The most magical part of March Madness is the Cinderella story.
In the five NCAA Tournaments between 2009 and 2013, these five Cinderellas provided the most magic in their unexpectedly enchanted runs through the tourney.
#5 – Marquette, 2011
Marquette entered the 2011 tournament as a No. 11 seed after going 20-14 in the regular season and 9-9 in conference play. The Golden Eagles upset No. 6 seed Xavier in the first round, then toppled No. 3 seed Syracuse 66-62 to advance to the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 2 seed UNC.
#4 – Cornell, 2010
Known more for being “students” than “athletes”, No. 12 seed Cornell was a heavy underdog against No. 5 seed Temple in 2011, but Cornell won convincingly in the first round with a 78-65 victory. In the second round the Ivy Leaguers shocked No. 4 seed Wisconsin in an 87-69 blowout. The magic ended for Cornell in the Sweet 16, losing 62-45 to No. 1 seed Kentucky.
#3 – Florida Gulf Coast, 2013
Before the 2013 Tournament, Florida Gulf Coast sounded more like a made-up school on CSI: Miami than a legitimate bracket buster. The 15-seed Eagles seemingly stood no chance against No. 2 seed Georgetown in their first round matchup, but FGCU used a 21-2 second half run to pull away and secure a shocking 78-68 victory. The FGCU magic continued in the second round as they flew past No. 7 San Diego State. Florida Gulf Coast ultimately lost to Florida in the Sweet 16, ending their magical run.
#2 – Wichita State, 2013
The aptly named Shockers entered as a No. 9 seed and beat No. 8 Pittsburgh in the first round then stunned No. 1 seed Gonzaga. In the Sweet 16 the Shockers beat another Cinderella team, No. 13 seed La Salle, before defeating No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Elite Eight. Wichita State lost to No. 1 seed Louisville in the final moments of a 72-68 classic in the Final Four.
#1 – Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011
In a run for the ages, No. 11 seed VCU defeated No. 6 seed Georgetown in the first round then upset No. 3 seed Purdue in the second round. In the Sweet 16 VCU defeated No. 10 seed Florida State to face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Elite Eight. The Rams beat the Jayhawks 71-61 to advance to the Final Four where they fell to No. 8 seed Butler.
Cinderella stories make March Madness magical.
And these five schools – Marquette, Cornell, FGCU, Wichita State, and VCU – are the most recent examples of the magic that can happen in the NCAA Tournament.