Last Modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 9:40 AM
Now that all the brackets have been busted, it’s time to see just who deserves to wear the glass slipper.
Calling a team this year’s Cinderella is easy, but finding a truly deserving princess at this year’s ball is much tougher.
It seems for most of the real underdogs, midnight struck last weekend, leaving us with only powerhouses to cheer for.
When today’s Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament tip off, few real surprises will take to the courts.
Of the 16 teams that remain, 11 will have been seeded in the top four within their region. That means only a total of five clubs not expected to make the fourth round are still alive.
A closer look reveals even more of the rich getting richer.
Four of those five are from power conferences.
Stanford might be a 10 seed and Tennessee an 11, but both played against the big boys all season long, winning their share of games along the way. Can’t really call them Cinderellas.
They would be better known as clubs that underachieved during the regular season.
Tennessee even needed one of those play-in games just to make the round of 64. That might make this run unexpected, but no fairy tale.
Same can be said of Baylor, which played in what was considered the best conference in the country this year, the Big 12. And Baylor is a six seed anyway, giving the Bears’ only one upset win, and that was over Creighton, hardly a traditional power.
UConn would be a good choice had it not been a national champion a few times in recent years. The Huskies had a quiet season by their standards, but that hardly makes them worthy of special consideration.
That leaves us with just one possible choice: Dayton.
On paper, the Flyers look like a winner.
A double-digit seed that was one of the last teams to make the tournament, Dayton even has that cool mascot with a cape.
Nothing goes better with Cinderella than a man wearing a cape at the big dance.
Dayton also has no football tradition to really speak of, making this the perfect basketball story.
The Flyers are Butler with better history.
Ah, but even Dayton lets us down when you take a real good look at its season.
The Flyers come out of the Atlantic 10, which is a pretty good conference for those who don’t follow college basketball that closely.
Truth is, the Atlantic 10 had just as many teams make the tournament as bigger leagues like the ACC and Big Ten, both of which have far more than 10 teams to choose from.
You might remember that when you heard the A-10, as it is better known, was going to get as many teams if not more that his own ACC, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski whined about how much better his league really was.
Turns out Coach K was crying for nothing. His basketball-rich league has just as many teams left in the tournament as the A-10 — 1.
Maybe Krzyzewski should have been more concerned just how good the Atlantic Sun Conference was since its champ, Mercer, knocked off his Blue Devils.
Had the Mercer Bears gone on and won their next game, then we would really have something going. Last year the Atlantic Sun’s Florida Gulf Coast earned the right to be called Cinderella, but at first light its coach left for a job in one of those big conferences days after his team’s run was done.
While we may love the underdog story, or the little guy knocking off the big boy, when it comes to college basketball we have to look long and hard to find a true Cinderella.
Fitting into the glass sneakers is never an easy trick.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org