March Madness Cinderella Stories Are Real Life Fairy Tales

Lindsay Mannering

gm basketballThe story goes something like: girl lives with evil step-family, girl finds fairy godmother, girl loses shoe, girl wins handsome prince. During March Madness, the story goes: team lives in basic obscurity, team finds fairy godmother, team ties up shoes, team wins a few games on the national stage. Either way, Cinderella stories are about watching the underdog become top dog, and gosh darn if it isn't heartwarming.

Each year 68 Division 1 NCAA basketball teams come together to compete in a lose-and-you're-out tournament that determines the national champion. And each year, a team in a blue and white puffy dress with glass slippers surprises everyone and takes down some top seeds. It's part of the fun of watching the tournament -- to cheer for these no names -- and it's even more fun if you predicted the Cinderella story in your bracket. Like I did, in 2006.

It was a blustery March day when I was struck by a green and yellow lightning bolt of divine inspiration. I was filling out my bracket and the pen was suddenly taken over by a force bigger than myself -- it kept putting George Mason University into the next round, then the next, and the next. I willed this 11th seed all the way into the Elite Eight. Maybe it was because I grew up not 20 miles from the university, maybe it was because I was (am?) a genius, but whatever the case may be, I had sensed this Cinderella story from the beginning.

George Mason went on to make it to the Final Four after winning just 23 games in the regular season. They beat the #1 seeded UConn to make it to the semis, then lost to the Florida Gators.

In 2008, the Davidson Wildcats were led by baby-face pretty boy Stephen Curry to the Elite Eight. As an 11th seed and small liberal arts school, no one really gave this little Thomas the Tank Engine team a second thought, and they stunned everyone with wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. They eventually lost to #1 Kansas, and Curry's now a point guard for the Golden State Warriors.

Ten years earlier, in 1998, #13 Valparaiso beat #4 Ole Miss with a three-point buzzer beater made by the coach's son, Bryce Drew. I can picture the shot and his flop to the floor clear as day in my mind. 

Goodness I love a good fairy tale, don't you? I don't want to get ahead of myself here since we still don't know who's in the tournament, but I like my odds with 11th ranked teams who wear primary colors.

Any Cinderella predictions or favorite Cinderella moments?

Photo via JMRosenfeld/Flickr

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