The 15 Biggest Upsets in NCAA Basketball Tournament History
The 15 Biggest Upsets in NCAA Basketball Tournament History
The upset is something that has defined America ever since its inception. The Americans upset the British in the Revolutionary War from a war perspective, but the term "upset" is more appropriate for sports.In the NFL, Joe Namath and the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl 3. In the NBA, the Detroit Pistons upset the Los Angeles Lakers, who had four future hall of famers in 2004. Finally, in the MLB, the New York Mets defeated the powerful Baltimore Orioles in 1969.
In March Madness and the NCAA Tournament, the upset is a mixed blessing for fans. On one hand, anytime a supposed underdog stuns the nation by upsetting a favorite, they then become the talk of the sports world. On the other hand, devoted basketball fans who spend hours and hours trying to fill out their perfect bracket start to pull out their hair (figuratively) knowing that yet another year ended in disappointment.
March is the time of year where buzzer beaters destroy title hopes, superhuman performances are remembered forever, and where coaches start to separate themselves from good to all-time great. .
While upsets are generally designated for double-digit seeds, some upsets occur when two single-seeded teams compete, with one being superior to the other. My list of the top 15 biggest NCAA tournament upsets combines both unexpected victories and absolutely perfect performances.
Some of the upsets seen here are obvious while some may make you wrestle with the definition of an upset. Here now are my biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA tournament, from No. 15 down to No. 1.
15. 2005: Bucknell Upsets Kansas
Score: No. 14 Bucknell 64, No. 3 Kansas 63.
The first of many upsets under the Bill Self era, the Bison went from previous unknown to America's underdog after upsetting Self and a Jayhawk squad full of NBA-caliber players.
The Bison would only reach the postseason twice since then and Kansas would finally rid themselves of the "choke" label with a national championship in 2008.
14. 2001: Hampton Upsets Iowa State
Score: No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57.
A solid favorite to win it all in 2001, the Cyclones instead became only the third team to lose to a 15 seed.
The Pirates have only made two tournament appearance since and Iowa State waited a decade to have consistent tournament success under Fred Hoiberg.
13. 1994: Boston College Upsets North Carolina
The Eagles ended the Tar Heels' streak of 13-straight Sweet 16 appearances and dethroned the defending national champions.
The Eagles defeated a roster filled with NBA greats including Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace.
12. 2005: Vermont Upsets Syracuse
Score: No. 13 Vermont 60, No. 4 Syracuse 57 (Overtime).
Another first-round upset here for the Orange as the Catamounts, led by T.J. Sorrentine and Taylor Coppenrath, spoiled yet another promising season for the Orange, who still had key pieces from their 2003 championship team on the 2005 roster.
The Catamounts would not duplicate that same success until 2012 while the Orange have failed to reach another title game.
11. 1990: Loyola Marymount Upsets Michigan
The Lions of Loyola Marymount in the early 1990s under Paul Westhead were known for their offensive firepower. Never was that more apparent than a dominant victory over the defending national champions, the Wolverines.
The Lions would lose to UNLV in the Elite Eight while two years later, Michigan got back to the Final Four with the "Fab Five".
10. 1986: Cleveland State Upsets Indiana
Score: No. 14 Cleveland State 83, No. 3 Indiana 79.
The Vikings came out of nowhere to stun Bob Knight and the Hoosiers who had Steve Alford.
The Vikings would not reach the tournament again until 23 years later while the Hoosiers won it all the very next season.
9. 1993: Santa Clara Upsets Arizona
Score: No. 15 Santa Clara 64, No. 2 Arizona 61.
Before he became one of the best point guards in NBA history, Steve Nash led Santa Clara to only the second No. 15 vs. No. 2 upset since Richmond defeated Syracuse in 1991.
Santa Clara has only made the tournament twice since then and the Wildcats would win a national title four years later.
8. 2013: Florida Gulf Coast Upsets Georgetown
Score: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast 78, No. 2 Georgetown 68
In the most convincing win by a 15 seed over a two seed, the Eagles dominated the Hoyas throughout and "Dunk City" was thus created.
The Eagles soared to new heights while Georgetown is struggling to reach the postseason this year.
7. 2012: Lehigh Upsets Duke
Score: No. 15 Lehigh 75, No. 2 Duke 70.
Anytime Duke loses is a major statement, especially in 2012. As a two seed with several NBA players, Lehigh shocked the basketball world with a convincing victory.
Duke has since changed their recruiting methods, getting more one-and-done players like Jabari Parker and Jalil Okafor next season.
6. 2011: VCU Upsets Kansas
Score: No. 11 VCU 71, No. 1 Kansas 61.
After becoming the first play-in team to reach the Elite Eight, the Rams dominated the top-seed Jayhawks to advance to the Final Four.
The Rams have not made it back to the Final Four while the Jayhawks reached the national title game the next year, losing to Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Kentucky Wildcats.
5. 1991: Richmond Upsets Syracuse
Score: No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69.
The Spiders became the first team ever to beat a number two seed as a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse would not reach the Final Four until 1996 and have since been known for their first-round upsets on multiple occasions.
4. 1995: Princeton Upsets UCLA
Score: No. 13 Princeton, 43, No. 4 UCLA 41
The defending national champion Bruins were supposed to make another run at back to back titles, but a backdoor play in the closing seconds gave the Princeton Tigers the shocking upset.
UCLA would not get back to the Final Four until 2005 and the Tigers have only made five appearances in the tournament since.
3. 1991: Duke Over UNLV
Score: No. 2 Duke 79, No. 1 UNLV 77.
Arguably one of the best teams assembled, the Runnin Rebels failed to repeat as back-to-back champions after Duke, who lost by 30 to UNLV in the previous title game, pulled off the upset.
The Duke dynasty would begin because of this win while the Runnin Rebels started their free fall downwards with numerous violations and no resemblance to these teams since.
2. 1983: North Carolina State Upsets Houston
The Houston Cougars were also considered one of the greatest teams ever assembled. With two future Hall of Famers in Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, the "Phi Slamma Jamma" seemed to be invincible. The Wolf pack thought different and after an air ball, forward Lorenzo Charles slammed it in to pull the huge upset.
Houston would lose to Georgetown in the championship game the next season, while the Wolfpack have not been anywhere near the title hunt.
1. 1985: Villanova Upsets Georgetown
Score: No. 8 Villanova 66, No. 1 Georgetown 64.
The Wildcats missed only one shot from the field and shot 78 percent against the Hoyas and pulled off the biggest tournament upset of all time.
The Hoyas would not reach the Final Four until two decades later and the Wildcats would also wait two decades before reaching another Final Four.
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