At the end of each year in college basketball, there is a postseason tournament known as March Madness. There are 64 teams that compete in the tournament and it is broken up into four regions. Each region consists of teams from that geographical area with higher seeds getting priority to playing close to their home stadium.
Read on for a breakdown of each region, as well as the most notable Cinderella run each region has seen since 1999.
The March Madness East region in basketball is one of four regions teams are split into for the tournament. All of the games within this section of the beginning of the tournament are played within the eastern portion of the country, and the regional play concludes with one of the four different Elite Eight (also known as regional title) games that decide who wins the region and reaches the Final Four. In the 2019 March Madness tournament, the second-seeded Michigan State Spartans won the East Region, pulling off an upset win against the number one-seeded Duke Blue Devils in the Regional Final game.
Perhaps the most improbable of all the Cinderella runs we'll mention, UConn's 2014 run in "The Big Dance" was something to behold. Originally set as a 7 seed, UConn stunned team after team throughout the tournament and ultimately won the National Championship against Kentucky. During this run UConn defeated a St. Joseph's (10), Villanova (2), Iowa St. (3), Michigan St. (4) and Florida (1), before ultimately defeating 8 seed Kentucky by a score of 60-54 to seal one of the most unlikely National Championships in recent memory. UConn was the first 7 seed to ever claim the National Title.
The March Madness Midwest region is one of four regions teams are sorted into at the start of the tournament. All of the games played within this section of the beginning of the tournament are played within the midwest region of the country, and the regional play concludes with one of the four Elite Eight games. The Elite Eight game decides the winner of the midwest region. In the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the winner of the Midwest Region was the fifth-seeded Auburn University Tigers, who upset both the first and second seeded teams in the region.
Sometimes the most memorable Cinderella runs come from one star leading their team to multiple victories. This was no different in 2008, as current NBA star Stephen Curry helped lead his team Davidson to an improbable run. 10th-seeded Davidson defeated Gonzaga (7), Georgetown (2), and Wisconsin (3) to make the Elite Eight. They faced 1-seeded Kansas, and lost a heartbreaker by just two points. Nobody expected this sort of run by Davidson out of the Midwest Region, and Curry's play brought more attention to him and the school than ever before.
The South Region is one of four regions teams are split into for the NCAA Tournament. These games are typically played in a Southern location. In the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the champion Virginia came from the south region. Virginia was given a one seed at the start of the tournament, and used a staunch defense to plow its way through the south region and into the final four.
The South Region boasted one of the most prominent Cinderella stories in recent years, when 11 seed Loyola Chicago went on a completely unprecedented run in 2018. During this streak, Loyola defeated the 6 seed (Miami), the 3 seed (Tennessee), the 7 seed (Nevada), and the 9 seed (Kansas State) consecutively. Unfortunately, their luck ran out once they left the South Region, as they fell to 3 seed Michigan by a score of 69-57.
The West Region is the largest geographically of the four regions and has teams from for the most part west of Kansas (the middle of the country). That means the west region is essentially responsible for covering nearly half of the country. Every year there are different locations that games are played in. In 2019 the West Region played its Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen matchups in Anaheim California. The first two rounds are played at predetermined sites that are not exclusive to the region. Those included Salt Lake City, Hartford, Tulsa, and Des Moines. The winner of the West region in this tournament was eventual runner up Texas Tech. They were originally given the third seed and on their way through the region they defeated both the two seed (Michigan) and the one seed (Gonzaga).
The most memorable Cinderella moment in the West Region came back in 1999. The 10-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs went on an amazing run to make their region finals, known better as the Elite Eight. Gonzaga started this run by defeating Minnesota (7), Stanford (2), and Florida (3). Unfortunately their streak ended against 1-seeded UConn in the Elite Eight, as they came up short in a five-point loss. This remains a well-known Cinderella story today, and will be remembered throughout March Madness history.
The 2021 March Madness Tournament is different from prior years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all games will be held at six different locations in Indiana. Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena, and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will all host games throughout the tournament. Teams will use the Indiana Convention Center as practice facilities. Keeping the entire tournament in one state allows for minimal travel and stronger safety protocols, both extremely important during these unprecedented times.
Since 2012, the four regions used in the NCAA Tournament are East, Midwest, South, and West. Prior to this, there were instances of different regions. The Southwest and Southeast are examples of past regions that are no longer used. The Southeast Region did have one of the most memorable Cinderella runs in tournament history in 2011, when 8-seed Butler made it all the way to the National Championship.
Typically, this is all geographically based. In short, programs are sorted into the region in which they are closest to the playing venues that given year. That being said, top seeded teams also have priority in this process.
For the 2021 National Championship, the teams were sorted into regions via an s-curve. This is similar to a "Snake Draft". The committee lines the teams up in order of seeding from 1-68. Then, they "snake" through the list in order to sort each program. This would mean that the strongest 1 seed would get the weakest 2 seed, and the weakest 1 seed would get the strongest 2 seed. From here, each side of the 1 seeds take turns getting either the strongest or weakest opponent in each seeding and the 1 seeds in the middle would follow suit in a draft like format.
In sports as a whole, March Madness included, a Cinderella Story is when a team that nobody expected much from pulls off the unthinkable and plays very well in a tournament or competition. Cinderella stories in March Madness tend to garner an insane amount of media attention as the team in question works their way deeper into the tournament, with Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago being the latest individual associated with a Cinderella team to obtain viral fame overnight.