For sports fans, March is known for one thing: College Basketball’s “March Madness”. March Madness captures the attention of so many by conducting a 68 team, single-elimination tournament to find the champion. For the next 3 weeks or so, so much of America will be locked in to college basketball.
What is all the excitement about? 60 million plus people fill out brackets each year for a reason. It truly is one of the most anticipated sports related times of the year. The NCAA bracket has created an entire industry for goodness sake! From bracketology experts to analysis websites, there is an industry geared to helping people fill out the best bracket possible. It truly is a social phenomenon.
Maybe it is the money. Maybe it’s the Cinderella runs. Maybe it’s the chaos caused by single-elimination. So many factors contribute to the success of bracketology. Just think of the madness that occurred last year when Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit the last second three to beat North Carolina in the championship game.
The tournament in March features a wide variety of story-lines for each the die-hard and the casual fans. One aspect that makes it so great is the uncertainty. In any given game, besides the 1 vs. 16 matchup, one team could beat the other.
One could study all year long, yet lose during March Madness to someone who picked based on mascots. It is frustration and joy wrapped up in one.
The underdog is loved. The underdog is just one of the great reasons 60 million plus Americans fill out brackets. In anticipation of this year’s bracket, let’s go over some of the most recent memorable Cinderella runs in NCAA history.
- The 1983 North Carolina State team (6 seed)
The original Cinderella team, led by Jimmy Valvano, captures the hearts of so many in 1983 by winning the championship. The team had to win the ACC tournament in order to get into the bracket that year. The Wolfpack ended up beating the star-studded Houston team in the Finals by a buzzer-beating slam by Lorenzo Charles.
- The 1985 Villanova team (8 seed)
The 1985 Wildcats team is still the lowest seed to ever win the title game in NCAA history. 1985 was the first year that tournament expanded to 64 teams, which made it that much more impressive. Villanova was one of three Big East teams to reach the Final Four that year, just no one expected the Wildcats the be the team to make it to the top.
- The 2011 Butler team (8 seed)
This was a toss-up, Brad Stevens had two great runs with Butler, one in 2010 and one the next year in 2011. The 2011 team gets the nod, mostly because of how they won their way to the title game. The team needed multiple last second turns and twists, but eventually fell to UConn in a less than memorable title game.
- The 2014 UConn team (7 seed)
The 8 seed Villanova team in 1985 is the lowest seed to ever win the title game, but the 2014 UConn team was not far behind. Led by guard Shabazz Napier, the Huskies made a tremendous run by beating top opponents like 2 seed Villanova, 3 seed Iowa State, 4 seed Michigan State, and 1 seed Florida.
- The 2011 VCU team (11 seed)
From a play in game to the Final Four, VCU ranks 5th in Cinderella runs. The senior run team put Coach Shaka Smart on the map in 2011. Both the coach and the program emerged as fan favorites, and still remain relevant to this date with 1/4 odds of making it a 7th straight tournament.
- The 2013 Wichita State team (9 seed)
A trio of Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, and Fred VanVleet provided the sparked that Wichita State needed to get to the Final Four in 2013. Not every year does a no-name 9 seed make it as far as the Shockers did. This was truly the beginning of one of the best mid-major teams we’ve seen in recent history.
- The 2006 George Mason team (11 seed)
When thinking of mid-major Cinderella teams, the 2006 George Mason team was the original. They reached the Final Four, which was the farthest a mid-major team had gone since 1979. They knew how to hustle and crash the boards, which resulted in some exciting games.
- The 2008 Davidson team (10 seed)
If you remember anything from the 2008 tournament, it should be the beginning of 2 time NBA MVP Steph Curry. The under-manned Davidson team somehow got to the Elite Eight in what was a crazy run. Steph Curry continued to make clutch shot after clutch shot, and every one was needed.
- The 1990 Loyola Marymount team (11 seed)
One team that is often left out in Cinderella conversation is the 1990 Loyola Marymount team that reached the Elite Eight. They played at such a fast pace that the team became a fan favorite. LMU’s system seemed closer to a system seen in soccer than basketball. The run-and-gun style really was a beautiful thing to watch.
- The 1988 Kansas team (6 seed)
Kansas is often know as a powerhouse basketball program because of the winning that takes place there. However, in 1988 the team was a 6 seed. The Jayhawks had to face an Oklahoma team that beat them twice already, and was considered the best team in the country. The team did not back down in the title game, led by Danny Manning’s 31 points and 18 rebounds, Kansas was the underdog champion.