Several underdog teams have captured the hearts of fans and made deep runs in the tournament. These unexpected runs are a large part of what makes March Madness one of the most entertaining sporting events. Here are some of the most notable Cinderella teams from the recent seasons of March Madness.
The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers were the ultimate Cinderella story in 2018. The 11th-seeded team from the Missouri Valley Conference shocked the college basketball world by making it to the Final Four. Led by 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean, Loyola-Chicago won their first three games by just four points.
They then upset the sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes, the third-seeded Tennessee Volunteers, and the seventh-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack to earn their spot in the Final Four. While they ultimately fell to the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinals, Loyola-Chicago captured the hearts of fans everywhere with their improbable run.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers (UMBC) made history in 2018 by becoming the first 16th-seeded team to defeat a number-one seed in the tournament. The Retrievers took down the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the opening round, winning by a stunning 20-point margin.
The victory sent shockwaves throughout college basketball, instantly making UMBC one of the biggest Cinderella stories in March Madness history. While they ultimately fell to the ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats in the second round, UMBC’s upset of Virginia will become one of the most memorable moments in tournament history.
The Auburn Tigers were the surprise team of the 2019 tournament. Despite being a fifth seed, they made it to the Final Four, defeating the New Mexico State Aggies, the Kansas Jayhawks, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the Kentucky Wildcats. Led by dynamic guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, Auburn’s high-octane offense and aggressive defense proved too much for their opponents to handle.
While they ultimately fell to the Virginia Cavaliers in the semifinals, Auburn’s unexpected run to the Final Four captured the attention of fans across the country.
Oral Roberts (2021)
Oral Roberts University, a small Christian college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, made headlines in 2021 by becoming the second 15th-seeded team to reach the Sweet 16. Led by dynamic guard Max Abmas, the Golden Eagles upset the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes and the seventh-seeded Florida Gators in the opening rounds.
They then gave the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks all they could handle in the Sweet 16, ultimately falling by just two points in a thrilling back-and-forth battle. Despite their loss, Oral Roberts’ unlikely run to the Sweet 16 proved that anything is possible in March Madness.
Loyola-Chicago made another Cinderella run in the 2021 tournament, again reaching the Sweet 16 as an eighth seed. Led by dynamic big man Cameron Krutwig and suffocating defense, the Ramblers knocked off the ninth-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the top-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini in the opening rounds. They ultimately fell to the Oregon State Beavers in the Sweet 16, but Loyola-Chicago’s gritty, team-first style of play and their signature “Ramble” chant captured the attention of fans once again.
Loyola-Chicago’s success in two out of the past five seasons demonstrates that the team’s 2018 run was no fluke and that they have firmly established themselves as a legitimate Cinderella contender in March Madness.
In conclusion, March Madness is a time for upsets, underdogs, and unlikely heroes. Over the past five seasons, we have seen several Cinderella teams capture the hearts of fans with their improbable runs too deep tournament runs. From Loyola-Chicago’s Final Four run in 2018 to UMBC’s historic upset of Virginia, these teams have shown us that anything is possible in March.