Home Sports George Mason in 2006, Saint Peter’s in 2022: Looking back on notable March Madness Cinderella runs

George Mason in 2006, Saint Peter’s in 2022: Looking back on notable March Madness Cinderella runs

George Mason in 2006, Saint Peter’s in 2022: Looking back on notable March Madness Cinderella runs


March Madness is finally here, a 2½-week-long competition that not only busts brackets but establishes heroes. Cinderella stories help give March Madness its unpredictable nature.

Last year, the men’s tournament saw the unlikely run of the No. 15-seeded Princeton Tigers. They reached the Sweet 16 after defeating the No. 2-seeded Arizona Wildcats and No. 7-seeded Missouri Tigers.

Princeton is neither the first nor the last school with low expectations to make noise in March.

Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, there have been six instances where a double-digit-seeded school reached the Final Four. None became national champion — the lowest seed to win it all was the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats in 1985.

Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable Cinderella runs.

Teams defeated: No. 6 Michigan State Spartans, No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels, No. 7 Wichita State Shockers, No. 1 UConn Huskies

Finish: Final Four loss vs. No. 3 Florida Gators

One of the first major underdog stories from the past two decades of March Madness, George Mason shocked college basketball in 2006.

The Patriots entered the tournament with a 23-7 record, losing against the Hofstra Pride in the final game of the regular season. Head coach Jim Larranaga led George Mason to four straight wins, three of which came while facing so-called blue-blood programs.

The Patriots were the first double-digit seed to reach the Final Four since the LSU Tigers in 1986.

In their words: “We did something tremendous for college basketball and for teams out there who watched us play,” George Mason guard Tony Skinn said. “We showed them that all you need is opportunity and a chance.”

Teams defeated: No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs, No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas, No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers

Finish: Elite Eight loss vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks

Before he became a star for the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry led his alma mater to its most memorable March Madness run.

The Wildcats entered the tournament on a 22-game winning streak but were still just the No. 10 seed. It didn’t matter with the future two-time NBA MVP on the team. Curry showed out in the first round with 40 points, 30 of which came in the first half, and eight 3-pointers for a comeback win.

In four games, he averaged 32 points and shot 44.2% from deep. Curry became the fourth player ever to score 30 points in his first four tournament games. The Jayhawks narrowly defeated the Wildcats 59-57 in the Elite Eight.

In their words: “We made history for our school,” Curry said. “Not a lot of people expected a lot from us, so I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but it hurts a lot to have been this close to the Final Four.”

Teams defeated: No. 11 USC Trojans, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers, No. 11 Florida State Seminoles, No. 1 Kansas

Finish: Final Four loss vs. No. 8 Butler Bulldogs

In the inaugural edition of the “First Four” games, Virginia Commonwealth University became the first team to go from the First Four to the Final Four.

VCU caught fire at the right time and won five games in a row — four of them by double digits — to reach the Final Four. Coach Shaka Smart’s energetic sideline antics became a memorable part of the Cinderella run.

Butler had reached the championship game as the No. 5 seed and created its own Cinderella story the year prior. The Bulldogs ended VCU’s season in the Final Four.

In their words: “Of course it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime run,” Smart said. “We’re going to try to do this every year. It’s not easy, there’s no question about it.”

Teams defeated: No. 2 Georgetown, No. 7 San Diego State Aztecs

Finish: Sweet 16 loss vs. No. 3 Florida

Remember ‘Dunk City’? The high-flying Eagles became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 in the tournament’s history.

Florida Gulf Coast wasn’t even eligible for the tournament until 2012 — the first student was admitted in 1997. Yet, it shocked Georgetown in the first round behind a 21-2 second-half run and high-flying dunks. The Eagles then came from behind to beat San Diego State and stay dancing.

Florida Gulf Coast’s run eventually ended against Florida.

In their words: “It was unbelievable to see the excitement and passion of not only our local community, the students, but also the national level,” head coach Andy Enfield said after losing to Florida. “Our players believed, and they accomplished something special.”

Teams defeated: No. 6 Miami Hurricanes, No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers, No. 7 Nevada Wolf Pack, No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats

Finish: Final Four loss vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines

In a tournament that included the No. 16-seeded UMBC Retrievers upsetting the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers, Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago became the story of that year’s March.

The Ramblers’ first three wins of the tournament all came with a combined deficit of five points. They dominated the Wildcats by 16 points to become the fourth No. 11 seed to ever reach the Final Four — all with Sister Jean by their side.

The then-98-year-old Catholic sister and team’s chaplain turned into a household name during Loyola Chicago’s run. The Ramblers’ run fell short of the national championship game.

In their words: “It’s special to see kind of what stage we were able to get to,” said Loyola Chicago guard Ben Richardson. “Despite going out this way, we’re going to never forget this. I think a lot of people will remember this run for a long time.”

Teams defeated: No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats, No. 7 Murray State Racers, No. 3 Purdue

Finish: Elite Eight loss vs. No. 8 North Carolina

Saint Peter’s had just three March Madness appearances and no wins heading into its 2022 matchup against Kentucky. However, with a 19-11 record, the Peacocks were coming off a MAAC Tournament Championship and rode a seven-game win streak.

The rest is history. Saint Peter’s shocked Kentucky in the first round then won two more to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight.

In their words: “They shocked the world. You got guys that are going to be remembered for things they can tell they kids and grandkids,” said head coach Shaheen Holloway. “It’s a story within a story. So I’m super proud of these guys. They came in and made history. Point-blank, period.”


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