Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Top 25 NCAA Tournament cinderellas since 2000

George Mason Patriots. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
George Mason Patriots. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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Missouri Tigers
Missouri Tigers. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

25) 2002 Missouri Tigers, No. 12-seed

Record: 24-12, Elite Eight
Beat: (5) Miami Hurricanes, (4) Ohio State Buckeyes, (8) UCLA Bruins

The Missouri Tigers started off the 2001-02 basketball season 9-0 and were ranked No. 2 in the country. They looked like a team that could compete for a national title, not one that would be considered a Cinderella by the end of the year.

But after that nine-game winning streak to start the season, they would lose their next three. Missouri would recover to get themselves to 15-5 before alternating wins for almost the rest of the regular season.

The Tigers would finish 9-7 in the Big 12 conference standings for a sixth-place finish. They would lose in the second round of the conference tournament to the Texas Longhorns to finish with a 21-11 record heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Earning a No. 12-seed, Missouri went from a top-five team to barely make the The Big Dane. To say the Tigers weren’t expected to do much in the tournament was an understatement.

Led by Kareem Rush, the Tigers made a run in the tournament that few expected. The talent was there, but with the way they had played, it was a surprise they made it to the Elite Eight.

They would win their first two games rather easily beating the Miami Hurricanes by 13 and the Ohio State Buckeyes by 16. Facing the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16 got tighter finish for Missouri, but the Tigers still beat them by nine.

Hollis Price and the No. 2-seed Oklahoma Sooners would stop Missouri’s run 81-75 in the regional final. Rickey Paulding would lead the Tigers in scoring with 22 and Rush added 18, but no other player scored in double figures. The Tigers could not overcome the lack of help for their top two scorers.

Rush would average just under 18 points per game for the tournament to help lead the Tigers to the heights they thought they could reach before the season started. They may have started the season with lofty goals, but by the time the season ended, they were a surprise cinderella team.