Cinderella Plots Are Back! Visualizing The Madness From 1990 To 2000

Previously, I proposed the Cinderella plot, which visually displays lower seeded teams that make deep runs into the NCAA tournament.

In the first graphic, I looked at the tournaments between 2001 and 2011. Here, I have gone back a bit further to the period of time between 1990 and 2000.

That time span includes the chaos of the Y2K tournament, where only one number 1 seed made it to the Elite Eight, and the Final Four featured two 8 seeds and a 5 seed. Ultimately, Michigan State, led by Mateen Cleaves, would prevail from the madness as champion.

Reminiscing About 1990

This era also includes my favorite tournament of all time from 1990. That year featured UNLV defeating Duke in the final 103 to 73, and an emotional Loyola Marymount team, which had one of their forwards collapse and die due to a heart condition in the conference tournament, scoring baskets at an alarming rate.

Loyola Marymount made it to the Elite Eight by winning games by scores of 111-92, 149(!)-115 (over defending champion Michigan), and 62-60 before losing to UNLV 131-101 (One can only assume that the coaches agreed to a 10 second shot clock for these games). These scores are almost unimaginable in light of last year’s 53-41 national championship game. Hopefully, this year will be more UNLV-Duke-like and less Uconn-Butler-ish.

Cinderella Plot Explanation

Each seed in the tournament is represented by a different color, with the higher seeded teams, one through four, on a gray scale. These are the least interesting teams as they are the ones who are supposed to win their games.

Seeds five through eight are represented by the warmer colors (yellow, orange, and red), seeds nine through fourteen are represented by cooler colors (green, blue, and purple), and seeds 15 and 16 are represented with black.

Using this scheme, a tournament that appears with a lot of white and gray in it indicates that higher seeds are winning as expected while the years with a lot of color in them represent a tournament with lower seeds advancing further than expected.