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Biggest Upsets in NCAA Tournament History March Madness

The 10 Biggest Upsets in NCAA Tournament History

Part of what makes the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament so special is the fact that a team is eliminated after losing just one game. Unlike the pros where you need to lose four times in a series before being eliminated, in college one loss can bring a sudden and stunning end to a season.

Some of the most memorable moments have occurred when a monumental upset is registered. It’s what helps fuel the madness that is ‘March Madness’. Here are ten of the most shocking victories in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 10: 1996 NCAA First Round: Princeton 43 – UCLA 41 – Pete Carrill is the only coach to win 500 games without having any players on scholarship. He had led the Tigers into the tournament ten times before without a victory, coming close to being the only 16th seed to win against a No.1 seed in 1989 against Georgetown. But on this day, the ‘Princeton Offense’ kept the defending national champion Bruins close in a tight contest and won the game on a back door lay-up by Gabe Lewullis with 3.9 seconds left.

No. 9: 1981 NCAA Second Round: St. Joseph’s 49 – DePaul 48 – The Blue Demons were the top-ranked team in the country with national player of the year Mark Aguirre. For the second straight year however, they went out in their first game of the tournament. Aguirre was held to just eight points, and John Smith’s layup with three second left gave the Hawks the upset.

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No. 8: 1988 NCAA Championship Game: Kansas 83 – Oklahoma 79 – The Sooners were a top-ranked team all season long, with big time players such as Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock. Unfortunately, they ran into ‘Danny and the Miracles’ as the Jayhawk team led by Danny Manning found a way to stun their Big 8 Conference rivals to win the title.

No. 7: 1991 NCAA First Round: Richmond 73 – Syracuse 69 – The Spiders became the first 15th seed to win a tournament game, knocking off the regular season Big East champions. Richmond’s win cemented their place in history as ‘Giant Killers’ having pulled upsets over Auburn in 1984, and then Indiana and Georgia Tech in 1988.

No. 6: 1970 NCAA Regional Finals: Jacksonville 106 – Kentucky 100 – The Wildcats were the top ranked team in the country. At 26-1, some were calling the crew led by Dan Issel the best in Adolph Rupp’s tenure as coach. They had no answer for big Artis Gilmore, who scored 24 points and grabbed 20 rebounds for JU.

No. 5: 1991 NCAA Final Four: Duke 79 – UNLV 77 – The Runnin’ Rebels were the first undefeated team entering the tournament since 1976, and UNLV had defeated Duke in the Championship Game the previous season by 30 points. Yet, the Blue Devils shocked heavily favored UNLV behind 28 points from Christian Laettner.

No. 4: 1993 NCAA First Round: Santa Clara 64 – Arizona 61 – The Wildcats were the regular season champs in the Pac-10, led by future NBA stars Damon Stoudamire and Chris Mills. But it was a future NBA star that eventually played in Arizona that helped stun the Wildcats on this night. Future Phoenix Suns all-star guard Steve Nash led the Broncos to the upset, hitting six consecutive free throws at game’s end to seal the victory.

No. 3: 2006 NCAA Regional Finals: George Mason 86 – Connecticut 84 (OT) – An at-large selection that was scoffed at from the Colonial Athletic Association, many experts including CBS lead analyst Billy Packer thought they didn’t deserve the selection. Then George Mason pulled upsets over Michigan State and North Carolina. In the regional finals, the Patriots rallied from 12 points behind to stun the top-seeded Huskies. George Mason joined the 1986 LSU Tigers as the lowest seeded team (11th) ever to reach the Final Four.

No. 2: 1983 NCAA Championship Game: NC State 54 – Houston 52 – The Wolfpack needed to win the ACC Tournament just to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They upset top-ranked Virginia in the regional finals, and then shocked Houston as Lorenzo Charles scored the winner as time elapsed. The image of the late Jim Valvano searching for someone to hug in the aftermath is one for the ages.

No. 1: 1985 NCAA Championship Game: Villanova 66 – Georgetown 64 – The defending national champion Hoyas were the top ranked team in the country, playing in their third Final Four in four years. However, the Wildcats shot 76 percent from the floor that night and became the lowest seed team (8th) ever to win the title.
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