Points

On the latter front, ORU is one of the worst in both offensive rebounding and free-throw rate, meaning cold fronts, though rare, can get brutal in a hurry.

And on the defensive side, ORU has allowed at least 77 points on eight occasions, going 4-4 in those games. This defense does rate better than it did two years ago, though, and it did manage to hold a potent Liberty offense to 70 in that mid-December showdown.


Star Player: Max Abmas (21.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 38.3% 3PT)

Abmas perhaps could have gone pro after that incredible run in 2021, but he's still hanging around Tulsa, Oklahoma, putting up 30-burgers on a semi-regular basis. He had 31 against Central Arkansas, 32 at Nebraska-Omaha, 35 against UMKC and 37 against Western Illinois, all in the past six weeks. And we should see him again in the Big Dance, as ORU is the best team in the Summit League by a wide margin.