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Ode to the Top March Madness Unexpected Heroes of All Time

The fine line between love and hate when it comes to March Madness can sometimes be lost in the midst of the action going down. Between brackets busting left and right, and unknown players becoming NCAAB tournament heroes, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.


Ode to the Top March Madness Unexpected Heroes of All Time
Sherwood Brown #25 of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles | Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

One thing that’s definitely true about the NCAAB tournament is that it lives and breathes for its Cinderella stories. Be it a team or a player churning out dream-like runs for the title, it’s impossible not to end up falling in love with them.

While we could run through an almost endless list of former college basketball players who had heroic runs in March Madness, let’s pay homage to some of the best unexpected heroes the tournament has had.


• Bo Kimble, Loyola-Marymount (1990)

When speaking of college basketball heroes, if you ask any true NCAA ball fan from the mid-80s to early 90s about Loyola Marymount University’s shooting guard Bo Kimble, the chances are you’ll hear one of the most uplifting stories in the game.

Not only did Kimble –who would go on to have an eight-year career in the pros– have one of the best runs in his school’s history as far as scoring is concerned, it was his role in LMU’s 1990 tournament run that cemented him as one of the biggest NCAAB heroes of all time.

Following the death of longtime friend and teammate Hank Gathers in LMU’s WCC Tournament semifinal game against Portland, Kimble would lead the Lions to one of the most inspiring runs in March Madness history.

Beating the likes of New Mexico, Michigan and Alabama before falling to UNLV in the regional finals, Kimble averaged 38.3 points per game during that run. He honored Gathers by throwing his first free throw of every game with his left hand, all while being right-handed himself.


• Bryce Drew, Valparaiso (1998)

“The Shot”

For some savants, that play, pulled off by former Valparaiso University point guard Bryce Drew in the first round of the 1998 college basketball tournament, continues to be one of the most important plays in the sport’s history.

With 2.5 seconds left in the game, and with #13 Valparaiso down by two points against the #4 Ole Miss Rebels, Jamie Sykes inbounded the ball to Bill Jenkins. He followed with a pass to Drew, who –from 23 feet away– put up a 3-pointer that brought the house down, leading the Beacons to pull off a massive upset that caused shockwaves through all March Madness bracket predictions lists.


Not done there, Drew and his Beacons would go on to defeat #12 Florida State in the following round, falling against #8 Rhode Island in the Sweet 16 round.

Now, as a coach for the Grand Canyon Antelopes, a team looking like a true contender to become one of this season’s Cinderella teams, remembering Drew’s heroics feels just right.


• Harold Arceneaux, Weber State (1999)

When your nickname in college is “The Show”, you better be putting up some amazing numbers and giving March Madness odds fans their money’s worth.

In 1999, for a brief period of time, that’s exactly what Weber State University Wildcats Harold Arceneaux did.

Coming into that year’s tournament averaging 22.3 points, he was quick to be pointed as one of the top March Madness players to watch, and well, “The Show” did not disappoint.

Putting up 36 points in Weber State’s upset against the #3 North Carolina by 76-74, Arceneaux would put up 32 more points in his team’s following game, where the Wildcats went down against Florida.

Doing some simple math, that’s 68 points in a two-game span, meaning an average of 34 points per game, all in one weekend. “The Show” did not disappoint whatsoever.


• Sherwood Brown, Florida Gulf Coast (2013)

Back in the 2013 March Madness tournament, we were all treated to one of the most thrilling, high-octane offenses in recent years: Florida Gulf Coast’s “Dunk City” offense. The #15 Eagles put on one of the most exciting runs in the past few years, taking out #2 Georgetown, followed by #7 San Diego State, all before losing to Florida in the Sweet 16 round.

At the helm of this offense, and the team in general, was shooting guard Sherwood Brown. He was a senior in the 2013 season and led his school to its first Atlantic Sun Conference Title win as well to the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth in FGU’s two year history as a Division I school.

With 24 points against the Hoyas, followed by 17 points against the Aztecs, Brown was “Dunk City’s” mayor, and he made sure March Madness betting fans got the whole FGU experience and then some.


• Clayton Custer, Loyola (2018)

When you think of Loyola University’s 2018 NCAA basketball tournament run, the image of Sister Jean, the Ramblers’ men’s basketball team chaplain, is probably the first thing that comes to mind.

Sister Jean was, and continues to be, as much a pivotal part of Loyola’s identity as the team itself, but back in 2018, PG Clayton Custer took center stage as the team’s most important protagonist.

After hitting the game winning shot against Tennessee in a 63-62 victory to send the Ramblers to the Sweet 16 round, Custer continued leading his team up until the Final Four, where Michigan, the overwhelming March Madness lines favorite, would send his team back to Chicago.

Now, as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma Sooners men’s basketball team, Custer can at least brag about sharing the national spotlight back in early 2018 with Sister Jean, all while leading Loyola on one of the best Cinderella runs in history.


When Does March Madness Start?

With Selection Sunday set to happen on Sunday, March 17th, 2024, the action will get going on March 19th and 20th.


Which Team Is Favorite For A Cinderella Run In This Season’s Tournament?

The Grand Canyon Antelopes, coached by former Valparaiso star Bryce Drew, have been touted by experts as a team deemed to become one of this season’s Cinderella story teams.

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