In basketball, a Cinderella story is a term for a team which far surpasses expectations. The term is often used in march madness for teams that go on an impressive run despite being expected to lose early.
The technical qualification for a team to be a Cinderella Story is a team that is seeded 11 or lower and advances to at least the Sweet 16. The Sweet 16 is the third round in the tournament, so a team must win at least two rounds.
The term comes from the fairytale Cinderella, who went from being a lowly housemaid to a happy princess.
To take the analogy further, sportscasters will also use the term striking midnight to refer to a Cinderella story being defeated. They might even say the team turns into a pumpkin to describe a Cinderella story falling out of the spotlight and back into its former obscurity.
There is a Cinderella story almost every year in the NCAA tournament. In 2018, Loyola Chicago was a great Cinderella Story. The 11 seed made it all the way to the Final Four, the semifinals. To make things more dramatic, Loyola Chicago hit a buzzer beater in the first round to stay alive.
In 2016, Syracuse had an unexpected run. Though they were a 10 seed, their run to the final four was certainly a Cinderella story. The Orange eventually fell to UNC in the Final Four.
So how should knowledge of Cinderella stories impact the construction of your march madness bracket? Remember that most years, at least one seed 11 or higher makes the Sweet Sixteen. It's wise to try to predict who will be the Cinderella story, and predict them to advance to at least the sweet sixteen. Look for a solid low seed that has relatively easy matchups in the first and second round.