What are the biggest NCAA Tournament Cinderella runs ever?
March means upsets, and there is no better place to witness the magic than the NCAA Tournament. This tournament has a long history of producing great upsets and Cinderella teams who steal the show. You don’t have to look far for the most recent example, because the 2022 tournament was headlined by 15-seed Saint Peter’s who knocked off one of the tournament favorites in 2-seed Kentucky in the first round. But their run didn’t end there. They went on to defeat 7-seed Murray State and 3-seed Purdue—both big upsets—before losing in the Elite 8 to national runners-up North Carolina. For many college basketball followers, the Peacocks magical 2022 run reminded them of some other mid-majors that have gone farther than expected.
In 2021, it was another 15-seed Oral Roberts who knocked off 2-seed Ohio State and 7-seed Florida, but lost a very close game to Arkansas in the Sweet 16. One of the most famous and well-remembered Cinderella runs came in 2018. Loyola Chicago came in to March Madness as an 11-seed and avid basketball fans knew they would not go home quietly. They won their first three games by four combined points, beating Miami, Tennessee, and Nevada, to advance to the Elite 8. Usually the magic would stop there because there would be a 1-seed waiting for them, but due to some upsets happening elsewhere they faced 9-seed Kansas State. Loyola came out on top and advanced to the Final Four. There have been 11-seeds to make the Final Four before but they have been big schools like UCLA or Syracuse. But to have a mid-major university in the Final Four was unheard of, and may never happen again. The Ramblers lost to Michigan in the Final Four but their history had already been made.
Arguably the greatest NCAA Tournament upset ever was something that had never been done before. No 16-seed had ever beaten a 1-seed since the tournament expanded in the mid-1980s. But in 2018, 16-seed UMBC took down 1-seed Virginia, a team that had been one of the best in the country all season. The upset shocked the sports world to its core. No one could see it coming. Despite UMBC falling short in the second round they will always be remembered for that achievement of doing something that so many had come close to doing but had never succeeded.
March Madness is here. Who will be this year’s Cinderella team? What school will be the one to make the deep run that no one saw coming?