Giant Killers: How to spot Cinderella

Everyone has an eye out for her. Our stats tell you where to look.

Updated: March 9, 2011, 11:48 AM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine
Cornell/St, Mary's Getty ImagesThe Big Red and the Gaels both met our Giant-Killing expectations last season.

It's that magical time of year again, when fans talk about loving college hoops because any team can go on an NCAA championship run. It doesn't matter that Cinderellas almost always have their hopes dashed in the end. (The last team to pull a Villanova-over-Georgetown-type shocker and win it all was, well, Villanova, 26 years ago.) The tourney captivates precisely because it allows most, but not all, favorites to triumph. Every upset really is special.

Which is not to say that every upset is unpredictable. For five years now, The Mag has tried to forecast the next potential George Mason or UAB in our annual Giant Killers series. We haven't figured out why some underdogs win while others lose with 100 percent reliability; that would be not only impossible but also a buzzkill. However, we have identified several key trends that you should keep in mind when filling out your brackets.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.