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Renwick Review

March Madness Magic: 5 Inspirational Stories of an Underdog Winning it All

Iconic times in March Madness history where an unfavored team advanced much further than anyone believed they could

In this article you’ll find a collection of captivating underdog tales that have taken place during the NCAA’s annual college basketball tournament known as “March Madness”. From incredible upsets to some of the most inspiring comebacks, these Cinderella stories have made their mark on the history of the tournament forever. Come with us as we review some of basketball’s greatest surprises and the remarkable journeys of teams and players that went up against all odds for a chance at the National Championship.

1. Villanova 1985

Villanova winning the national title on April 1, 1985 is often considered the biggest upset in NCAA men’s basketball history. The team was ranked as the eighth seed at the time of their win, making them the lowest seed to¬† win the championship in March Madness history. Their victory took everyone by surprise as they weren’t expected to make it to the final four, much less the championship game. Yet they still managed to defeat Georgetown, who were ranked as the No. 1 overall seed, and who they’d lost to twice in the season already. At the beginning of the game, Rollie Mossimino, Villanova’s head coach, told his team they’d need to play a “perfect game” to win. So that’s exactly what they did. They shot very efficiently and played impressive defense. This helped them scrape together a win with the final score being 66-64.

2. George Mason 2006

While George Mason didn’t make it to the championship game, their story is noteworthy nonetheless. Ranked as the 11th seed, George Mason started the tournament with a 75-65 win against Michigan State, who had managed to make it to the Final Four the prior year. Their next stunning win was against North Carolina who were the No.3 seed as well as the reigning champs. George Mason defeated them with a score of 65-60. Their next game was a Sweet 16 match up against No. 7 seed Wichita State. They beat the Shockers in Washington, D.C. 63-55. However, the biggest shock of George Mason’s 2006 run was their win over the overall No. 1 seed Connecticut. Connecticut had a team full of raw talent with five players in the league’s top 40 selections, coached by Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun. No one thought George Mason was going to beat them, but the Patriots pulled through with an overtime win of 86-84 that advanced them to the Final Four. Their amazing effort in that 2006 season brought their school national attention, and put them on the map forever.

3. Kansas 1988

The Jayhawks 1988 national title was an unpredictable one. They started the season by losing five of their first six Big 8 games and entered the March Madness tournament ranked as a No. 6 seed. However, KU had came to win which they showed the world by defeating the K-State Wildcats 71-58 even though KU had already lost twice to them that season. They then pulled off a stunning victory by beating Duke, a No.2 seed, 66-59. This then took them to the National Championship game where they played Oklahoma. The Sooners had already had two wins over the Jayhawks that season and KU was going into the game as eight point underdogs. Obviously, they were not expected to take down the No. 1 seed. Danny Manning, who was National Player of the Year, won the game for the Jayhawks by sinking both of his freethrows with five seconds left in the game. This put the Jayhawks ahead with a final score of 83-79. This game earned Danny and his other starters the nickname “Danny and the Miracles”.

4. North Carolina State 1983

Five years before KU won the NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, North Carolina State did the same thing. Jim Valavano’s third NC State team went against all odds to take home a title in 1983. North Carolina State had looked like a promising team that year. Especially senior Dereck Whittenburg who scored 27 first-half points against Virginia. However, the Wolfpack’s luck changed when Whittenburg broke his right foot in the second half of the game. They lost to the Cavaliers for the sixth time in a row, and one of their best starters was set to be out for the rest of the season. NC State did not back down. They pulled it together and started winning their games. Before the big tournament, Whittenburg, who had healed more quickly than anticipated, was cleared to return. After lots of very close, last-minute wins, NC State had made it to the championship. As a No. 6 seed up against the No. 1 overall seed Houston, the Wolfpack needed a miracle. The game was tied 52-52 with less than two minutes left on the clock. As the clock ticked away, the Pack fought to keep the ball. At an attempt to get a lead, Whiitenburg took a 30 foot shot that came up short. The miracle the Wolfpack was looking for came in the form of Lorenzo Charles grabbing the rebound and slamming it in just as time ran out to win NC State the title with a final score of 54-52.

5. Butler 2010-2011

Butler’s legendary 2-year run is a memorable one, especially coming from a school of barely 4,000. While they didn’t win the National Championship title either year, they were the runners-up 2 years in a row. This is an incredible feat, especially considering the fact that they were ranked as a No. 5 seed in 2010, and a No.8 seed in 2011. Even with everyone doubting that they could advance in the March Madness tournament, they made it to the final game both years. Butler even played a close game against Duke in 2010 with an ending score of 61-59. Their story is truly inspirational for smaller schools all around the country.

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About the Contributor
Gretchen Raple
This is my first year at Renwick Review. I am a freshman at Andale High School. I am involved in girl's golf in the fall and track in the spring. I'm also in several clubs and other activities at Andale. My favorite sports team is KU. One thing I like about Renwick is the size. Since it's a small district it is easier to get to know people around school. Someone that inspires me is Kanye West because he grew up really poor but he didn't let it define his life and now he is a millionaire.
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