USC Basketball Says "I'll be your Cinderella"

Bailey JonesCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2008

Once upon a time, prized gunslinger Doc Holliday ushered the phrase "I'll be your huckleberry," in regards to a challenge issued by the infamous Johnny Ringo. 

Since 1947, when Holy Cross defeated the University of Oklahoma for the National Championship, the NCAA tournament has been the perfect canvas for a small school to unseat a big school; protagonist facing antagonist; Holliday dueling with Ringo--each waiting for their chance at upset. 

The media hypes the unlikely event at which any lower seeded team will have a chance at victory.  Yet, all sports fans know the "upset" is inevitable and that makes each game marvelous. 

The trick (and the glory for those of us in community bracket pools) lies with picking the correct upset.

Who will be the first upset?  How many upsets will there be? 

Historically, no No. 1 seeded team has ever lost a first round game.  Is 2008 the year the first number one seed asphyxiates? 

Statistics have become a crutch for predictors of the outcome for an NCAA tournament game.  In the year of the RPI, which seemed to crown teams such as South Alabama and Arizona and crush the dream of a team like Arizona State, a new measure must be instituted in order to predict this years Cinderella squad. 

What better than the CI (Cinderella Index)? 

It is computed simply by taking the number of losses a team has and multiplying by its seed in the tournament.  Then divide that by the number of road or neutral site victories they had during the current season.  Finally, multiply by the CF (Cinderella Factor), which is how many seniors are on the team divided by the number of games played against ranked teams*. 

For example, let's look at Oral Roberts University, Summit League champions.  They had eight losses and are ranked 13 whic,h equals 104.   Then we divide by road/neutral site victories; ORU had nine, which gives us 11.5.  Finally, multiplying by the CF, which calculated to be two [4 Srs./2wins]; gives us a CI of 23. 

So what? 

Compare that with Memphis' 0.027 CI and if ORU happens to make it to the Sweet 16 versus the Tigers, an upset is highly unlikely, but not impossible. 

Follow that logic and the larger the CI, the greater improbability a team will decorate themselves with the title of "Cinderella."

Here is a list of other teams with notable CI's in this year’s bracket: Kentucky-5.51, Arizona-7.71, Winthrop-81.71, George Mason-37.50, Davidson-5.45, Indiana-6.67, USC-0.733, Kansas St.-16.13, and Villanova-4.11.

The Top Seeds: North Carolina-0.095, UCLA-.086, Memphis-0.027, Kansas-0.42. 

Now, the Cinderella Index is not an exact science because there is always the "tourney" factor which is hard to calculate or even describe.  

The intangibles that a team possesses that allow them to be victorious in unpredicted circumstances define winners.  Or maybe it’s a lucky call by the official [reference Villanova vs. Georgetown 2/11/08].

The Midwest is the weakest region due to Kansas being the weakest No. 1 seed.  That levels the playing field and creates upsetmania for lower seeds. 

USC, Davidson, and Villanova will have opportunities to make a Cinderella run.  Ultimately it comes down to 240 minutes of basketball.  Win six games in a row.  Nobody has to beat all 63 teams.  Just six. 

Look for USC to stand up and say "I'll be your Cinderella." 

 *cannot be zero.  If a team has never won, then the value will be equal to 1.