Created on: March 08, 2013
It is March, and the NCAA tournament, dubbed March Madness, is just around the corner. Shortly, the brackets for the tournament will be announced, and Xerox and fax machines will start churning out copies as men and women begin the process of trying to pick the eventual winner. There are a lot of things to consider when making picks, including picking upsets. Everyone knows that all four number one seeds never make it to the Final Four, and occasionally, a Cinderella story emerges that captivates the college basketball world.
The term Cinderella denotes a magical story where a nobody appears out of the ashes and ascends to what was once considered unreachable heights. In March Madness, Cinderella is a wonderful team that slides on the glass slipper and makes a magical run that no expert figures they had a chance of doing. There have been plenty of those in the history of the NCAA Tournament, and here are a few of the best.
Perhaps the best of the lot was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. The team entered the tournament as an eight seed, with a 10 loss resume to their credit. They were a plucky team out of the Big East, but no one gave them a chance of making a title run. Ah, but this is why they call it March Madness as Villanova took out Dayton, second-ranked Michigan, Maryland, and seventh-ranked North Carolina. That only got them to the Final Four, where they had to take out fourth seeded Memphis State to get to the finals against defending champion Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. The Wildcats would hardly miss a shot as they stunned the Hoyas for the National Championship.
Another magical Cinderella run was pulled off by the late Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State Wolfpack back in 1983. The team had to win the ACC Tournament just to get in the big dance, where experts figured they would not last two rounds. They made things too close for comfort along the way, beating Pepperdine 69-67 in OT, and then sixth-ranked UNLV 71-70 in round 2. They barely took out ACC rival Virginia in the semis, before winning it all against Houston and Akeem Olajuwon at the buzzer to send Jim Valvano on his frantic run around the court.
Not all Cinderellas found a National title at the end of their rainbow, but the results were just as magical. The original mid-major true Cinderella has to go to the 2006 George Mason Patriots. Here was a team coming out of the unknown CAA conference, happy just to be going to the Big Dance. Well, someone forgot to tell them they were supposed to bow out in round one. They did no such thing, taking out Michigan State, North Carolina, and number one seed UConn to become the first mid-major to make it to the Final Four. They would give the eventual champs Florida a run for their money before bowing out in the Final Four.
Butler would seize the shoe from George Mason in 2010 and do their run one better. The little team from Indiana, who was likened to the team in the movie Hoosiers, ran wild through the brackets, beating UTEP, Murray State, Syracuse and Kansas State to advance to the Final Four. There, they were supposed to lose to Michigan State, but Butler was playing in their own backyard in Indiana. They stunned college basketball by knocking off Sparty, and then came within a few inches of beating Duke for the National title. That run was as magical as they come.
There are other Cinderellas worth noting, including Texas Western, the first all black starting five to reach the finals who eventually won it all. VCU has a memorable Final Four run a couple of years back, and the heart wrenching story of Loyola Marymount, who had Hank Gathers die on the court during the season. They would take the tragedy and turn it into a memorable run.
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