March Madness lives on. Following the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, The Post projected the final bracket and will spend the rest of the week presenting round-by-round results produced via online simulation, thanks to our friends at whatifsports.com.
When will Cinderella have a happy ending?
No. 12 East Tennessee State’s miraculous run through The Post’s simulation of the NCAA Tournament ended in the national semifinals with an 87-74 loss to No. 3 Duke. The Buccaneers, who would have been the lowest-seeded team to ever reach the Final Four, faced the same fate as the previous five double-digit seeds to reach college basketball’s biggest stage by failing to earn a spot in the title game.
Since Kansas watched Danny Manning and the Miracles win the 1988 national title as a No. 6-seed, the two-lowest seeded champions have been No. 4 Arizona (1997), which featured three first round NBA Draft picks, and No. 7 Connecticut (2014), which had won it all just three years earlier.
From 1989 to 2005, Cinderellas found it nearly impossible to find in the Final Four. Michigan was seeded sixth when the Fab Five were freshmen. North Carolina was an eighth seed in 2000. So was Wisconsin. The other 63 teams to make the Final Four during that span were seeded fifth or higher.
Then, George Mason made its unforgettable run as an 11th seed in 2006, ending with a loss to eventual champion Florida. Butler, before joining the Big East, made back-to-back national title games, losing by inches to Duke in 2010 and then as an eighth seed against UConn in 2011, when VCU also made the Final Four as an 11th seed.
Wichita State advanced as a ninth seed in 2013, but blew a double-digit lead in the second half to Louisville. Most recently, 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago went to the Final Four in 2018, also blowing a double-digit second half lead in the semifinals to Michigan.
The magic is nearly impossible to recapture.
George Mason didn’t make the Big Dance in 2007. Neither did Butler in 2012, nor Loyola-Chicago in 2019. VCU hasn’t been past the second round of the NCAA Tournament since its 2011 run. Wichita State followed its best-ever run with an undefeated regular season, but lost to Kentucky in a second round NCAA Tournament classic.
East Tennessee State won a school-record 30 games this year. The Buccaneers have gone 130-43 in Steve Forbes’ five years as head coach.
Soon enough, they could get their chance again.