NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Cinderellas: Where Do They Come From?

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Cinderellas: Where Do They Come From?

Each year, one or more college basketball teams find their footing under the blinding lights of March Madness. That gives the nation a plucky underdog to root for amid the legal online sportsbooks fervor for the 68-team men’s NCAA Tournament.

Whether it was the Steph Curry-led Davidson Wildcats of 2008, who slayed Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin on the way to the school’s first Elite Eight berth in 39 years, or a Power Five team that was down on its luck such as Georgetown in 2001, Missouri in 2002 and countless others over the last two decade — March Madness rarely fails to deliver each spring.

With college basketball season heating up and the men’s NCAA Tournament fast approaching, many customers using legal sports betting apps are turning their attention to who will be this year’s Cinderella team. If history tells us anything, that team will come from one of the following states.

States With Most Double-Digit Seeds Reaching Sweet 16

StateDouble-Digit Seeds In Sweet 16
Ohio5
California4
New York4
Washington4
Illinois3
Florida3
Pennsylvania3
North Carolina3
Virginia3
New Jersey3
Oregon3
Wisconsin2

As far as this year’s tournament goes, DraftKings Sportsbook has Purdue and defending champion Connecticut as the national title co-favorites with +650 odds, followed by Houston (+950), Arizona (+1200) and Tennessee (+1200). Three of those five programs (Purdue, Houston and Tennessee) have never won a national title.

States With Most NCAA Tournament Cinderellas

Nationally, the bellwether states when it comes to March Madness Cinderella success are Ohio (five teams), then California, New York and Washington (four teams each). Several states have produced three each: North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon. New Jersey produced great Cinderella stories each of the past two years, both No. 15 seeds, as Saint Peter’s reached the Elite Eight in 2022 and Princeton got to the Sweet 16 last year.

The other state producing multiple double-digit seeds in the tournament’s second weekend is Wisconsin, with two, according to College Basketball Reference website data.

No team has been a double-digit seed and won a national title, but underdogs can still play out for their backers when they win it all. Last year, Connecticut was the No. 4 seed in the West Region and had +1600 odds at BetMGM Sportsbook to cut down the nets at the Final Four.

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How Far Did NCAA Tournament Cinderellas Advance?

Of the 51 double-digit seeded teams to reach the Sweet 16 since 2000, four (or 7.8%) have gone on to make the Final Four: George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola Chicago in 2018 and UCLA in 2021. Each were No. 11 seeds entering the tournament.

The lowest seed to reach the national title game since 2000 was No. 8 – Butler in 2011, Kentucky in 2014 and UNC in 2022. The lowest seed ever to reach an Elite Eight was No. 15 St. Peter’s, which did so in 2022 after beating No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue.

The lowest seed to ever win it all in college basketball was eighth seed Villanova in 1985, with the Wildcats upsetting Georgetown in the title game that season.

As for this year, if Ohio is to continue its trend of producing Cinderella stories, it might have to rely on bubble team Cincinnati (with +2800 to make the Final Four at FanDuel Sportsbook). Dayton is all but certain to make the Big Dance, but at 20-4 (10-2 in the Atlantic 10) the Flyers are probably headed for a single-digit seed.

Here is a complete list of all the teams seeded No. 10 or lower to reach the tournament’s second weekend since 2000.

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Every Double-digit Seed In Sweet 16 Since 2000

Seed/SchoolYearState
10/Seton Hall2000New Jersey
10/Gonzaga2000Washington
10/Georgetown2001Washington DC
11/Temple2001Pennsylvania
12/Gonzaga2001Washington
10/Kent State2002Ohio
11/Southern Illinois2002Illinois
12/Missouri2002Missouri
10/Auburn2003Alabama
12/Butler2003Indiana
10/Nevada2004Nevada
10/NC State2005North Carolina
12/Milwaukee2005Wisconsin
11/George Mason2006Virginia
13/Bradley2006Illinois
10/Davidson2008North Carolina
12/Villanova2008Pennsylvania
12/Western Kentucky2008Kentucky
12/Arizona2009Arizona
10/Saint Mary’s2010California
11/Washington2010Washington
12/Cornell2010New York
11/VCU2011Virginia
12/Richmond2011Virginia
10/Florida State2011Florida
12/Marquette2011Wisconsin
10/Xavier2012Ohio
11NC State2012North Carolina
13/Ohio2012Ohio
13/La Salle2013Pennsylvania
12/Oregon2013Oregon
15/Florida Gulf Coast2013Florida
10/Stanford2014California
11/Tennessee2014Tennessee
11/Dayton2014Ohio
11/UCLA2015California
11/Gonzaga2016Washington
10/Syracuse2016New York
11/Xavier2017Ohio
11/Loyola Chicago2018Illinois
11/Syracuse2018New York
12/Oregon2019Oregon
12/Oregon State2021Oregon
11/UCLA2021California
11/Syracuse2021New York
15/Oral Roberts2021Oklahoma
11/Michigan2022Michigan
11/Iowa State2022Iowa
10/Miami2022Florida
15/St. Peter’s2022New Jersey
15/Princeton2023New Jersey
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Author

Christopher Boan is a lead writer at USBettingReport.com specializing in covering sports betting issues. He has covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.