The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Most Chaotic Tournament in Sports

Men’s March Madness is fueled by a litany of upsets, underdogs, and Cinderella Stories, but which new team will capture America’s heart this year?
Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports
Villanova Wildcats forward Kris Jenkins hit the Game Winner against North Carolina in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Championship

As March begins, basketball fans around the universe are gearing up for the most exhilarating month of basketball. March Madness is an infamous annual collegiate basketball tournament, where 68 of the top teams put their bodies on the line to compete for one of the most prestigious trophies in college sports, and where a single loss will end their seasons and send them home. The tournament is defined by the millions of bracket predictions by fans, the miraculous buzzer-beaters, and, of course, the improbable upsets.

Last year’s March Madness was one for the ages. The entire tournament was full of parity, and for the first time in years, there wasn’t a single blue-blood (powerhouse) school in the Final Four. 

The tournament commenced with a chaotic first weekend, as we witnessed one of the greatest college upsets of all time with the Number 1 ranked team, Purdue, losing to the 16th seed in Fairleigh Dickinson University. However, as the tournament progressed, we saw a clear favorite emerge—UConn. With an average margin of victory of 20.6 points, they were able to breeze through the tournament, winning it all in the end. Although Uconn did end up coming out on top, their dominance was not the biggest headline of the tournament. That title would be granted to one of the most memorable underdog runs in recent NCAA history. 

Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies players celebrate after defeating the San Diego State Aztecs in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY (Troy Taorima-USA_TODAY_Sports_via_Reuters_Con)

Florida Atlantic University’s Final Four run was a classic Cinderella story. A small, unknown school in South Florida that had seen no prior NCAA success, FAU was granted a 9 seed for the tournament. Due to its low rank, many picked them to get bounced in the first round. However, FAU was able to defy its expectations, making it to the Final Four where they narrowly lost the semi-final to San Diego State.

As shown by FAU last year and Saint Peter’s the year before, March Madness has followed the historic trend of chaotic upsets and thrilling Cinderella runs with its unpredictable, single elimination format. 

FDU achieved a historic feat last year against Purdue, becoming one of the few teams ever to upset the one seed in round one. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

But what makes a Cinderella story anyways? Well to put it simply, Cinderellas are instances where a team achieves far greater success than what was expected of them prior to the tournament, given their seeding and previous performances. These Cinderella teams can be split into high-major teams and mid-major teams, with the former playing in a stronger conference with tougher opponents.

For high-major teams, the key to success is offensive efficiency, which is calculated by a website named KenPom. In fact, 4 out of the 5 high-major Cinderella teams in the past 3 tournaments had an offensive efficiency rank better than 40th. For mid-major teams, the competition is not as tough, so the players mature and grow not through the quality of their opponent, but through the quantity of games played and their years of experience. 

All Cinderella runs are also fueled by significantly beating opponents in three-point shooting, rebounding, and turnovers. Of course, a team also needs to have intangibles and a knack for  performing well under pressure and having self-confidence.  

Due to the unpredictability of March Madness, it is almost impossible to fully predict the tournament. However, there are some teams with the clear-cut potential to be Cinderella teams, such as Northwestern. Northwestern is a high-major team with impressive wins over top-10 teams Purdue and Illinois. As of early February, they are top 10 in three-point shooting percentage, top 15 in turnover difference, and 31st in offensive efficiency. Additionally, star senior Boo Buie has shown the ability to take over any game, which is reminiscent of how Max Abmas carried Oral Roberts to their 2021 Cinderella run.

Another school with the potential for a Cinderella performance this year is Colgate university. Colgate has been a popular Cinderella pick for the past few years, however, they have yet to make a deep run up to now. While their efficiency rate has not been great this season, they have had an effective recipe for success up to this point, with a top 30 3PT offense and a top 50 3PT defense in Division 1 basketball. Furthermore, Senior guard Ryan Moffatt heads a very dangerous two-headed monster in the backcourt that can light it up from 3PT range, a key similarity between some of the major Cinderella teams we have seen in recent years.

Northwestern playing Penn State

Ultimately, with various underdogs in the mix for this year’s March Madness, the tournament is expected to be another thriller filled with chaotic upsets, historic runs, and competitive matchups. And now as the annual March Madness tournament is set to take stage again in the upcoming weeks, it all begs the question: Which team will serve as this year’s Cinderella story?