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Ranking 10 most likely Cinderella teams

Updated: February 24, 2013, 4:08 PM ET
By Jordan Brenner

Attention! Attention, please! Before we bring you the 2013-14 season's inaugural Giant Killer rankings, we must first make two very important announcements.

First, after seven years here at GK Central, we have finally changed the foundation of our project in a major way. In the past, we have exempted schools from the six traditional power conferences, plus certain other top programs (like Gonzaga and Butler) from GK status. But due to the blurring lines between conferences -- a consequence of realignment and parity -- those exemptions no longer exist. From now on, any team can be a Giant Killer, provided it beats a tourney foe seeded at least five spots better. That's right, this season we will rank Kentucky and North Carolina on the same list as Bucknell and Davidson. Embrace it, baby. There will be no more arbitrary exceptions, and as a result there will be more help for more of your bracket.

That latter factor will also be enhanced thanks to the efforts of Insider contributor Neil Paine, who took the lead in building a more advanced, deeper model. The result is a system of projecting upsets that we couldn't have dreamed possible back in 2006, when we hitched our wagon to George Mason and, admittedly, got a little lucky. Now, not only do we have more accurate ratings for both Giant Killers and Vulnerable Giants, we also have a system that can pit two teams against each other and predict the likelihood of an upset. We can't wait to break out that new toy in March.

For now, though, we'll give you a first look at 10 teams from outside the power conferences you should be getting to know over the next three weeks. While the likes of Missouri, Illinois, Cincinnati and Iowa State have ratings high enough to qualify, they could end up seeded high enough to be Giants or fall out of the tournament entirely on Selection Sunday. Keep those teams in your thoughts going forward, though.

Check out our ranking of the 10 highest-rated Giant Killers from outside the power conferences. These are the teams that our model projects as being most likely to be able to pull off upsets in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

(Note: You can see several of these teams in action during ESPN's BracketBusters games this weekend.)

1. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

GK rating: 83.6

Chew on this for a moment. VCU's 83.6 rating means that 83.6 percent of the time, the Rams will beat a generic Giant (defined by our model as the average of all Giants since 2007).

Think about that. Not only is a VCU win over an average Giant not an upset, it is to be expected this season. Our model computed GK ratings for every team in the country and only Florida (89.2) came out better. In other words, VCU is more suited to be a Giant Killer than if Indiana, Miami, Michigan State or any other top-ranked team ended up with, say, an 11-seed. That's staggering.

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