10 Biggest NCAA Tournament Upsets

Upsets are what put the Madness in March.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament – March Madness – delivers three weeks of mania each spring.  The tourney, which invites 68 teams, has taught us to expect the unexpected.  Today we bring you the ten most surprising outcomes in NCAA tournament history.  Some happened in the finals, while others occurred in the opening rounds.  All of them stunned the college basketball world.

[16] UMBC 74, [1] Virginia 54 – 2018.  The University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers are the only 16th seed to knock off a No. 1 seed.  UVA came in 31-3 and had not allowed more than 70 points all season.  Making just its second-ever NCAA tournament appearance, the Retrievers never trailed after halftime and blew the Cavaliers out of the building.

[6] North Carolina State 54, [1] Houston 52 – 1983.  Top-ranked Houston was loaded.  Dubbed Phi Slama Jama, the Cougars featured future hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.  The consummate Cinderella, N.C. State had to upset Virginia in the championship game of the ACC tournament just to get a bid.  In the waning moments of a tie game at The Pit in Albuquerque, Lorenzo Charles dunked a missed desperation shot by Dereck Whittenburg for the game-winner.  Time expired and – in a moment that will stay in our minds forever — Jimmy V went crazy.

[3] Texas Western 72, [1] Kentucky 65 – 1966.  In what may be the most important game in college basketball history, Texas Western [later UTEP] was the first team to start an all-black lineup in an NCAA basketball final.
Led by notorious racist Adolph Rupp, Kentucky was considered college basketball royalty, and the Wildcats were appearing in their fifth title game.  Even then, the program was wildly unlikeable.  The Miners were coached by Don Haskins, an underappreciated defensive mastermind who guided Texas Western to the only NCAA basketball title in school history.

[8] Villanova 66, [1] Georgetown 64 – 1985.  Georgetown was the reigning NCAA champion and was playing in its third title game in four years.  Led by Player of the Year Patrick Ewing, the Hoyas had marched through the rugged Big East Conference and were riding a 16-game win streak heading into the final.  Playing before the shot clock – which was introduced the following season — Villanova slowed the game down.  What’s more, the Wildcats were unconscious, shooting 79 percent from the floor.  David slayed Goliath, and ‘Nova remains the lowest-seeded team ever to win the tournament.

[11] Virginia Commonwealth 71, [1] Kansas 61 –  2011.  Kansas was dominant in 2011.  Featuring five future NBA draft picks, the Jayhawks rolled into this Elite Eight matchup with a record of 32-2.  But the Rams were stingy, holding KU to 35 percent shooting from the field and under ten percent from three-point range to become just the third 11-seed in history to earn a tripto the Final Four.

[15] Lehigh 75, [2] Duke 70 – 2012.  In a game played in Greensboro — just down the road from Duke’s campus – the mighty Blue Devils were stunned by tiny Lehigh.  Led by a 30-point effort from guard C.J. McCollum, the Mountain Hawks earned their first-ever NCAA tournament win in stunning fashion.

[6] Kansas 83, [1] Oklahoma 79 – 1988.  Averaging 100 points a game, the top-seeded Sooners were 35-3.  Led by point guard Mookie Blaylock, Oklahoma had beaten Kansas twice during the regular season.  But the Jayhawks saved their best for last.  Behind power forward Danny Manning, who poured in 31 points and hauled in 18 rebounds, Danny and the Miracles held off the Sooners to win the NCAA title in a shocker.

[15] Santa Clara 64, [2] Arizona 61 – 1993.  This one was as much choke-job as upset.  Arizona closed out the first half on a 14-0 run and led by as many as 13 points in the second half.  But Santa Clara was relentless.  The great Steve Nash hit six free throws down the stretch while the Wildcats clanked four of eight foul shots in the final eight seconds.  When Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire missed a desperation three at the buzzer, the Broncos became only the second 15-seed to advance past the first round of the tournament.

[11] George Mason 86, [1] Connecticut 84 – 2006.  After earning an at-large bid to get into the tournament, George Mason became the first team from the Colonial Athletic Association to make the Final Four with its overtime victory over UConn.  Facing a dominant Huskies squad that included five players who would be drafted into the NBA, the Patriots remained poised, becoming only the second 11-seed to make the Final Four.

[15] Richmond 73, [2] Syracuse 69 – 1991.  This Syracuse team may top the long list of underachieving Jim Boeheim-coached squads.  Paced by forward Billy Owens – who became the third pick of the 1991 NBA draft – heavily-favored Syracuse also featured Dave Johnson and Kentucky-transfer LeRon Ellis.  The ‘Cuse was supposed to win going away.  But the Dick Tarrant-led Spiders had other ideas, leading the Orangemen for the entire game to become the first 15-seed to upset a No. 2 seed in the opening round.