Who is Your Favorite March Madness Cinderella Story?
By: Travis Pulver
In a few weeks, college basketball fans will get to enjoy their favorite teams battling it out for conference supremacy when the conference tournaments get underway. But the excitement generated by the conference tourneys pales in comparison to what will be coming up next— March Madness.
Yes, basketball fans, the time is drawing near. March Madness is almost upon us. That means it will soon be time to decide who you think will win it all. But coming up with a winner is the easy part. There are a lot of great teams out there this year.
The hard part is figuring out if there is a Cinderella team that is going to mess everything up for you.
It happens every year. At least one lower-ranked team forgets that they are just supposed to be one of the ugly stepsisters, important to how the story starts but irrelevant to how it ends. They somehow figure out how to stop the clock before midnight.
They go from being a team good enough to make the Dance to one hot enough to win the prince’s heart (national title).
Cinderella teams are some of the greatest stories in college basketball. While they may seem like a fairy tale at the moment, they are proof that old saying coaches like to throw out is true—any team can win.
The Best March Madness Cinderella Stories of the Last 35 Years
Over the years, there have been some great Cinderella stories. Some have ended with Cinderella living happily ever after with her national title (prince). Others saw the
clock strike midnight before the Dance was done.
Either way, they made the Tournament worth watching that year and deserve to be remembered. The following are some of the best March Madness Cinderella stories in college basketball history:
1985 Villanova Wildcats: Any discussion about Cinderella teams has to start with the ’85 Villanova squad. They entered the Tournament as an 8-seed with a lackluster 19-10 regular-season record. There was no reason to think the unranked Wildcats would win it all.
But then they took down Dayton, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, Memphis, and shot an incredible 78.6 percent from the floor to beat Georgetown for the national title.
1986 LSU Tigers: When you are an 11-seed like the Tigers were in ’86, fans hope you can make it past the first round. However, chances are good you will not do so. Not only did the Tigers make it past Purdue in a spectacular double OT win to start the Tournament, but they also beat Memphis State, Georgia Tech, and No. 1 Kentucky.
They fell to the eventual champs (Louisville) in the Final Four. The ’86 Tigers are the only team in NCAA history to beat a 1, 2, and 3-seed in the same Tournament.
1988 Kansas Jayhawks: Kansas teams will appear on more busts lists than Cinderella ones since people usually have high expectations for the Jayhawks—but the ’88 team is different. With 11 regular-season losses (highest ever by a national champion), little was expected of them in the Tournament despite being named a 6-seed.
But with the help of a favorable tournament run (aided by a few upsets), they were able to capture the national title.
2006 George Mason Patriots: Small school teams have a better chance of succeeding in basketball than football, but after losing in their conference tournament semifinal in ’06, many doubted the Patriots would make the Dance.
But they snuck in as the 11-seed (at-large) and went on to become the second 11-seed to make the Final Four.
2008 Davidson Wildcats: The ’08 Wildcats were led by a guy now beloved by NBA fans everywhere—Steph Curry. Before their ’08 run, they had not won a Tournament game since 1969. Curry led them to upset wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before losing to Kansas (the eventual champions) in the Elite Eight.
2011 VCU Rams: It was this team that put head coach Shaka Smart on the radar of schools like Texas. They got into the Tournament as the 11-seed (at-large) but did not play like a lower-seeded team at all.
They cruised past Georgetown and Purdue before getting tested by another upstart, 10-seed Florida State (won by one). The earned a Final Four bid by taking down 1-seed Kansas by ten only to lose to Butler.
2013 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: Anyone outside of the state of Florida that says they had heard of the FGC Eagles prior to the ’13 Tournament is lying. The 15-seed Eagles, known as ‘Dunk City,’ were easily one of the most entertaining teams in college basketball to watch that year.
They were also the first 15-seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen.