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Cinderellas steal March Madness spotlight

Written by Neil Frawley

 

With the bevy of “Cinderellas” (teams that have extremely low expectations of winning) remaining in the NCAA Tournament, college basketball has been provided its much needed spark needed in order to entice fans.

Despite a season that failed to produce any great team(s) or any exceptional players, the myriad of underdog stories offers America something compelling to root for. Once again March Madness’ succeeds with its fan- friendly appeal which rarely fails to produce.

Impressively, nine teams seeded nine or lower (one being the highest and 16 being the lowest) advanced beyond the round of 64.

Furthermore, seven of those nine teams were double digit seeds, and three of those double digit seeds, including the NCAA’s first ever 15 seed, will be playing in the Sweet Sixteen. Don’t forget about Wichita State either, the No.9 out of the West Region who downed its region’s No.1 seed Gonzaga.

Double-digit seeds have combined for ten total wins this March. And absent the down-the-stretch controversial call in the Ohio St./Iowa St. game, it likely would have left sixth seeded Arizona as the highest seed left in the West Region.

And while all of these underdog wins have undoubtedly been harsh on the nation’s brackets, the entertainment value more than makes up for the money you likely won’t be winning in your March Madness pool.

The great part about teams like Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle represent all that is right about college hoops.

These teams have genuinely proven the even small schools from small conferences do have what it takes to compete with the major college programs. It’s great for the integrity of college hoops.

With all that in mind, let’s quickly recap the “madness” that took place this past weekend before the next round of games begin.

We’ll start off with the major bracket- busting story on hand. Florida Gulf Coast captivated America’s attention after ripping of back to back wins, first against two-seed Georgetown, and then against seven-seed San Diego State.

What made it excited wasn’t just THAT they pulled off the upset, but it was HOW they pulled the upset. In what seemed like a trapeze act of continual spectacular dunks and alley-oops, it became apparent that this was not your run-of-the-mill 15 seed.

The Eagles followed their victory over Georgetown by downing seven-seeded San Diego State in much similar fashion.

“Our goal was to make history and we did it,” millionaire and head coach Andy Enfield said in a press release on Sunday after the game against San Diego State.

As the swaggering Eagles prepare to play three-seed Florida, it doesn’t appear as if nerves will be playing much of a factor. In fact, not a single one Florida Gulf Coast’s players were even looked at by Florida; don’t think FGCU’s players have forgotten about that.

But Florida Gulf Coast isn’t the only highly unexpected that continues its “march” towards Atlanta.

La Salle, winner of the play-in game against Boise State, is the only 3-0 team in this tournament. Following their first game in Dayton, the Explorers defeated 4-seed Kansas State in the round of 64, and then snuck by 11-seed Ole Miss after Tyrone Garland hit what he coined the “Southwest Philly floater” with just a second remaining in the round of 32.

“It is tremendous, just tremendous. And I don’t think that’s the last we’ll hear of the Southwest Philly floater, just because that sounds tremendous. I haven’t even had enough time to ask my guys if that’s even a real thing,” LaSalle coach John Giannini said in a New York Daily News report after the victory.

Also don’t forget that 12-seed Oregon also remains alive. After winning the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, many still believe this team was vastly under-seeded. However, after blowing out both 5th seeded Oklahoma State 68-55 and 4th seeded St. Louis 74-57, the Ducks will need to keep the offense flowing if they have serious hopes to send home the overall top seed Louisville Cardinals.

Tournament play picks back up tonight starting at 7:15. Make sure to tune in for more exciting Cinderella action.

Follow Neil on Twitter:
@NeilFrawley

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