NCAA basketball has seen some incredible Cinderella stories recently, the latest being Loyola-Chicago. Which mid-majors are ready to make a run in 2018-19?
Cinderellas are what make March Madness. In the past, these magical runs have lasted maybe to the second weekend but rarely further. However, for the last 10 years, that glass slipper has fit for more than one dance. Like the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers last season, Cinderellas are getting closer and closer to notching a national championship.
In 2006, George Mason was the first mid-major of the modern era to crash the Final Four party. Then in 2010, Butler made it to the last dance, falling in the National Championship game. The Bulldogs repeated the feat in 2011 and were joined at the Final Four by First Four participant, Virginia Commonwealth. Wichita State then landed in the Final Four in 2013 and this last year the former conference mate of WSU, Loyola-Chicago, made an improbable run to the last four standing.
The question now is: How did the Ramblers make their run? They did have a little bit of tournament luck as the top two seeds of their region were upset (including No. 1 seed Virginia by No. 16 Albany) early and after defeating No. 3 Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago dispatched No. 7 Nevada and No. 9 Kansas State on their way to San Antonio. They also had the quintessential traits of a successful team in March. Most notably, they were efficient. The Ramblers were 17th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com and third in the country in field goal percentage. They also got fantastic guard play from high school teammates turned collegiate stars Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer as well as junior Marques Townes.
The question now becomes, who will be the next mid-major to reach the Final Four? Here are three teams that could have what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Loyola-Chicago.
The first is one of the teams the Ramblers beat en route to San Antonio, the Nevada Wolfpack.