Top 10 biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history
From first-round bracket busters to Cinderella stories reaching the Final Four, these are the biggest shocks in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
10. Richmond (15) beats Syracuse (2) – 1991
Richmond became the first No. 15 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game when they knocked off Syracuse in the first round in 1991.
Led by Billy Owens, who was selected with the third overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, the Spiders built a 10-point lead in the second half and hung on to secure what was at that point the biggest first-round shock in March Madness history.
9. Princeton (13) beats UCLA (4) – 1996
The UCLA Bruins came into the 1996 tournament as the defending champions and were widely expected to go deep into the later rounds once again, but they fell at the first hurdle against plucky Princeton.
The Tigers held their big-name opponents to just 41 points on the way to a narrow victory, with Gabe Lewullis’ layup on a backdoor cut with 3.9 seconds remaining giving Princeton the lead for the final time.
8. Mercer (14) beats Duke (3) – 2014
It always matters more when it’s Duke.
The Blue Devils were a popular tournament pick (as ever) in 2014, thanks to their core of Quinn Cook, Rodney Hood and soon-to-be No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker.
They suffered a humiliating first-round loss to Mercer, however, which was compounded by the fact that it happened on Duke’s own court.
Jakob Gollon led all scorers with 20 points as the Bears earned their first and only NCAA Tournament win.
7. Middle Tennessee State (15) beats Michigan State (2) – 2016
Michigan State was a trendy title pick in 2016, with 22.3 per cent of all brackets entered on ESPN.com picking the Spartans to go all the way.
Instead, coach Tom Izzo saw his team lose in the first round by the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, who had previously won just two tournament games in their history.
Middle Tennessee took the lead early and never gave it up, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 90-81 victory.
6. George Mason (11) beats Connecticut (1) – 2006
George Mason was a controversial inclusion in the 2006 tournament, having received a rare at-large bid for a mid-major team.
They more than justified their selection with this stunning win over No. 1 seed Connecticut, the tournament’s top overall seed led by star sophomore Rudy Gay, who would soon go eighth overall in the NBA Draft.
Playing just 20 miles away from the George Mason campus, the Patriots were spurred on by a partisan crowd and fought back from nine-point halftime deficit to drag the game to overtime, where they were able to grind out a historic 86-84 win.
5. Villanova (8) beats Georgetown (1) – 1985
The biggest upset in a title game ever came back in 1985, when defending champion Georgetown was dethroned by Villanova.
The Hoyas, led by Patrick Ewing, had lost just two games during the entire regular season, were nine-point favourites against Villanova and considered one of the best college teams ever.
The Wildcats played an incredible game, however, making all but one of their shot attempts in the second half to take it to overtime before going ahead by five points and finally winning 66-64.
4. Virginia Commonwealth (11) beats Kansas (1) – 2011
VCU was a surprise inclusion in the 2011 tournament, but wins over Georgetown, Purdue and Florida State saw them make it all the way to the Elite Eight, where they met No. 1 seeded Kansas.
The Jayhawks were the final top seed standing and had gone 35-2 up to that point, led by brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris.
The Rams’ incredible run continued, though, as Jamie Skeen scored 26 to help make VCU just the third No. 11 seed in history to reach the Final Four.
3. Lehigh (15) beats Duke (2) – 2012
This was the Duke upset that overshadowed even their defeat to Mercer two years later.
The Blue Devils came into the 2012 tournament with a starting line-up stacked with four future NBA starters – Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee.
They were all shown up, however, by C.J. McCollum, Lehigh’s star guard who has gone on to become a great NBA player with the Portland Trail Blazers.
McCollum poured in 30 points to lead the Mountain Hawks to a famous 75-70 victory.
2. Florida Gulf Coast (15) beats Georgetown (2) – 2013
Florida Gulf Coast had only been a university for six years when it took down college basketball giants Georgetown in the 2013 first round.
The Eagles had only become eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament in the previous year, but they ran the Hoyas off the court in a stunning 78-68 win.
FGCU’s exciting style of play made them an extremely popular Cinderella story, and the ‘Dunk City’ moniker they picked up thanks to this high-flying victory over Georgetown ensured they would be one of the most memorable teams ever to pull off a March Madness upset.
1. UMBC (16) beats Virginia (1) – 2018
Unsurprisingly, the top spot goes to the only No. 16 seed ever to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
The UMBC Retrievers were 20.5-point underdogs heading into their first round meeting with Virginia, having never won a game during March Madness in their history.
Virginia had gone 17-1 in Conference play to win the ACC regular season title by four games, but a season-ending injury for star forward De’Andre Hunter put their status as tournament favourites in doubt.
Nobody could have predicted this result, though. With the score tied at halftime, UMBC stormed into an 11-point lead in the second half. The Retrievers continued to extend their advantage, eventually blowing out the tournament’s top overall seed 74-54 to seal their place in March Madness history.
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