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Tournament Index’s Cinderella Index

At Heat Check CBB, we define a “Cinderella” as a team seeded 11th or worse that reaches at least the Sweet 16.

Since 2013, exactly 15 teams have accomplished the feat. At least one team seeded 11th or worse has reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last 13 NCAA Tournaments.

However, is a seed number enough to suggest the term “Cinderella?”

After all, of the last 15 teams to meet the criteria, 10 were either high-major teams or Gonzaga. Cinderella stories like Oral Roberts, Florida Gulf Coast and George Mason only come around every so often.

Identifying soft spots in the bracket — those unsuspecting hovels from which a Cinderella may emerge — is not only an exciting exercise, but also one that could be hugely beneficial in your March Madness pool.

As noted above, 15 of 192 teams seeded 11th or worse have advanced to the Sweet 16 or further since 2013, good for 7.8 percent. Our model handpicked 25 potential Cinderellas in that span, and seven of them accomplished the feat — or 28 percent.

To be chosen for the “Cinderella Index,” a team’s Sweet 16 probability must be at least one standard deviation above what an average team at that seed line would be expected to have.

SeedAverage Sweet 16 Likelihood“Cinderella Index” Probability Threshold
1113.6%21.5%
128.9%13.8%
135.3%8.2%
144.4%6.9%
152.1%3.3%
160.9%1.5%
Ex.: If an 11-seed’s Sweet 16 probability is higher than 21.5%, it will be marked as a “Cinderella Index” selection.

The table below includes the full list of “Cinderella Index” selections since 2013.

Tournament Index’s “Cinderella Index” picks — 2013-21

Year Team (seed)Sweet 16 ProbabilityRound of 64Round of 32
2019UC Irvine (13)8.9%W vs. Kansas State (70-64)L vs. Oregon (73-54)
2019Oregon (12)22.0%W vs. Wisconsin (72-54)W vs. UC Irvine (73-54)
2019Murray State (12)15.1%W vs. Marquette (83-64)
2018Penn (16)2.6%L vs. Kansas (76-70)
2018New Mexico State (12)16.8%L vs. Clemson (79-68)
2017Middle Tennessee (12)19.9%W vs. Minnesota (81-72)L vs. Butler (74-65)
2017Xavier (11)23.0%W vs. Maryland (76-65)W vs. Florida State (91-66)
2016Weber State (15)5.7%L vs. Xavier (71-53)
2016Cal State Bakersfield (15)3.7%L vs. Oklahoma (82-68)
2016Stephen F. Austin (14)9.8%W vs. West Virginia (70-56)L vs. Notre Dame (76-75)
2016Gonzaga (11)38.9%W vs. Seton Hall (68-52)W vs. Utah (82-59)
2016Wichita State (11)22.2%W vs. Arizona (65-55)L vs. Miami FL (65-57)
2015Georgia State (14)10.2%W vs. Baylor (57-56)L vs. Xavier (75-67)
2015Valparaiso (13)15.2%L vs. Maryland (65-62)
2015Texas (11)34.0%L vs. Butler (56-48)
2014American (15)4.8%L vs. Wisconsin (75-35)
2014NC Central (14)7.4%L vs. Iowa State (93-75)
2014New Mexico State (13)12.1%L vs. San Diego State (73-69)
2014Tennessee (11)25.8%W vs. UMass (86-67)W vs. Mercer (83-63)
2013Pacific (15)3.7%L vs. Miami FL (78-49)
2013Florida Gulf Coast (15)3.5%W vs. Georgetown (78-68)W vs. San Diego State (81-71)
2013Davidson (14)10.9%L vs. Marquette (59-58)
2013New Mexico State (13)9.2%L vs. Saint Louis (64-44)
2013La Salle (13)8.3%W vs. Kansas State (63-61)W vs. Ole Miss (76-74)
2013Oregon (12)17.0%W vs. Oklahoma State (68-55)W vs. Saint Louis (74-57)