It’s that time of year again. The brackets are made. The seeds are set. The top seeds are ready to turn up. The lower seeds are ready to upset. Let the games begin. It’s time for March Madness.
The seeds are set and the #1 seeds were given to the Kansas Jayhawks, Oregon Ducks, Virginia Cavaliers, and the North Carolina Tar Heels. What I’m most excited about this year is probably that even though those teams are the one seed, there’s no clear cut favorite to win the whole tournament. The Jayhawks (30-4), Ducks (28-6), Cavaliers (26-7), and Tar Heels (28-6) have great records, especially at home where they went a combined 83-1, but on the road, they finished a combined 29-22.
This isn’t one of those years where there’s that one team like Kentucky that goes undefeated the whole season and everybody expects them to win the tournament. If you look at the odds to win, Michigan State has better odds to win over North Carolina and Kentucky has better odds over Virginia and Oregon. It’s all over the place this year.
This is where it gets fun. With all that being said, I believe there will be one “Cinderella Team” that overachieves and makes it farther than people expect. Who doesn’t like a good Cinderella story? Now, what team do I expect to accomplish this? The Providence Friars.
Picking Providence for me could be biased because that’s the team I’ll be rooting for in the tournament, but it’s not crazy to think that they can pull off a huge upset. They finished with a record of 23-10 in the Big East and are seeded 9th in the East Regional. They were even ranked eighth at one point in the Top 25 standings. They play Southern California first round and if they win they would most likely face the one-seeded Tar Heels. If you have point guard Kris Dunn, who is a projected top 5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and leading scorer in the Big East Ben Bentil go off, I could definitely see a huge upset happening.
For those who don’t believe in miracles, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and take a look back at some of the biggest Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history.
First we’ll discuss the 2008 Davidson Wildcats. Seeded 10th, they went up against Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin… and beat them all en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Oh, and they had this guy named Steph Curry on their team. He was pretty good.
Next up we have the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth Rams. This team had to win the play-in game just to make it into the tournament. The 11th seeded Rams did something nobody expected out of them and made it to the Final Four. Taking out teams like USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas put them on the map and made every team take notice. An 11 seed making it to the Final Four is absurd and makes them one of the biggest Cinderella stories in March Madness history.
Next, we have the 2010 Butler Bulldogs. Seeded number 5, the Bulldogs defeated the first- seeded Syracuse, second-seeded Kansas State, and then Michigan State to make it into the National Championship. They barely lost by 2 to Duke after Gordon Hayward just missed a half-court shot that would’ve won them the game and the National Championship. So close for a small team that looked to make a big upset.
Next up we have the #6 seeded 1983 NC State team. Winning the National Championship on a buzzer-beater has got to be one of the greatest feelings in the world, just ask Lorenzo Charles. Lorenzo was in a “right place at the right time” situation when Dereck Whittenburg through up a near half-court shot and Lorenzo happened to catch it mid-air and put it in just before the buzzer went off. If you haven’t seen this look it up. Seriously, look it up. Watching head coach Jimmy Valvano run around frantically not believing what just happened will be one of the greatest things you’ll see today. It’s amazing.
And lastly, we have the #13 seeded 1998 Valparaiso Crusaders who took down the #4 seed Ole Miss in the first round. The Crusaders’ Bryce Drew threw up a three to win the game off an inbounds play on the opposite end of the court with 2.5 seconds remaining. This was the start of their own Cinderella story before losing in the Sweet Sixteen. To this day, this play is referred to as “The Shot.” If you haven’t seen this either, look it up. It’s probably one of the greatest game-winners you’ll ever see.
Those were some of the greatest Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history. Like Kevin Garnett once said, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!” So why not have a Cinderella story happen this year? Maybe it won’t be Providence, but maybe a team like Hawaii or even Virginia Commonwealth again. Who knows, but that is what’s awesome about March Madness. Why do you think Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to whoever got a perfect bracket years ago? It’s nearly impossible to tell which teams will pull off huge upsets to screw your brackets.