Every edition of the NCAA Tournament seems to have at least a couple Cinderella stories, and 2023 is no exception. A 15 seed, a 9 and an 8 are among the remaining teams heading into the Sweet 16. Could any of those three Cinderellas keep riding the magic all the way to the Final Four, or will the clock strike midnight on them?
Princeton is the only double-digit seed left in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, but the Tigers haven’t played like a 15 seed. After a four-point win over South region No. 2 seed Arizona in the first round, Princeton blew out Missouri by 15 in the second round.
Up next for the Ivy League champs will be No. 6 seed Creighton. That game looks winnable for this underdog Princeton team, but a potential Elite Eight date with No. 1 overall seed Alabama will make it tough for the Tigers to avoid turning into pumpkins before the Final Four.
The second-highest remaining seed is East region No. 9 Florida Atlantic, whose ongoing run has been aided by another Cinderella story that has unfortunately come to an end.
Farleigh Dickinson had to beat Texas Southern in the First Four to get into the first round, then shocked the world by knocking out No. 1 seed Purdue 63-58 to become just the second No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history.
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Farleigh Dickinson’s historic upset helped pave the way for Florida Atlantic’s run to the Sweet 16. After surviving a 66-65 battle against Memphis in the first round, FAU won the second round Cinderella showdown against FDU 78-70.
Fau Just Keeps Winning
In addition to No. 1 seed Purdue, the East region has also lost No. 2 seed Marquette, so FAU’s potential path to the Final Four will go through No. 4 seed Tennessee followed by either No. 3 seed Kansas State or No. 7 seed Michigan State.
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Florida Atlantic has done nothing but win all season, with a remarkable 33-3 record heading into Thursday’s Sweet 16 game against the Volunteers. In its two NCAA Tournament games alone, FAU has demonstrated the ability to win in different ways, which could be a harbinger of further success to come.
After getting a balanced scoring effort against Memphis with four players in double digits, Florida Atlantic rode a spectacular 29-point, 12-rebound effort from leading scorer Johnell Davis to get past Farleigh Dickinson.
The third-highest remaining seed is No. 8 Arkansas. The Razorbacks upset No. 1 seed Kansas 72-71 in the second round after beating Illinois 73-63 in the first round. While Arkansas has certainly earned its spot in the Sweet 16, things are unlikely to get any easier in a West region that has gone according to the chalk outside of Arkansas.
Up next for Arkansas is a UConn team that defeated each of its first two opponents by at least 14 points. Should the Razorbacks pull off another upset against the No. 4 seed, they would face either No. 2 UCLA or No. 3 Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.
That tough on-paper matchup would be made even more difficult by the game being played in Vegas, as the California-based UCLA or Washington-based Gonzaga teams would have a much more comfortable commute to that West Coast venue compared to Arkansas.
Owls Might Keep Their Slippers
Of the three Cinderellas, FAU is best positioned to keep shocking the world when March Madness resumes based on the remaining competition in its region. The Owls are in the NCAA tournament for only the second time in school history. They lost in the first round to Alabama back in 2002, but Florida Atlantic could get a chance at revenge against the Crimson Tide in the Final Four if things break right.
Princeton and Farleigh Dickinson provided the two most shocking results we have seen thus far, and the former was impressively able to back up its first round upset with another victory. Making the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967 is an impressive accomplishment for this Princeton team, but the Tigers will face an even steeper uphill battle moving forward.
They are the fourth No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16, with all four occurrences happening in the past decade. The previous three such teams posted a 1-3 record from the Sweet 16 onward, and no No. 15 seed has ever made it to the Final Four.
Arkansas isn’t your typical Cinderella story since the Razorbacks play in one of the six major Conferences, but few expected a team that tied for ninth in the SEC with an 8-10 Conference record to still be playing. While Arkansas has a tough road ahead, the team has already defied the odds to get within one game of a third consecutive trip to the Elite Eight.
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