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.
Texas Western, 1966
That an unheralded independent school from El Paso unknown to most fans took down mighty Kentucky in the national championship game was one thing. The other, and more important facet of this Cinderella story, was that it marked a sea-change in the way basketball was played. For the first time, a school started five black players in the title game, shattering long-held myths about the number of white players needed on the court – and the Miners' disciplined defense under coach Don Haskins carried them to a 72-65 triumph over Adolph Rupp's Wildcats, which featured future Lakers coach Pat Riley.