March Madness 2014: Top 10 Cinderellas Of All-Time

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story in the NCAA tournament?  It’s hard not to.

Often, we get entrenched in the storyline and love the breath of fresh air the Cinderella story provides, in an event typically polluted by big name schools that boast impressive programs.  Each and every year there is one, two, sometimes even three teams, that come out of nowhere and make a splash – busting a great deal of brackets in the process.

Before we get a chance to see which schools will surprise us, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the greatest Cinderella stories that have ever graced the tournament.

Honorable Mention: 2013 Florida Golf Coast University

The No. 15 seeded school, composed of about 14,000 students, joined Division I in 2007 and shocked many last year during the tournament.  First it took down No. 2 Georgetown, then No. 7 San Diego State.  Suddenly, the school no one had heard of was in the Sweet Sixteen, busting brackets everywhere.  But that’s where FGCU’s luck ran out – losing to No. 3 seeded Florida.  It was the first time a 15 seed won two games in the tournament, which might be why the school nicknamed “Dunk City” won the 2013 ESPY for Best Upset.

10 – 2011 Virginia Commonwealth University

If fans didn’t know what VCU stood for before the 2011 tournament, they certainly did afterwards.  Never ranked during the season, the 11 seed quickly busted brackets with a win over No. 6 Georgetown and went on to the Final Four, before coming up short against another Cinderella – Butler University.  It was just the third time a No. 11 made it that far.  The school has since remained a threat in the tournament, thanks in part to coach Shaka Smart, who hasn’t been snatched up by a big school yet.

09 – 2010 Butler University

08 – 2006 George Mason University

George Mason’s run to the Final Four was impressive, simply because of whom it knocked off to get there.  First came No. 6 seeded Michigan State, then No. 3 North Carolina, then No. 7 Wichita State, then No. 1 UConn in a thrilling OT victory.  At the time, it was the second 11 seed to make it that far.  But then came Florida, who manhandled the team in one of the worst tournament loses.  Still, George Mason came, it saw, it ruined brackets, and it made a name for itself on the national level – impressive.

07 – 1994 Boston College

It had been years since BC made the tournament, so 1994 was important in proving something – and that’s exactly what it did.  BC started by knocking off No. 8 seeded Washington State and followed it up with a huge win over No. 1 North Carolina.  The bracket busting continued at the cost of No. 5 Indiana, before it all came to an end in the Elite Eight thanks to No. 3 Florida.  It remains the school’s best run.

06 – 1990 Loyola University Marymount

It was a wide range of emotions for LMU that season.  After an impressive first round victory in the West Coast Conference tournament, the second game was overshadowed by Hank Gathers – who led the nation in scoring – collapsing on the court and dying of heart failure.  The season was dedicated to Gathers from that point on and the NCAA tournament started off well, with a win over No. 6 seeded New Mexico State. The 11 seeded team then beat Michigan in an insane 149-115 victory.  Next it dropped Alabama.  The ride ended in the Final Four with a loss to eventual champion UNLV, but it was an amazing run given what the program had gone through just weeks before.

05 – 1987 Providence College

Led by young coach Rick Pitino, Providence wasn’t much of a name at the time, but it was in the blossoming Big East Conference.  The team’s big win came against rival and top seeded Georgetown – it was perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament.  The magic came to an end against Syracuse in the Final Four and a few months later Pitino skipped town for the New York Knicks and with it went the school’s hope of recapturing the magic it had in 1987.

04 – 1985 Villanova University

03 – 1982 University of Houston

While the team was stacked with future NBA stars Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon, Houston was a huge underdog in 1982 when it made it to the Final Four as a six seed.  Houston was not ranked and became a big name after the run, following it up the following year with a loss in the title game.  It remains one of the greatest, yet under appreciated, underdogs the tournament has ever seen.

02 – 1983 North Carolina State University

01 – 1979 University of Pennsylvania

An Ivy League school winning the tournament seems almost impossible today.  In fact, for an Ivy League school to win one or two games today is a true feat, so by today’s standards, Penn was one humongous story.  The school was a nine seed but quickly rolled over Iona, before beating No. 1 North Carolina by just one point.  Next was Syracuse and St. John’s, leading to its only Final Four berth, though it ended there with a 101-67 rout at the hands of Michigan State.  The school hasn’t even made it to the Sweet Sixteen since.  There’s always next year?

Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

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