When you go to the movies to see a sports film, there is usually one consistent theme: the thing that is not supposed to happen, happens. Sometimes it’s a scrappy bunch of misfits, like in The Mighty Ducks or Major League that manages to win the big game. Other times, it’s the lone hero who never gives up and makes their dream come true, like Rudy or Rocky, the latter of whom got a real statue. Yes, America loves its underdogs.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the NCAA’s annual March Madness tournament, where there’s essentially one fan-rule: Unless your team is in the game, root for the lower seed. If you’ve ever watched a game, you will know that every basket for the little guy is met with thunderous cheers, and every bracket-busting upset is met with national attention.
Here we’ll take a look back at the five best Cinderella stories of the past 20 years. There are certain parameters a team must meet to legitimately qualify as a Cinderella. First, the team has to make it to at least the Sweet Sixteen. One upset is a fluke. Two or more and you have a run worth consideration. Second, the team cannot have been favored in any of its games. After all, they aren’t much of an underdog if they are favored to win.
With that, starting from the oldest, here is the list.