Since 1980, when Bill Murray’s ‘Carl Spackler’ helped popularize the concept of the Cinderella sports story, the NCAA tournament has become the ideal stage for unheralded teams to shine. Three years after Caddyshack was released, the tourney featured its first Cinderella team of the ESPN-era, Jimmy V’s North Carolina State Wolfpack, who claimed the title as a sixth-seed. Since then, every analyst, couch expert and casual fan eagerly awaits Selection Sunday to study the field of teams, fill out their bracket and ultimately identify their prospective Cinderellas.
However, the story of Cinderella features a terrific range of colorful characters that are overlooked during the madness of every March. Once again we’ve dug deeper into both the fairy tale and the bracket to match the main players of the Cinderella story with teams for the 2013 tournament.
Cinderella played by the Valparasio Crusaders & Ole Miss Rebels (North Dakota State Jackrabbits and Wichita State Shockers as understudies).
Butler (6th seed East) and VCU (5th seed South) are the sexy picks, but that’s because they’ve already been fawned over as recent Cinderellas at the Big Dance. They are more like established princesses now, not unexpected beauties in waiting.
Valparasio were once Cinderellas in their run to the Sweet Sixteen back in 1998, their best result at the tourney in school history. They now return to the dance for the first time since 2004 after claiming the Horizon League championship. Their coach Bryce Drew was the hero of the 1998 team after he sunk Ole Miss on a miracle buzzer-beating three in the opening round. This year as the 14th seed in the Midwest quarter Valpo drew 3rd seed Michigan State in their opener and would potentially face the Wicked Stepmother Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.
Ole Miss (12th seed West) may have already had their Cinderella moment during the SEC tournament when little used backup guard Derrick Millinghaus propelled the Rebels past Missouri in the quarterfinal. Ole Miss went on to claim the conference championship and punched their ticket to the dance as their fiery gunslinger Marshall Henderson mockingly ‘Gator Chomped’ at the Florida team along the way. It’s going to be difficult for Ole Miss to be wholeheartedly adopted by the fans as a Cinderella unless Henderson undergoes a serious makeover. He’s currently one of the most hated players in college basketball, a brash, outspoken, hot-head, who’s also one of the most dangerous scorers in the field. If they can escape their opening game against Wisconsin, their half of the West region is favorable with either one of the 13th seed play-ins (Boise State & La Salle) capable of toppling Kansas State, while either Ugly Stepsister Gonzaga or understudy Cinderella Wichita State could be awaiting them.
Prince Charming played by the Kansas Jayhawks (Georgetown Hoyas as understudy).
Last year’s runner up was never ranked number one during the regular-season merry-go-round of top ranked teams and punched their ticket by claiming the Big-12 championship over arch rivals Kansas State. Their coach Bill Self jokingly said his team ‘was the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there’ after a disappointing road loss to Texas Christian. That loss was part of a three-game slide in early February, however they bounced back and won ten of their final 11 regular season games before sweeping through their conference tournament and earning the top seed in the South region.
The Jayhawks are led by a pair of well-rounded NBA-ready seniors in Jeff Withey and Travis Releford, while freshman sensation Ben Mclemore is a superstar in waiting. They’ll likely go up against established princess VCU or trendy Michigan (possible Pumpkin Carriage) in the Sweet Sixteen and would meet their understudy Georgetown led by Otto Porter in the Elite Eight if all goes to plan in the bottom half of the South region.
The Hoyas (2nd seed South) were also never ranked number one during the regular season and were nationally ranked fifth heading into the glamorous Big East Conference tournament. They were bounced by Syracuse in the semifinal, but still put together an impressive season without any seniors thanks to the do-it-all Porter, who was named the Big East Player of the Year.
Lady Tremaine (The Wicked Stepmother) played by the Indiana Hoosiers, Duke Blue Devils & Louisville Cardinals.
