Cinderella's 2013 slippers, it seems, have been forged out of some sort of weird, elastic substance—molding their way around the feet of multiple, equally unsuspected underdogs.
With three rounds already in the books, the slippers appear to fit three different double-digit seeds: No. 12 Oregon, No. 13 La Salle, and most unfathomable of all, No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast.
But the tournament's second weekend is a different story. Seeds of this nature—FGCU notwithstanding—manage to extricate themselves from the initial pods almost every year. It's the beauty of March Madness' first four days. But the second weekend usually separates cream from milk, exposing those that may be less on talent and more on (for lack of a better term) luck.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, though in almost every case this holds true. The difference between the Sweet 16 and the Final Four is monumental, but Cinderellas crashing the latter is certainly possible nonetheless.
Having said all that, let's take a look at this year's four remaining low seeds, forecasting where their tournament future might lead.
No. 12 Oregon Ducks
First Weekend: Def. No. 5 Oklahoma State (68-55); Def. No. 4 Saint Louis (74-57)
The Ducks' run to the Sweet 16, especially when compared with some of the names discussed further down on this list, really shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. They certainly look the part of a higher seed, and a draw including Oklahoma State and Saint Louis didn't exactly foster fear in their hearts.
But that Oregon's run to the Sweet 16 looked the way it did should probably raise a few eyebrows. The 12th-seeded Ducks didn't just get through their opening pod, they rolled through their opening pod. And now the country has taken notice.
Unfortunately for the folks in Eugene, the Ducks aren't in San Jose anymore. They're in Indianapolis, and the opposition now includes the likes of Louisville and Michigan State. The former, Oregon's immediate opponent, was a prohibitive favorite entering the tournament and its performance thus far has done little to amend that.
Oregon can match Louisville's size, which should allow them to stay in the game to a point. But they can't match Louisville's guards, which down the stretch of a potentially close game, should prove too much to overcome.
It's been nice knowing you, Oregon. Thanks for sparing us a boring (and alliterative) Saint Louis-Louisville regional semifinal.
No. 13 La Salle Explorers
First Weekend: Def. Boise State (80-71); Def. Kansas State (63-61); Def. Ole Miss (76-74)
La Salle might not be the only undefeated team in NCAA history (as is the case with the following team), but they can make one impressive claim: they're the only team with three wins in the NCAA tournament.
We saw a first four team, the VCU Rams, advance all the way to the Final Four in 2012, and La Salle is looking to continue that unlikely trend. They picked the right region to do it in, too; No. 9 Wichita St. awaits them in the Sweet 16, whereas most No. 13 seeds would be burdened with a one seed.
But even if they beat Wichita State, a genuine, albeit not projected possibility, La Salle might not be long for this tournament. The thrilling win over No. 12 Ole Miss was grand, but ultimately uninspiring against a team of the Rebels' caliber. If they face Ohio State in the Elite Eight—a team that they matchup poorly with—it could portend doom.
If you're feeling frisky, feel free to bet on La Salle moving forward one more time. They're probably the best bet on this list. But don't expect to see them dancing in Atlanta—even out of the West.
No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
First Weekend: Def. No. 2 Georgetown (78-68); Def. No. 7 San Diego State (81-71)
The Eagles, making their first NCAA tournament appearance, beat a pair of seasoned tournament vets by 10 points apiece. And both games were actually more lopsided than the final score indicated.
But things are about to get real. FGCU can no longer hide from the media and play the "scrappy underdog who sneaks up on opponents" card. Guys like Andy Enfield, Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer are about to become household names, and with increased notoriety comes escalating pressure.
And then there's the opponent. Georgetown was a soft No. 2 and San Diego State was probably an equally soft No. 7. But Florida is a very, very strong No. 3. Ken Pomeroy rates them the top team in the nation, ranking both their offense and defense top five in terms of adjusted efficiency. Plus, Billy Donovan is no stranger to making championship runs with talented teams out of the three hole.
Were they in the East, squaring off with Marquette rather than the Gators, I could reasonably envisage a future where Florida Gulf Coast (gulp!) makes the Elite Eight. But as the draw actually turned out, their magical run is not long for this world.