March Madness: Why Cinderella Stories Make the NCAA Tournament So Great

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March Madness: Why Cinderella Stories Make the NCAA Tournament So Great
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I could turn this college basketball-focused article into a rant about how much I dislike the BCS in college football and why the sport needs a playoff system (which it does), but this isn't December or January. This is March, the best sports month of the year, and the 2011 version of NCAA Tournament has been one of the more memorable ones in recent history.

There have been close, down-to-the-last-second games and great individual performances, but the greatest part about this tournament is the upsets...unless you've been betting on the games.

Of the 5.9 million entries on ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament Challenge, two brackets had Butler, VCU, Connecticut and Kentucky in the Final Four. It is a little hard to believe that even two people could predict this Final Four, given how unlikely it looked for these four teams to reach this stage when the tournament started.

UConn is probably the least surprising out of the group, but the Huskies' road to the Final Four was anything but easy. Their last two victories in the Tournament were against talented and hot teams in San Diego State and Arizona, and those were basically away games for the Huskies (because the games were on the West Coast).

The only reason Kentucky's run to the Final Four isn't considered that unexpected is because it's Kentucky. The Wildcats trounced Florida in the SEC Championship and in the tourney two weeks later, they knocked off the No. 1 overall seed Ohio State and the über-talented Tar Heels of North Carolina—not easy games in my book.

Butler might have been the runner-up in the National Championship last year but it would be hard to find anyone other than coach Brad Stevens and his players who thought they would be one of the last four teams standing in the tournament.

And VCU...well, let's just say that two 11-seeds in the history of the 64-team field in the NCAA tournament played in a Final Four game before this year.   

What team wouldn't be motivated after hearing someone bash them like this?

The unpredictability of the NCAA tournament is what makes it so fun to watch and popular among millions of Americans. People like to fill out brackets and predict winners because correctly picking the winners of the 63 tournament games is incredibly difficult.

Someone could research each tourney matchup as long and as in-depth as their body allowed them to and they probably still wouldn't predict Morehead State beating Louisville in the first round.

My dad picked No. 12-seed Utah State to go to the Elite Eight. In hindsight, that prediction looks ridiculous but it's not like a No. 12-seed has never gone to the round of eight before (Missouri did in 2002). Upsets occur during every tourney but it is so hard to know which teams will do it and when they will do it.

The unbelievable tournament runs of teams like 2002 Missouri, 2006 George Mason, Butler and VCU are the reasons why they call it "March Madness;" not just because they anger bracket owners but because of the craziness of these teams going deep in the tourney.

Some people don't like seeing these Cinderellas advancing into the later rounds and would rather see all four No. 1 seeds fight for the title than see No. 3, 4, 8 and 11 seeds.

There is nothing wrong with wanting that, but how can you not like seeing VCU, a team that many didn't think should even be in the tournament, beat teams from five of the biggest conferences in the nation (the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big-12) in a row to reach the Final Four?

It can get boring seeing teams dominate all the time. Seeing a Goliath get defeated by a David harvests our inner sense of invincibility. I'm not saying VCU, Butler, Kentucky and UConn help make us better in our everyday lives, but they definitely give us hope that we can accomplish anything no matter how rough the road may be ... or maybe they're just entertaining to watch. Whichever you prefer.

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