Every March come tournament time, there is one thing on the mind of every college basketball fan all over the world: who will be this year’s Cinderella? Last year we saw a Sweet 16 match-up between 11th-seeded Dayton and 10th-seeded Stanford. The year before that Florida Gulf Coast made a run with their flashy, high-flying play that is still the sole reason anyone even knows who Florida Gulf Coast is. No matter who you pick in your bracket, no one can resist rooting for the lovable underdog. We all had our breath held and our fingers crossed when Gordon Hayward put up the unbelievably close half-court shot that could have won the tournament for Butler over Duke in 2010. But after two rounds, which of the sweet 16 teams in this year’s tournament have what it takes to fit in the slipper and become a true Cinderella, and who is just an ugly step sister trying to steal prince charming?
You have to think that the Shockers are much more comfortable with their role in the tournament this year. Last year, Gregg Marshall’s team entered the tournament as the most talked about team in the field and with a target on their backs. The Shockers came in undefeated and had a number one seed. However, they couldn’t put it together in the tournament and lost early. This year, led by very experienced junior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, the Shockers came in as a seven seed and have started to get some attention. While a seven seed doesn’t scream Cinderella, they did beat instate rival 2nd seed Kansas convincingly and have an uphill battle ahead of them. Wichita, unfortunately, won’t be bringing back any hardware to the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers are in the toughest region in the Tournament and would have to get through the best offense in the nation, Notre Dame, and the best team in the country, Kentucky. The Shockers won’t be riding off into the sunset in a pumpkin carriage this year, they are not the tourney’s true Cinderella.
Can you even call this a Cinderella? Sparty is a seven seed in the tournament this year, but after all it is Michigan State and it is Tom Izzo. The score looks deceiving as UVA kept the game close, but the Spartans dominated the No. 2 Cavs on Sunday. Travis Trice took the game over from the get go, looking like the type of explosive guard needed to win a tournament; he was complimented nicely by solid front court play from Brandon Dawson and the German born center Schilling. There are two reasons though that the Spartans can’t truly be considered as a Cinderella for this edition of March Madness. First, the team has no identity: they are 67th in offence and 85th in defense. To win the tournament you have to have a top 20 offense or be historically good on defense, and this team from East Lansing is neither. The second reason is that they aren’t really an underdog. MSU was beat up all season and played one of the hardest schedules in the nation. This made their overall record look poor, earning them a seven seed. However, this team has the talent of a four or five and because of that, even if they do go deeper in the tournament, they won’t be doing it in glass kicks.
Now we’re talking. Here is an NC State team that might be a true Cinderella. The Wolfpack entered as an eight seed, and historically, eights have been more likely to lose to the nine seed in the first round than they have been to win, so NC State has been battling against the odds since their opening win. The next game the Wolfpack had to take on No.1 seeded Villanova, and boy did they look good. They are a nightmare for teams built around a one style because the Pack can do it all. They are extremely heavy and physical in the front court, ranking in at 16th in the nation in blocks. The team is led by sophomore point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber. The nickname comes from his cat-like speed and quickness, and the moniker doesn’t fully do it justice. Barber may be the most explosive player in the nation in terms of raw speed; he is a blur in transition and has unbelievable ball handling in the half court. The only thing that may prevent NC State from being a true Cinderella is jump shooting. The Wolfpack are not a good shooting team and have trouble cutting down deficits because they do not hit many 3s. The Pack look to be about a half-size off from fitting in the slipper, but might be able to squeeze in if they can cover up their shooting woes.
This is what this tournament is about. When the selection committee released the field of 68, the biggest gripe everyone had was about UCLA was not that their eleven seed was too high, but that they were in the field at all. Since then, the Bruins have fought their way into the Sweet 16, and they look to keep the magic rolling. The Bruins have the story behind their run to do it too. They are playing their best basketball of the season and so far in the tournament they have been led by Coach’s son Bryce Alford. The father-son tandem for the Bruins is the kind of story that makes this tournament great. Couple that with NBA caliber players like Norman Powell and Kevin Looney, UCLA can flat out score the basketball. The Bruins seem to be made for this tournament and with a touch of luck from their fairy god mother, the Bruins look primed to be this year’s truest Cinderella.
Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.