Ah, Cinderellas. They really do make the NCAA tournament worth watching. These are not sleepers mind you or dark horses, these are teams that need just one win, one feather in their cap, to throw the entire tournament off its axis.
Before we get started, it's important to know exactly what a Cinderella is: A Cinderella MUST be seeded 13 or lower and come from a non-major conference. All a Cinderella needs is one major win and it is by definition a Cinderella. Think Santa Clara over Arizona, Hampton over Iowa State, Bucknell against Kansas or VCU against, well, everyone. A Cinderella doesn't even need to get out of the second round, that one victory against an unsuspecting four seed or higher is enough.
So here are a few Cinderellas that might make this year's tournament interesting:
Iona (14): Yes, Iona has to beat BYU in a play-in game, but after watching BYU in the WCC tournament, that doesn't seem too far-fetched. Iona was knocked out of its conference tournament early but has enough firepower to be as dangerous as any team in the field. The Gaels have already beaten Maryland, St. Joes and Nevada this year and lost to Purdue by just a point. The Gaels do have the extra game, but so did VCU last year and look how well the Rams did. If Iona can get past BYU, it will be the most dangerous of all the Cinderella seeds.
Belmont (14): This will be the second time Belmont has faced Georgetown in the tournament and the Bruins are hoping this go-round is better than the 80-55 beatdown in 2007. While the Bruins have never won during their four NCAA tournament appearances, they are best remembered for nearly upsetting 2-seed Duke in a game where a controversial call cost the Bruins a 71-70 victory. Belmont comes into Friday's game against the Hoyas on a 14-game winning streak. The Bruins lost to Duke by just a point earlier this year and played Memphis tough. And remember, Georgetown was picked off by Cinderella VCU a year ago and by Ohio the year before that.
[ Midwest Region: Strange seeding for Georgetown and Creighton ]
St. Bonaventure (14): Florida State has had some great wins this year, but it's also played down to the level of its competition against teams not named Duke or North Carolina and suffered some bad losses (see Boston College). So it wouldn't be a surprise to see a highly motivated St. Bonaventure team beat the Seminoles. The Bonnies haven't been to the tournament since 2000, when they barely lost to Kentucky 85-80 in the always-intriguing 5-12 matchup. St. Bonaventure has a strong history in the tournament and went to the Final Four in 1970. The Bonnies stole a bid from several deserving teams by winning the A-10 Tournament, so they're going to want to show that they deserved it.
Ohio (13): Ohio knows what it's like to be a Cinderella. In 2010, the 14-seed Bobcats knocked off three-seed Georgetown before losing to Tennessee in the second round. The Bobcats have won eight of their last nine games while Michigan has struggled some in the last couple weeks. Earlier this year, Ohio nearly upset No. 7 Louisville, but fell 59-54. Of all the Cinderella teams, Ohio might have the easiest shot to the Sweet 16. And wouldn't it be great for Ohio to get a measure of revenge against Michigan, which uses the Bobcats' name (in a demeaning way) to refer to Ohio State?
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