Everyone loves March Madness. Even basketball fans that concentrate on the NBA the rest of the year take a little time off to take in the NCAA Division I Tournament. Part of the attraction is that it is a chance to see some of the stars of the future excel in the college game.
But another reason people love this tournament is the Cinderella teams. These shock wins might mess up the March Madness betting strategy for thousands of fans – but there is nothing better than a lower-seeded team making it to the Sweet 16, or even further. Here are five of the best Cinderella teams in recent NCAA history.
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, 2018
You don’t have to go too far back in March Madness history for our first remarkable Cinderella team. Loyola-Chicago was seeded at number 10 this year and lost to Ohio State in the first round. In 2018, however, the Ramblers were less well-known and seeded at number 11 in the South Regional.
With a number of top seeds losing in the first round, the Ramblers were given a chance to progress and beat Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State before meeting Michigan in the Final Four. That was the end of the road in 2018 but now everyone looks out for Loyola-Chicago in their March Madness brackets.
Davidson Wildcats, 2008
Sometimes it just takes one player – a future titan of the game – to elevate a mid-level school to Cinderella status. That’s definitely what happened in 2008 when Golden State’s Steph Curry burst onto the nation’s consciousness, leading number 10 seed Davidson to the Elite Eight.
Number one seeded Kanas eventually dumped the Wildcats out of March Madness. However, not before Curry had put 40 points on Gonzaga and then posted some big totals against Georgetown and Wisconsin too. He only made 25 against the Jayhawks in defeat. He returned a year later but then made the jump to the big league to become a true star.
Florida Gulf State Eagles, 2013
Wichita State fans might feel a little left out after the Shockers made the Final Four as a number nine seed in 2013. But it is the Florida Gulf State Eagles that we have included from that year, as they came out of nowhere to make it to the Sweet 16 as a number 15 seed.
Florida Gulf State’s style of play earned them the nickname ‘Dunk City’ and they simply blew away Georgetown and San Diego State in the first two rounds before meeting number three seed Florida. Forced turnovers were the undoing of the Eagles in the end – but they certainly captured the imagination of the fans in that first week.
VCU Rams, 2011
Now at Marquette, Shaka Smart was only 32 when he was named as the head coach at VCU in 2009. It was two years later when he became well known and led the Rams to the Final Four after being seeded number 11. VCU might be a regular contender these days, but this was unheard of then.
VCU cruised past the play-in round and then beat Georgetown, Purdue, and Florida State before meeting number one seed Kansas in the Elite Eight. A ten-point margin of victory suggested that the Rams could go all the way but they eventually fell to the number eight seed, Butler.
George Mason Patriots, 2006
George Mason was a team that swarmed defensively and made up for its relative lack of height by restricting its opponents to meager points totals. The Patriots were only the second ever number 11 seed to make it to the Final Four, managing to beat UConn in the Elite Eight.
An elite Florida won in the Final Four but George Mason has still gone into the history books. Now the 2022 edition is throwing up its own Cinderella teams. We’ll wait to see if any of them can emulate this group.
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