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March Madness gave us 6 Cinderellas this year. Here's why you should love all of them

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March Madness has brought us a bounty of upsets. Thank you,

Normally we're happy to get one team we can call a Cinderella, an underdog with a great story who goes on to win a shocking game and get their name inscribed in March lore.

This year, we got, like, six. The first round of the NCAA Tournament was the most ridiculous in recent memory. It's the first time 10 double-digit seeds have ever made it out of the first round. And it's not just double-digit seeds: We got a 13-seed, a 14-seed and a 15-seed still alive. We had buzzer-beaters, we had the most popular national title pick in the field eliminated. Everything is going bonkers.

It's easy to write a fairy tale about one Cinderella, it's harder when we have a whole gang of unbeloved stepsisters sprinting around with their slippers off. We're going to try to help. We predicted a few upsets, but nothing like this. But we're going to give you a primer on the six Cinderella stories of March Madness so you can figure out how to love each of them.

Middle Tennessee, the biggest underdogs

The Blue Raiders' win over Michigan State will go down in NCAA Tournament history. It's been called the biggest upset of all time, and it's not inaccurate. Worse teams than the Blue Raiders have won first-round games, but the Spartans were probably the biggest national title contender ever to lose this early. The Spartans were 18-point favorites and the most bet-upon national title selection.

I'd like to come in here and be a college basketball expert with an explanation, but quite frankly, there isn't one. MTSU had no good wins: Their previous best victory was a two-point win over UNC-Asheville, a 15-seed who got blown out in their 15-2 matchup by Villanova. And they had bad losses, going just 13-5 in a not-so-great Conference USA.

The three-point shot made this possible. The Blue Raiders specialized in it, shooting 39.4 percent from deep as a team, and are led by a man named "Giddy Potts," whose 50.3 percentage from beyond the arc is actually the best in college basketball. They hit 11-of-19 attempts. It's hard to beat a team that hits 11 threes on 19 attempts.

Their coach is a man named "Kermit Davis," an overwhelmingly humble guy who spent 10 years as head coach in Murfreesboro before anything good happened. After the game, Davis credited his poise in the moment to his team's biggest fan, his 28-year old daughter, Ally, who has Down syndrome. ("Thirty seconds before tip-off, I saw her more worried about getting something to eat ... It kind of puts a calmness to you.")

MTSU's win was a March Madness miracle. That's what we're here for.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

Even with the win, MTSU will be a major underdog against Syracuse. After all, they're a dang 15 seed.

But they've shown themselves as a great shooting team. Great shooters can sometimes beat a zone and Syracuse doesn't know how to do anything besides play a zone. If they get hot, anything remains possible.

Stephen F. Austin, the small conference destroyers

The two West Virginia players to the podium each explained that they simply hadn't taken Stephen F. Austin seriously.

I would advise every team to take Stephen F. Austin seriously. I have advised teams of this in the past, and I picked the Jacks to upset West Virginia, but apparently it bears repeating. They went 18-0 in conference this year, 17-1 last year and 18-0 the year before that. They won five conference games by single digits and 13 by 20 or more. They pulled an NCAA Tournament upset two years ago against VCU, and they did it again by forcing 22 turnovers against the Mountaineers, a team that's generally known for causing turnovers.

Revel in this team's randomness. Their mascot is the Lumberjack, and they have a real-life lumberjack with an ax on the sideline. They're led by Thomas Walkup, a 6'4 point guard/power forward hybrid who kinda looks exactly like the lumberjack. They're from Nacogdoches, Texas, where you probably haven't been even if you're from Texas. They play in the Southland Conference, perhaps the fourth best conference with "south" in its name (behind the SEC, SoCon and Big South)

But don't be surprised when they win. For some reason, people are still surprised when they win. Stop that. They'll ruin you, too.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

Notre Dame should genuinely be an underdog in this game. I'm not saying that as a joke or anything. Notre Dame is ranked 40th in Ken Pomeroy's ratings, generally the best predictor of college basketball games available. SFA is 25th. The formula predicts a 71-69 SFA win. Stephen F. Austin obliterated its competition for the last three months of the season. Notre Dame lost against teams like Georgia Tech and Florida State down the stretch.

The Irish will be a slightly tougher nut to crack, because they avoid turnovers. SFA's strength is making opponents give the ball up, and ND does on only 15.1 percent of their possessions, 15th in college basketball. But the Jacks are honestly a better team.

Hawai'i, the unflappable islanders

Hawai'i! The Rainbow Warriors! The hula hoopers! Man, it must be great to be the basketball players from the most perfect place on Earth, right?

Actually, being Hawai'i basketball is kinda difficult. There's the travel. The team tries to consolidate its schedule into homestays and road trips, but there's still a pair of extremely long flights to the mainland every other week or so. There's the recruiting troubles. Hawai'i doesn't have a ton of homegrown talent (President Barack Obama doesn't count) so coaches have to travel thousands of miles to watch players from other states (or countries) play. Then, they have to convince those players to play at a place where they can rarely visit home. There's the cash. Hawai'i's athletic department is one of the least financially sound in Division I sports, thanks to the high costs of island living and travel.

