Anatomy of a Giant Killer

A look at last tourney's top assassin shows how to spot likely upsets

Updated: August 13, 2012, 4:39 PM ET
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN The Magazine

IN ADVANCE OF THE NCAA TOURNEY EACH SEASON, The Mag begins mining stats to target the next top-rank-tarnishing Giant Killer -- a team that beats a Big Dance opponent seeded at least five spots higher. (Schools from the BCS conferences -- plus Gonzaga, Butler, BYU, Memphis, UNLV, Temple and Xavier, because of current or historical success -- cannot be GKs.) In the past eight years, we've seen underdogs emerge in many forms, but none quite like last season's VCU Rams, who added a dimension to our theory that high-risk, high-reward strategies pay off. While most teams rely on one or two signature moves, VCU shifted from one GK tactic to another, depending on the opponent, on its way to the Final Four. While it's too early to officially brand this season's would-be Killers, we can use VCU's run last year as a field guide to start scouting Cinderella. She's lurking out there somewhere.