March Madness Cinderella Predictions 2024

Last Updated: Mar 19, 2024

Come March, the term “Cinderella” takes on new life. While much of our sporting existence is spent searching for the truly elite teams, March Madness is a different beast entirely.

Each year, we collectively search for teams with higher seeds and a lack of clout capable of pulling off a magical run. And each year, through various forms, these Cinderella basketball teams find ways to engage the sport – and bettors, for that matter.

With a fresh 68-team field to pick apart, and be sure to print your March Madness bracket here.

The hunt for the next Cinderella is on. Here are some potential teams capable of making noise.

(Also, be sure to check out our March Madness Betting Guide before you submit your brackets and visit the window.)

2024 March Madness Cinderella Sleeper Schools

1. James Madison Dukes (12 Seed, South Region)

A small-ish dog against Wisconsin in the opening round, James Madison comes into the tournament having won 13 consecutive games. And with 31 wins already, the Dukes have proven to be one of the sport’s most success programs this year.

While a potential matchup with Houston looms, James Madison is more than capable of winning a handful of games. Led by guard Terrence Edwards Jr., this has the look and feel of a higher seed with staying power.

The Badgers better be ready. The oddsmakers clearly respect this program, as they should.

2. Drake Bulldogs (10 seed, East Region)

Considering the reality that Drake is a small favorite in its opening game against Washington State—which is a nightmare matchup for the Cougars—perhaps the Cinderella qualifier is being tossed around too freely.

Still, a 10-seed is a 10-seed, even if many believe that this team might be capable of much more. Guard Tucker DeVries is an absolute star, and it would not be shocking to see him truly breakout this month.

Besides him, Drake is balanced, good with the basketball and a great deal of fun to watch. The competition will be stiff with a potential matchup with Iowa State looming, although this is not a team many want to play.

BET: Drake to Reach Sweet 16 (+650) | DraftKings Sportsbook

3. McNeese State Cowboys (12 seed, Midwest Region)

It seems fitting that McNeese finds its way on this list taking on Gonzaga, a former Cinderella that has since become a perennial basketball force.

This year, however, Gonzaga has been a smidge off, and McNeese could catapult its Cinderella bid forward with a round-one win.

The Cowboys are one of the best defensive teams in college basketball, have a star in Shahada Wells, and have essentially lost one game since Thanksgiving.

Get by the Zags, and McNeese could get Kansas. In most years, that assignment would sound monumental. But this is just the right year for a potential long run.

BET: McNeese to Reach Sweet 16 (+550) | DraftKings Sportsbook

4. New Mexico Lobos (11 seed, West Region)

As was the case with Drake, the seeding can be somewhat misleading in this instance.

In fact, this 11-seed is favored over Clemson in its round-one game, which speaks volumes as to what the expectations are.

Playing in the Mountain West this past season, the Lobos had a handful of losses down the stretch. The conference played a big part in that, and the seasoning that came from playing such a challenging schedule could be beneficial in the coming days and weeks.

The path is difficult, but it could be worse. Baylor and Arizona, two very capable teams in the West, are likely not looking forward to a potential matchup here.

BET: New Mexico to Reach Sweet 16 (+280) | DraftKings Sportsbook

5. Grand Canyon Lopes (12 seed, West Region)

From the 11-seed to the 12-seed, the West has a chance to be wild.

We stay out West, and we turn our focus to Grand Canyon. Winners of 29 games this past season, the Lopes are just a moderate underdog against Saint Mary’s in the opening round.

There’s a buzz building around this team, which is always scary. The name, the seed and the opportunity make this one a popular Cinderella selection. Still, looking at the bracket, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Lopes could win at least two games.

After Saint Mary’s, it seems likely that Grand Canyon could draw Alabama. From there, well, we’ll see.

More NCAA Tournament Cinderellas To Consider

Samford Bulldogs (13 seed, Midwest Region)

Getting by Kansas in the opener won’t be easy. It also wouldn’t be completely shocking to see.

UAB Blazers (12 seed, East Region)

Given the way San Diego State played last March, knocking off a former Cinderella won’t be easy. Still, this is a team more than capable of grabbing the baton.

Morehead State Eagles (14 seed, East Region)

A 14 seed will have to work some magic, but we’ve seen it done before. A win over Illinois would certainly be the ultimate Cinderella moment.

What is a March Madness Cinderella Team?

A Cinderella is one of the greatest gifts in all of sports.

Specifically, it’s when a lower-seeded team, one not expected to win a single game, makes a deep run through the March Madness bracket. While the definition of a Cinderella ultimately depends on the evaluator, typically this is a team at an 8-seed or below.

Just last year, we saw No. 15 Saint Peter’s make a run to the Elite 8. It’s one of the greatest Cinderella runs ever, and it will be difficult for any team to duplicate this magic this year.

But you never know…

How do you pick a March Madness Cinderella Team?

Pick Your Spots

It’s not just about finding the right team; it’s finding the right opponent and placement in a region to produce success. In a weird but somehow fitting way, it starts with the opportunity more than the actual team.

Cram for the Exam

Let me guess; you didn’t watch much of Furman basketball over the last few months. That’s perfectly fine and normal! This is the time to do enough stat-diving and result analysis to be dangerous. Find your angle and latch on.

Scout the Odds

This, more than anything, is how I spot Cinderella. I let the oddsmakers do it for me. While a big spread doesn’t always guarantee losses, letting the best experts in the world have their say before filling out a bracket is key. Spot the line you like and act.


Adam Kramer

Adam Kramer is an NFL, college football, and gambling analyst for The Game Day. While college football has long been his calling, he’s also covered sports such as boxing, horse racing, and baseball at The Game Day and in other places. He’s also written for Bleacher Report, VSiN, and various other outlets over the past decade-plus.

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