The NCAA basketball tournament is unlike any other in sports – a one-and-done white knuckle ride to a national championship that results in the kind of democratic process rarely seen in the sports arena. In a best-of-7 series, the better team usually finds a way to win, either through sheer talent or home-field advantage. In a single-elimination showdown played on a neutral floor, anything is possible. That's why the underdogs make this tournament so compelling.
"Cinderella stories are what you remember from a tournament," says Rob Dauster, lead writer for NBC Sports' College Basketball Talk. "The upsets – cheering for an underdog – are always exciting and fun, and correctly picking an upset in your bracket is what the NCAA tournament is all about. But the story behind the Cinderella is what makes those upsets memorable." While we wait for the first 16 seed to spring the ultimate upset, here are the 13 teams who have etched their names in the annals of March Madness by bucking the odds.
George Mason, 2006
An unexpected at-large selection that was panned by tournament experts, the No. 11 Patriots became only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four and the first "mid-major" team to accomplish the feat. The balanced Patriots, led by verbose coach Jim Larranaga, knocked out Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and UConn to reach college basketball's biggest stage.
Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images