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NCAA Tournament: 5 Best “Cinderella” Runs

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Credit: Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

Credit: Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

Selection Sunday is tomorrow. That means the bracket analyzing and breakdown will begin in earnest late tomorrow night into Monday. Each year we search the bracket for upset picks knowing how crazy the NCAA Tournament can be. The best part of the tournament, is the Cinderella team, so let’s look at the 5 best Cinderella runs in NCAA History. 

5) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 2013– Dunk City. Need I say more? The Eagles entered the tournament as the little known champions of the Atlantic Sun conference and not expected to do much against the Goliath of Georgetown in the 1st round.  They proceeded to destroy brackets and steal Americans hearts as they won 78-68 over the Hoyas, playing with an unbridled energy and joy that was supremely entertaining. Oh, and they did a lot of this

We love being entertained and that’s exactly what FGCU did in beating Georgetown and San Diego State before falling to Florida in the Sweet 16. 

4) Davidson Wildcats 2008– This run was made on the back of one player.  I think you may be familiar with his work but if not, well let’s refresh your memory, just go ahead and fast forward to the second half. 

Yep. Stephen Curry. This was when the world was introduced to one of the world’s best shooters as he lit up Gonzaga for 40 points, 30 in the second half. His NCAA tournament line? 32 PPG 3.5 APG 3.2 SPG 44% 3PT and 46% from the field. He was a one man wrecking crew and it was awesome.

3) George Mason Patriots 2006– The Patriots became the first team ranked 10 or lower to make it to the Final Four back in 2006.  They got there by beating powerhouses names along the way too.  That may be the most impressive part of Mason’s run, they beat program’s that are annually considered among the best in college basketball. The Patriots beat Michigan State 75-65, UNC 65-60 and UConn 86-84 to reach the Final Four.  Also thrown in was defeating a surprising Wichita State team in the Sweet 16. The fell to Florida in the Final Four, but let’s remember how they got there shall we? 

2) Butler Bulldogs 2011– The Bulldogs made their second return to the Final Four, but what makes this run so impressive? They made the National Championship game this time around.  And they did it without their star player from the year before in Gordon Hayward who had left for the NBA. They did it without winning any game by more than 8 points and three games they won by 3 points or less. The Bulldogs ran out of gas in the NCAA Championship Game against UConn, but I’d rather focus on the classic overtime game they played against Florida to make the Final Four. 

1) Villanova Wildcats 1985– Villanova was an 8 seed in a time when that seed generally meant an exit in the second round when you matched up with whatever national power was at number 1.  The Wildcats were unranked and had finished a respectable but not glamorous 4th in the Big East after the regular season.  Then in the tournament, led by big man Ed Pinckney, they knocked off #9 seed Dayton, #1 seed Michigan, #5 seeded Maryland, #2 seeded UNC, #2 seeded Memphis State and finally in the championship game, the #1 seeded Georgetown Hoyas and Patrick Ewing. The title game was also the last in the pre-shot clock era and the Wildcats certainly took advantage, playing keep away as much as possible from the mighty Hoyas. 

Here’s hoping that March Madness this year sees fit to bless us with another of these exciting underdog teams that blows up brackets and takes down the Goliaths. Enjoy Selection Sunday!

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