Top Upsets of March Madness
There is a reason sports fans and analysts call the NCAA men’s basketball tournament March Madness.
Almost every year, there seems to be at least one major upset in the first round, with a top-tier team losing to an underdog from a smaller school. Whether they go on for a long tournament run or lose in the second round, these teams leave a lasting impression on the landscape of college basketball.
What follows is a list of the Top 10 first-round upsets in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.
10. (14) Bucknell over (3) Kansas (2005)
Despite getting the third seed in the East Region, the Jayhawks were playing hot heading into March. Enter an upstart Bison squad who pushed the KU to the limit, defeating them 64-63. The win earned Bucknell a spot in the second round, where they lost to No. 6 Wisconsin.
9. (14) Richmond over (3) South Carolina (1998)
Richmond took down the Gamecocks 62-61 to advance in the tournament, a win that would lead to Gamecocks coach Eddie Fogler’s firing after a second consecutive loss to double-digit seeds. Meanwhile, the Spiders lost big in the next round to 11 seed Washington.
8. (13) Valparaiso over (4) Ole Miss (1998)
This game featured one of the most memorable game-winners in tournament history when Valpo’s Bryce Drew hit a three off a long inbound pass to beat the Rebels 70-69. The Crusaders defeated No. 12 Florida State in the next round, their only other tournament win in school history.
7. No. 15 Coppin State over No. 2 South Carolina (1997)
The Gamecocks’ first loss to a double-digit seed happened in this blowout against a surprising Eagle team. The 78-65 win sealed Coppin’s status as the third ever 15-seed to defeat a No. 2. They lost to No. 10 Texas 82-81 in the next round.
6. (14) Stephen F. Austin over (3) West Virginia (2016)
The second-largest margin of victory in an upset, the Lumberjacks defeated the Mountaineers at their own game. SFA used a stifling defense and opportunistic offense to take the 70-56 win. This formula almost led them to upset No. 6 Notre Dame, losing that match 76-75.
5. (15) Florida Gulf Coast over (2) Georgetown (2013)
Arguably the most exciting low seed in recent memory, FGCU turned the South Regional into Dunk City with a 78-68 win over the heavily-favored Hoyas. The Eagles continued their exciting play all the way into the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 3 Florida 62-50.
4. (15) Middle Tennessee State over (2) Michigan State (2016)
In another surprising upset from 2016, the Blue Raiders won their first tournament game since 1989 against perennial powerhouse Michigan State 90-81. Aggressiveness on both sides of the ball carried MTSU to the second round, where they lost to No. 6 Syracuse 75-50.
3. (14) Cleveland State over (3) Indiana (1986)
The game that coined the term March Madness, this 83-79 win was the first upset of its kind in tournament history. The Vikings took down the Hoosiers in a game to remember for the gravity of its upset of a major college team. Cleveland State went as far as the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 7 Navy 71-70.
2. (15) Santa Clara over (2) Arizona (1993)
Future NBA MVP Steve Nash made a name for himself and his school in this 64-61 win against a heavily-favored Wildcat team. Despite late miscues at the foul line, the Broncos held onto the victory that catapulted them to the second round in their first of three NCAA tournaments.
1. (15) Richmond over (2) Syracuse (1991)
The Spiders had a reputation for upsets in the NCAA tournament. However, none were bigger than this win over a dominant Orange squad.
Their 73-69 victory was the first ever win for a 15-seed over a 2-seed. It still stands as one of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s biggest defeats.
Even though the team lost in the next round, the 72-69 victory put Richmond on the map and proved anybody could fall victim to the madness of March.
- Previous Complexities & Congruence: The Many Faces of Trans Lives
- Next Bright Dawn for Guerilla’s ‘Horizon’