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NCAAB | Mar 15

Greatest Cinderella Stories in March Madness History

2024 March Madness Is Just Around the Corner, so Let’s Remember the Greatest Cinderella Stories

Greatest Cinderella Stories in March Madness History
A view of the March Madness logo at center court/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Let the Games Begin! 🏀

Their path to the finals wasn’t exactly a walk in the park which added to the luster of their legacy…

For those unfamiliar, a Cinderella story is about an underdog that exceeds expectations. In the world of NCAA basketball, we have seen more than we can count but some rise above the rest. At BetUS, we have painstakingly reviewed the many upsets that have occurred during March Madness over the years and will list our Top 5 below. See if you agree.

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No. 5 – 2018 UMBC Retrievers

This was a history-making tournament thanks to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) making NCAAB news by becoming the first No. 16 team to knock off a No. 1 seed in the tournament’s long and storied legacy. And as we already know, the Ramblers also made this Big Dance an event to remember.

NCAAB rumors were swirling before the game that the Cavaliers were taking their opening-round opponent lightly. That proved very true and I guess the only drawback was that this game was over before it even started as the No. 1 seed, Virginia, was still sleeping before they knew what hit them. It was a 20-point win by the Retrievers but the euphoria was short-lived as they were bounced by No. 9 Kansas State in the second round.


No. 4 – 2018 Loyola Chicago Ramblers

Sister Jean was the face of the Ramblers that season and is still going strong at 104. She was a familiar face at the tournament, rolling around in her wheelchair and giving the boys from Loyola a dose of divine intervention.

Loyola Chicago was the No. 11 seed in the South and won their first four games by a combined six points. Sister Jean was in the house for every victory, and it appeared she brought her angelic posse along for the ride.

But darkness ultimately prevailed when No. 3 Michigan doused any hopes of a true-blue miracle as they sent the Ramblers, and Sister Jean, packing with a 69-57 victory before losing to Villanova in the finals.


No. 3 – 2006 George Mason Patriots

The big deal here is that George Mason was seeded No. 11 in the Washington D.C. Region (yes, the regions had different names in 2006 than the East, West, South, and Midwest that has become standard), and was expected to be road kill for a superior team. Getting out of the opening round would have been an accomplishment for a team that barely won an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

However, the Patriots never got the memo and took down No. 3 UNC in the second round before shocking the world with an 86-84 overtime victory against No.1 UConn. But all good things must come to an end and so too did George Mason’s run through the tournament when they were blown out by the eventual champions from Florida in the Final Four.


No. 2 – 2013 Wichita State Shockers

Seriously, could there be a more appropriate name than the Shockers to be included in this list? Well, here they are, Wichita State, for your viewing pleasure, and what a pleasure it was for their fans to watch the No. 9 seed out of the West to make it out of the first round only to meet the No. 1 team in the region, highly-touted Gonzaga.

But the Shockers zapped the Zags, 76-70, to advance to a cakewalk over No. 13 LaSalle before a date with Ohio State had many believing it would end their Cinderella season. But no, the Shockers had more tales to tell and defeated the Buckeyes, 70-68, in the Elite Eight.

I’d like to tell you that Wichita State went on to national championship glory but the clock struck midnight in that ill-fated Final Four when they fell to the eventual champions, Louisville, by four points.


No. 1 – 1983 NC State Wolfpack

Among the thousands of NCAAB games in the tournament’s history, you can’t have a list like this and not include the late Jim Valvano’s NC State squad from the 1982-1983 season. Many of our readers weren’t around when NC State, the No. 6 seed out of the West Region, did the unimaginable and knocked off one giant after another. It’s important to note their path to the finals wasn’t exactly a walk in the park which added to the luster of their legacy.

It took double overtime for the Wolfpack to get by No. 11 Pepperdine, 69-67, before they edged No. 3 UNLV, 71-70. After their only blowout of the tournament, a 19-point win over Utah in the regional semifinals, many believed their journey would soon be over when they tipped off against No. 1 Virginia in the Elite Eight.

But no, NC State took the Cavaliers down, 63-62, before entering their Final 4 matchup against No. 4 Georgia. The Pack’s seven-point victory propelled them into a national title tilt with Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars, installed as a 7 ½ point favorite over Valvano’s gritty group.

The game was knotted at 52 apiece before NC State was left with the final shot. They killed the clock until senior guard Dereck Whittenburg hurled up a 30-foot prayer with four seconds left that was falling short of the rim before center Lorenzo Charles turned a futile attempt into a dramatic two-handed dunk to end the game with time expiring.

The celebration afterward is worth the watch.

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