All three powerhouses were ranked number one throughout the regular season, but neither of them could keep a proper handle on the top spot. In the case of the Hoosiers, they’re back as top dogs after their program was crippled by NCAA sanctions resulting from the corruption of former coach Kelvin Sampson. Following a win against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, current Indiana coach Tom Crean lashed out at a former Hoosier assistant and current Wolverines staffer Jeff Meyer, who had worked under Sampson. Crean yelled at Meyer; ‘you know what you did, you helped wreck our program’. However, Crean has little to be mad about now that his program has been successfully rebuilt and boasts arguably the strongest lineup in the tourney. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have been sensational all season and were both named First-Team All-Big Ten, Oladipo was also voted the conference Defensive Player of the Year. Will Sheehey was named the conference Sixth Man of the Year and heady senior guard Jordan Hulls is also a weapon.
Duke is Duke, strong as ever with star players Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and they’re boosted by the timely return of Ryan Kelly from injury. Don’t let Coach K downplay the depth, experience and firepower of his squad just because they weren’t given a top seeding. They’re seeded second in the Midwest region along with overall number one Louisville, which poses a spectacular Elite Eight matchup between the two alphas. The Cardinals have the most dangerous backcourt in the entire field with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, but their hopes lie with how dominant big man Gorgui Dieng can be at both ends of the court.
Anastasia Tremaine (younger Ugly Stepsister) played by the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Entering the dance as a number one seed in the West region and top ranked team in the country out of the West Coast Conference, the Zags have plenty to prove. They are led by the Big Canuck from Kamloops, British Columbia Kelly Olynyk, a seven-footer that can pass, handle and knock down the long-ball. He hasn’t had a haircut in over a year after staying in the United States during his last off-season and missing his opportunity to get his usual cut at his local shop. He’s now vowed to cut his cultish shoulder-length locks if the Bulldogs reach the Final Four, which would be Gonzaga’s best result at the tourney. Their Elite Eight appearance in 1999 stands as their best showing thus far, while they were also Sweet Sixteeners in 2000, 2001, Adam Morrison’s 2006 team and 2009. In order to advance they’ll either meet the understudy Cinderella Wichita State Shockers or the Big East battle-tested Pittsburgh Panthers in the second round. Their half of the West bracket also boasts Cinderella Ole Miss and the combustible Marshall Henderson.
Drizella Tremaine (older Ugly Stepsister) played by the Miami Hurricanes.
Expectations are high for the Hurricanes (2nd seed East), they finished the regular season atop the ACC and backed it up by also claiming their first ACC tournament title. Along the way they knocked Duke of their perch with a 27-point win and flitred with the number one ranking. The Hurricanes have never been lucky in seven previous trips to the dance, their best result was a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2000. If they triumph in their half of the East region they would likely meet Wicked Stepmother Indiana in an Elite Eight showdown and if they can advance to the Final Four they could be facing off against Prince Charming Kansas.
The Pumpkin Carriage played by the Michigan Wolverines & Marquette Golden Eagles.
Michigan (4th seed South) were ranked number one in week 13 of the regular season, have three sons of NBA players on the roster and are led by the incredible Trey Burke, but they run into a firecracker in their opening game against Nate Wolters and the potential Cinderella South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The Wolverines look sharp and sexy entering the dance, however Wolters is capable of trumping them if he’s on his game. He put up massive digits in the Summit League to the tune of 22.7 points, 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game, stroking, sharing and boarding all season. He led the conference in points and assists, while shooting 39% from three-point land. Wolters and the Jackrabbits aren’t new to this either, they gave 3rd seed Baylor a scare in the opening round last year when they danced.
Marquette (3rd seed East) were ousted in the quarterfinal of Big East tournament and drew dangerous Davidson in the opening round. The regal horse-drawn carriage that is Marquette, could easily prematurely leave the dance looking more like a big ole dirty pumpkin.
Fairy Godmother played by Jim Valvano.
It’s been 30 years since his Wolfpack shocked the bracket to become first Cinderella team and 20 years since his stirring speech at ESPYs and passing, yet Jimmy V continues to move, motivate and inspire us.
19 Marzo 2013