And then there's the mess left by the Bows' last coach, Gib Arnold, who left in a blaze of scandal. The NCAA imposed scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban for next year, and with this hanging over their heads, Hawai'i had to hire a new coach.

Eran Ganot was probably crazy for making this his first full-time job, with a reduced roster and no hope of dancing in Year 2. But led by Mizzou transfer Stefan Jankovic, the Bows he went dancing in Year 1, and then earned the school's first NCAA game ever.

There is every reason for Ganot and the Rainbow Warriors to be unsuccessful, and yet here they are succeeding. Plus, they're from Hawai'i, which is fun and neat.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

I'm cautiously optimistic. I picked Hawai'i to beat Cal, but that had a lot to do with the matchup, and I don't think 5-seed Maryland is a great matchup for Hawai'i. Diamond Stone is athletic enough to shut down Stefan Jankovic, the Bows' biggest strength is getting to the line, Maryland rarely fouls -- but the Terps have looked downright mediocre down the stretch. They lost five of seven heading into the NCAA Tournament and failed to put away South Dakota State.

Believe it or not, Maryland is closer than Honolulu to Spokane, Wash. But for Hawai'i, going 3,000 miles, playing a game, hanging around and playing another game two days later is normal. This game will probably be in front of few fans, and only Maryland will feel weird about it.

Little Rock, the possessed

Explain this shot, one of several incredible shots by Josh Hagins as he singlehandedly outscored Purdue in the last 15 minutes of an upset:

Explain this shot, which defies physics.

Little Rock was a good team this year, mashing the Sun Belt into oblivion. But they had no stretch of play quite like their ridiculous outburst down the stretch against Purdue. Trailing by 14 with under five minutes to go, they started making these shots, which would make me angrily turn off the Xbox and start cursing out my friend.

Little Rock has never really been this good. They had one tourney win in 1986, but since then it had been bleak, failing even to make the tourney with an eventual longtime NBA player in Derek Fisher. After an 8-12 season last year, they turned to Division II coach Chris Beard, who was coaching a semipro ABA team just four years ago. Thursday, Beard legitimately outcoached Matt Painter, employing an up-tempo offense and box-and-1 type defense that neutralized Purdue's incredibly talented big men.

It's easy to see how he turned a team nobody thought would compete in a sub-par conference into a team taking down giants. With Beard and maybe some sort of higher power on their side, it's hard to root against this team.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

I said Little Rock over Purdue was the upset pick I would choose if I had to pick just one, and the way they played just made me believe in them more firmly. They do a great job slowing the game down, increasing their upset potential, and they make a ton of threes, maximizing those few possessions. Plus their coach is a dang wizard. Iowa State poses very different issues from Purdue. We'll see if Beard can rejigger their defense to stop ISU's incredible attack.

Yale, the nerds fighting nerds

How Ivy League is Yale? They have a dude who took a year off from basketball last year to go on a world tour with his a capella group.

Even in a league not known for basketball, the Bulldogs hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1952 before this year. Now they're our best hope to beat Duke. We need you, Yale. I never thought I would say that.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

The bad news is Yale has already played Duke this year, an 80-61 loss for the Bulldogs. But that was at Cameron and this is at a neutral site. Yale is perhaps the best all-around rebounding team in the country -- they're seventh on the defensive glass and eighth on the offensive glass, prompting a very good-at-rebounding Baylor team into a postgame explanation of how rebounds work -- and Yale is kinda trash on the defensive glass. They were 326th in defensive rebound rate. If Yale can live on the offensive boards, they can beat Duke.

Northern Iowa, the buzzer-beater kings

UNI lost so many games at the beginning of the season, it seemed like there was no way they'd make another NCAA Tournament. But after a 10-11 start, they won 12 of the last 13 and sealed the Missouri Valley Conference's autobid with this bouncing buzzer-beater:

But still, after such a disastrous early season start, they were lowly seeded and had to face Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And that game ended with an even more ridiculous buzzer-beater.

It's no use. Don't even bother playing these guys. You will be winning or tied when the clock hits triple zeroes, and you will still lose the game. They will beat you on a buzzer-beater, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Can they make the Sweet 16?

Like I wrote last week, I think the Panthers can beat pretty much anybody. They play a distinct system and they play it well, they play extremely slow, which limits possessions against more talented teams, and they're hot right now, with 13 wins in 14 games. 3-seeded Texas A&M is a very tough opponent, but UNI has already beaten 1-seed North Carolina, 4-seed Iowa State and a Wichita State team that's top 10 in Pomeroy's ratings. They've beaten better teams and they're peaking, with magic on their side.