Every season we try our best to predict who will be this season’s edition of Cinderella. We have been treated to upsets like Norfolk State over Missouri, Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown, Middle Tennessee State over Michigan State, and Final Four runs by mid-major programs like George Mason, Butler, VCU, and Wichita State. Although, this year has been missing that enormous upset, there are a couple of teams that fit the bill as 2017’s Cinderella.
East Region: (7) South Carolina had two successful seasons in a row and a No. 7 seed is respectable, but not many people expected them to get past (2) Duke. The Gamecocks, led by coach Frank Martin and forward Sindarius Thornwell pulled off a comeback of (10) Marquette in the first round, before catching fire in the second half, outscoring the Blue Devils by 14 points. Thornwell, who is averaging 26.5 points in the tournament, will look to continue South Carolina’s run against Baylor next week. The matchup will be Carolina’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history, after not even making the NCAA Tournament since 1973.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2017
West Region: (11) Xavier is the only true Cinderella of the bunch, because they are a double-digit seed who were expected to lose each of their first two games. The Musketeers upset (6) Maryland, 76-65, and then blew past (3) Florida State, 91-66. Even though Xavier was ranked in the preseason AP Top-25, because of a 6-game losing streak following Edmond Sumner’s injury, Chris Mack’s team slipped to the bubble. Now, a couple of weeks later, Xavier is getting set for (2) Arizona, the team that defeated them in the 2015 Sweet Sixteen.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2017
Midwest Region: (11) Rhode Island had this spot locked up, but because it’s double-digit lead collapsed against (3) Oregon on Sunday night, the (7) Michigan Wolverines will have to do. It’s not a shock that Michigan has put together two nice games and is in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time since 2012-13, but they are one heck of a story and have trailed by 7+ points in each of their first two matchups. Derrick Walton Jr. led a comeback against (10) Oklahoma State in the Round of 64 and Moritz Wagner TOOK OVER in the upset of (2) Louisville. Michigan clinched the automatic NCAA Tournament berth with four wins in four days to take the Big Ten crown and are riding a 7-game winning streak. Even though they aren’t the prototypical dark horse, the Wolverines may continue shocking the country.
South Region: When all four top seeds advance to the Round of 16, it’s kind of difficult to select a David to fight against the Goliath’s, but (1) North Carolina, (2) Kentucky, and (3) UCLA being in the same region, the lone man out must be the long shot. That man is (4) Butler. In 2010 and 2011, the Bulldogs raced their way to the championship game, as a No. 5 and No. 8 seed, respectively. Even though Butler had a good season this year, if they were to somehow navigate their way over the Tar Heels and either the Wildcats or Bruins, it’s be a shocker.
Photo Credit: Garnet and Black Attack.