In a year with so few absolutes, it seems like a forgone conclusion that March Madness will be ripe with Cinderellas.
While that might seem like the given, the next part is where things become a challenge.
What teams will wear the slipper this year?
While there’s not a definitive outline for identifying a Cinderella, here’s mine:
- They must be ranked as a 7-seed or higher.
- They cannot be a major program in a Power Five conference.
- They must pass the Cinderella smell test.
As for teams that could possibly make a run through the bracket, here are my Top 5 March Madness Cinderellas for 2022.
March Madness Cinderellas 2022
1. Loyola Chicago (No. 10 Seed, South Region)
The role of Cinderella suits Loyola Chicago. In 2018, the Ramblers ripped off a slew of dramatic wins to reach the Final Four.
It has a new coach, although Drew Valentine has proven to be plenty up for the challenge. And as a 10-seed in the South, Loyola is well-positioned.
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The Ramblers open with Ohio State—a team it can absolutely beat. They would then likely take on Villanova, which is a 2-seed it is capable of handling.
Loyola hung tough with Auburn and Michigan State this season. For a long run, the Ramblers will have to do more than that. As we’ve seen in the past, however, the pedigree is there to do it.
2. South Dakota State (No. 13 seed, Midwest Region)
The first of two 30-win Cinderellas will be a popular upset pick in its first game, and the oddsmakers don’t disagree with the notion.
South Dakota State drew No. 4 Providence, and they’re a small underdog in that matchup.
I can tell you right now, I’ll have this upset pegged on my bracket. So will many of you.
- Print your 2022 March Madness bracket.
A win here, and the storybook run could be off and running. Playing Iowa as a potential second opponent doesn’t exactly make Step 2 easy, but nothing will be easy for a 13-seed when it comes to bracket busting.
This offense can destroy scoreboards if the three-point shooting is on, which often is. Plus, like Loyola, we’ve seen the Jackrabbits push teams in March in the past.
3. Murray State (No. 7 Seed, East Region)
They’ve won 30 games and lost two. Let’s start there. Oh, and the last loss came to Auburn, and it occurred in late December.
A near-perfect season was enough to earn Murray State a 7-seed. That’s the good news. The issue with a potential Racers run really lies in the first two games.
March Madness Region Predictions
Murray State plays San Francisco to start, which is no slouch. (More on them in a moment.) Then it will likely take on No. 2 Kentucky.
Is that enough to potentially punt on this team as a Cinderella? Not for me. They can score, they know how to win and they’ve seen what greatness in CBB looks like.
Let’s see how it all translates.
4. San Francisco (No. 10 seed, East Region)
Speaking of San Francisco, here are the Dons.
I know, I know. I’m cheating ever so slightly. Either Murray State or San Francisco will nab one win out of the East Region. (I really wish both teams were playing other opponents because both are plenty capable.)
The case for San Francisco, however, starts with Jamaree Bouyea, the team’s leading scorer. While the production has been spread around, Bouyea is certainly the focal point.
Another plus for this potential Cinderella is that they have seen basketball brilliance up close. The Dons played Gonzaga three times this year, and the matchups were competitive into the second half. While they didn’t win any of those games, that experience could be plenty helpful against a team like Kentucky if they make it that far.
5. UAB (No. 12 Seed, South Region)
The Blazers closed the year hot, winning seven games to end the season en route to a Conference USA Championship.
They are led by Jordan Walker, who averaged 20.4 points per game this year. If Walker plays up to his potential, UAB could push No. 4 Houston in the opening game. The Cougars are a single-digit favorite in a game that could be closer than many expect.
After that, UAB will have to likely take out Illinois—if both teams get that far. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
In the moment, the Blazers have a true scorer, a ton of momentum and genuine hope.
More Cinderella Teams To Watch
- (6) Colorado State (South)
- (10) Davidson (West)
- (13) Chattanooga (South)