Everybody loves a good Cinderella story. Especially in sports it makes things very interesting for viewers and fans of the underdog. It's not so great for those who predict and offer college basketball picks, but hey, sometimes the unexpected happens. Sometimes the unexpected can lead to some of the greatest moments in sporting history. Here are our three favourite unexpected college basketball stories:
Loyola Marymount 1990
This story actually begins with a terrible tragedy. Loyola Marymount's star player Hank Gathers collapsed unexpectedly during a game in the WCC tournament. Even more tragic he died right there. The game was unsurprisingly stopped and the remaining games in the tournament were cancelled as a mark of respect.
The team had the league's best record during the regular season and as such received the auto-bid into the NCAA tournament. The Lions were seeded 11th for the tournament, but that didn't stop them reaching the Elite Eight with victories over New Mexico, Alabama and Michigan. They eventually lost to the Running Rebels from UNLV, but it was Loyola Marymount's story everyone was talking about. From tragedy to near greatness, they won the hearts of many fans.
NC State 1983
NC's Wolfpack were tough to watch for fans in 1983. They had a habit of waiting until the absolute death before winning games, having trailed right before the buzzer seven times in nine games. Fans dubbed them the "Cardiac Park" because of how nervous games made them.
As well as coming from behind at the death, the Wolfpack won several games by the narrowest of margins, but they were winning, and they got to the national title game against Houston Cougars after squeezing past the top seeded team, Virginia. Once again, the Wolfpack left it late and Lorenzo Charles popped up with a dunk in literally the last second of the game to take the victory.
Villanova were and still are pretty much the ultimate underdog in the sport of college basketball. They remain the lowest ever seed to win a national championship and were in fact an eight seed.
They might have played dirty at times and tried to use stalling tactics, but the Wildcats dug deep and had more grit and determination with the complacent teams they swept aside on their road to the title. Nobody expected them to put up such a fight and even as the world of sport sat up and began to take notice the momentum was still building, and no team was a match for them.
The Hoyas were the favorites in the final and had been among many people's college basketball picks that season, but they too were easily accounted for. Team spirit and self belief triumphed over what, on paper, was the better team.
In the first year that an NCAA tournament had 64 participants there was virtually nobody who predicted such an unprecedented victory and one of the greatest shocks ever within the sport of college basketball.