Don't Let Butler and VCU Fool You: NCAA Tournament Cinderella Stories Are Rare

This year's NCAA men's basketball tournament has been notable for its upsets and its "Cinderella stories." Powerhouse Georgetown lost in the first round to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University—by nearly 20 points. Duke, last year's champion, fell in the Sweet Sixteen to fifth-seeded Arizona, by almost as wide a margin.

More remarkable than the giants who've fallen are the lesser-known teams that have advanced far into the tournament. After beating the Hoyas, VCU went all the way to the Final Four—making it one of the lowest-seeded teams in history to make it that far in the tournament. The team that beat VCU in the Final Four has had an even more impressive run: Butler University, an eighth seed, is about to make its second consecutive appearance in the championship game, this time against third-seeded University of Connecticut.

The success of both VCU and Butler this year, combined with Butler's strong performance last year, might leave tournament-watchers with the impression that "Cinderella stories"—low-seeded teams that advance further in the tournament than expected—are common. But despite these recent examples of low-seed advancement, stories like VCU's and Butler's are quite rare. Before this year, just two other eighth-seeded teams have made it to the championship game, and only two other 11th seeds had gotten as far as the Final Four.

Here, a look at the lowest seeds to reach each of the major rounds of the NCAA tournament:

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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