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  • Adam Gallagher

Top 5 March Madness Cinderella Stories in Last Decade

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

5. Florida Gulf Coast - 2013

March Madness, NCAA, Cinderella Story, Basketball, Dunk, Lob City, FGCU, Eagles, Sweet 16, alley-oop, dunks
High Flying Eagles Souring Over San Diego State

In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast University came on the scene during March Madness. As a 15 seed, they reached the Sweet 16 after beating Georgetown & San Diego State in the first two rounds. The Eagles were the first 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 & played one of the most exciting styles of basketball we’ve seen in recent years. They were nicknamed “Dunk City”, a play on the Clippers’ “Lob City” nickname, due to their excessive amount of dunks & alley-oops. They’ll forever be remembered as that high flying team that became an instant underdog favorite. The Cinderella Story ended when they lost to Florida in the Sweet 16.

4. UMBC - 2018

UMBC beats #1 seed Virginia, March Madness, Cinderella Story, NCAA, Basketball, Blowout, UMBC, Virginia Basketball, Upset, First 1 seed to lose in first round, hoops
UMBC Celebrating After Knocking Off #1 Virginia

Three years ago today, on March 16, 2018, UMBC became the first 16 seed to ever beat a #1 seed. It wasn’t even close & the Cavaliers had no chance. The Retrievers went on to beat Virginia 74-54, becoming one of the biggest stories in March Madness history. They lost in the next round to Kansas State in a close one, 50-43.

3. Loyola Chicago - 2018

Also in 2018, Loyola Chicago became, surprisingly, the 4th 11 seed to reach the Final Four. LSU (1986), George Mason (2016), & VCU (2011) are the other 3 teams who have done it.

Sister Jean with the Team

Loyola Chicago & Sister Jean became a national sensation throughout March Madness on their Cinderella Story journey. It was their first tournament appearance in 33 years & they beat #6 Miami 64-62 with a last second 3 pointer in the 1st Round. Again, taking the lead with a jumper in the final seconds, they beat #3 Tennessee 63-62 in the Round of 32. In the Sweet 16 against #7 Nevada, the Ramblers were up 66-65 in the final 10 seconds when Jersey native Marques Townes hit a 3 pointer to increase their lead & they ended up winning the game 69-68. In their first Elite 8 appearance since 1963, they played #9 Kansas State & won convincingly, 78-62. They went into their 2nd Final Four appearance in school history on a 14 game win streak, where they played #3 Michigan who was on a 13 game win streak. They lost 69-57, ending a historic season.

2. VCU - 2011

VCU also advanced to the Final Four as a #11 seed. They were the first team to ever go from the First Four to the Final Four. The First Four is basically a “play-in” game to officially be in the 1st Round. This means they had to play an extra game compared to any team that has ever made the Final Four before. VCU had smooth sailing through their first 3 games, winning each by 13 or more. In the Sweet 16, they beat Florida State by 1 & they beat Kansas by 10 in the Elite 8. They ended up losing in the Final Four to the 8th seeded Butler, 70-62. This season put VCU on the map & Shaka Smart has been considered a top coach in college basketball since. He is currently coaching the 3 seed Texas in the 2021 tournament.

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Shaka Smart & the Rams Pose with their Final Four Trophy

1. Butler - 2011

Butler came into their 2011 season off of a National Championship game loss to Duke (61-59) in 2010. Gordon Hayward’s buzzer beater rimmed out giving Duke the win. After losing Gordon Hayward to the NBA, nobody expected Butler to make another run through March Madness; we were wrong. Butler University went into the 2011 NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed. They barely made it through the 1st Round, beating Old Dominion with a last second tip in. In their next game, they beat #1 Pittsburgh 71-70. The ending of that game was insane. Butler made a layup with 2.2 seconds left to take the lead 70-69. Pitt was able to draw a foul on the next play, going to the line with 1.4 seconds left, hitting the 1st & missing the 2nd so the game was tied 70-70. When Butler got the rebound, Pitt also fouled sending Butler to the line. The Butler shooter hit the first to take the lead and purposely missed the 2nd & Pitt wasn’t able to get a shot up in the last .8 seconds. Both teams made some horrible mistakes down the stretch but Butler survived nonetheless. They went on to play #11 VCU in the Final Four as mentioned previously. They advanced to the National Championship game for the 2nd straight season, becoming the first team to make it that far in consecutive seasons without being a 1 or 2 seed in either of the seasons. They lost to Kemba Walker & UCONN 53-41 in the championship game.

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