Midnight is almost upon us, my friends, and while not completely in line with Charles Perrault's classic folk tale, we've had multiple—not just one—potential Cinderellas emerge.
The 2013 NCAA tournament, at least at time of publication, hasn't featured quite as many memorable moments and buzzer-beaters as opening weekends past. But parity has been alive and well throughout the bracket, which gives us plenty to lick our lips over going forward.
But not all remaining low seeds are created equal. And the paths they're forced to wend toward Atlanta are hardly uniform either. That is, some of the potential Cinderellas left in the field are far more likely to materialize than others.
Here's a look at three remaining low seeds with the best chance of crashing the Final Four:
No. 9 Wichita State Shockers
Am I a prisoner of the moment? Well, kind of. I certainly feel more confident in the Shockers after watching them dismantle Gonzaga. But this distinction is the fruits of their complete body of work in 2013.
Well, that and the region that got placed in.
Even after No. 2 Ohio State got by Iowa State by the hair on their chinny chin chins, the West remains, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the field's weakest remaining region. Despite being the ninth seed, Wichita State already knows itself to be the home team in their Sweet 16 contest—regardless of who wins between Ole Miss and La Salle.
They'll probably be favored in that round, too, lending even further credence to their claim as a Final Four crasher. They'll only need to pull one more upset in order to get there, and their potential Elite 8 opponents were either underwhelming on Sunday (Ohio State) or underwhelming all season long (Arizona).
The Shockers are big and deep and talented at multiple positions. They have the look and feel of a true, bona fide high-major, even if their transcription suggests otherwise. More importantly than anything, though, they have the experience of having battled through a down-to-the-wire finish against a superior opponent.
And no team in the field, not even the likes of Arizona and Ohio State, wants to face a squad who can make that claim.
No. 12 Mississippi Rebels
While at first counterproductive to the argument listed above—that is, how can both Wichita St. and Ole Miss both advance past the Sweet 16—the Rebels' bracket-busting potential is actually a close relative of the Shockers'.
Which is to say: They also play in the West Region.
Already deemed by many as the weakest in the field, the West Region has done nothing to dispute those claims this weekend. In fact, they've actually found a way to exacerbate them. No. 3 New Mexico lost in the round of 64, No. 1 Gonzaga lost in the round of 32 and No. 2 Ohio State was one highly contentious block/charge call away from following the Bulldogs' footsteps.
If any region is going to produce this year's wacky Final Four party crasher, it would only seem fitting to be the West, right?
And that's without even taking Ole Miss' unique credentials into consideration. In Marshall Henderson, they have a true, game-changing superstar—something the likes of Steph Curry proved is vital to a Cinderella run. They also have the momentum of an unlikely conference tournament championship at their back—something proved advantageous by the likes of Kemba Walker and Connecticut in 2011.
Should you be surprised to see Ole Miss navigate its way to the Final Four in Atlanta? Probably. But should you be nonplussed? Given what we've seen so far, absolutely not.
Update: Mississippi lost their round of 32 game to No. 13 La Salle, 76-74, on a buzzer-beating layup.
No. 12 Oregon Ducks
Unlike Wichita State and Ole Miss (and La Salle), Oregon doesn't have the benefit of playing in a weak region. In fact, they have the detriment of playing in a strong one—one of the strongest in recent memory, to be precise. Duke (should they survive Creighton), Michigan St. and Louisville represent a disproportionately talented trio of potential Sweet 16 teams, which will make advancing from the Midwest no small feat.
But that doesn't change the important fact that, of all the lower seeds remaining in the field, Oregon has without a doubt been the most impressive.
Say what you will about Oklahoma State. The overwhelming likelihood is that I'll agree with you. I thought they were overrated all season—despite the indisputable brilliance of Marcus Smart—and had a slightly weaker opponent than Oregon drawn them in the second round, I still probably would have called them being upset.
The same, however, cannot be said about St. Louis. The Billikens were one of 2013's true revelations, and even if they didn't play their best in the round of 32, the way Oregon dismantled them was nothing short of terrifying.
The Ducks are big and the Ducks are strong. Their next two opponents, whomever they may be, will surely be able to boast the same thing. But that shouldn't deter you from banking on a team that looks for real.
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