It’s a foregone conclusion that occurs every year in the NCAA Tournament…..the upsets. It’s what makes March so maddening in what is arguably the greatest post-season Playoff system in sports affectionately nicknamed the “Big Dance.”
We all know about some of the greatest upsets and Cinderella runs in the Big Dance like George Mason’s Final Four run in 2007, Villanova’s upsetting Georgetown in the 1985 Title Game, and of course, VCU’s magical run just last season.
We all try to get the jump on the rest of the nation’s hardwood prognosticators by trying to predict those Cinderella teams that cause bracket mayhem and upset even the highest seeded teams in the Tournament.
While a #1 seed has never been upset in Tournament play, prior to this season there have been only four #15 seeds to pull of an upset in the opening round of the Big Dance…….but that was before Norfolk State and Lehigh made history by knocking off Missouri and Duke in 2012.
Check out the history of #15 seeds beating #2 seeds:
Richmond 73- Syracuse 69
In arguably one of the Top 5 moments in NCAA history, the Richmond Spiders shocked the college basketball landscape by becoming the first #15 seed to beat a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After pulling off one of the bigger upsets in March Madness history over Indiana in 1988, the Spiders set their sites this time on the ‘Cuse. The Spiders jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, even though future NBA star Billy Owens of Syracuse hit a key bucket with 32 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 1 point. Richmond then made three consecutive free throws down the stretch to preserve the upset and become a part of NCAA Tournament lore.
Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61
Despite some unbelievable odds of nearly 8 million to 1 that Santa Clara would win the National Title, the Broncos executed the spread offense to perfection against a vaunted Arizona Wildcats team that featured a future NBA line-up with the likes of Damon Stoudemire, Chris Mills, and Khalid Reeves. Even though the Wildcats used an impressive 25-0 run late, Santa Clara freshman, and future NBA MVP, Steve Nash sank 6 consecutive free throws down the stretch to hold on to a 3 point lead. The Broncos, a 19 point underdog in the game, held their breath as Stoudemire’s long range trey clanged off the rim at the buzzer to secure the victory and become only the 2nd #15 seed to upset a #2 seed in the Tourney.
Coppin State 78 -South Carolina 75
Led by coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell, the Eagles pulled off one of the most legendary upsets in NCAA Tournament history. They used a staunch defensive scheme to limit the vaunted Gamecocks trio of Larry Davis, BJ McKie, and Melvin Watson to only 31 points in becoming the first MEAC Conference team and first from the Baltimore area to win a Tournament game. For just the 3rd time in March Madness history a #15 seed upset a #2 seed.
Hampton 58, Iowa State 57
In their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Pirates calmly sank a 4 foot shot with just under 7 seconds remaining, giving the tiny MEAC school a 1 point lead. The Cyclones’ outstanding future NBA star at point guard, Jamaal Tinsley, drove the length of the court but missed a lay-up with 1.2 seconds to secure an upset. A frenzied bedlam ensued as players, fans, and cheerleaders stormed the court as Pirates’ coach Steve Merfeld was memorably carried around the court with legs flailing and arms pumping in celebration.
Norfolk State 86 – Missouri 84
Led by the lightly recruited senior big man Kyle O’Quinn’s monsterous game consisting of 26 points and 14 rebounds, the Spartans busted brackets everywhere by upending potential Final Four contender and Big 12 Conference Champion Missouri Tigers. Even though O’Quinn missed two free throws with under 4 seconds remaining, allowing a last chance heave by Phil Pressey, the shot came up short ensuring a 2nd Round upset of epic proportions than many are now calling O’Quinn-Sanity……
Lehigh 75, Duke 70
Not many outside of Pennsylvania were giving much of a chance to the tiny Patriot League school of pulling an upset in the 2nd Round. But that was before they caught a glimpse of junior CJ McCollum in action, as one of the nation’s most unheralded mid major stars took it to the Blue Devils to the tune of 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in helping to defeat the 4 time NCAA Champion Duke. Surprisingly the Dukies were probably looking forward to a 3rd Round match-up with the Florida Gators and took the Mountain Hawks way too lightly even though they had a decisive size advantage down low. In turn, Lehigh becomes just the sixth #2 seed in NCAA Tourney history to beat a #15 seed.
March 19th, 2012 – Check out the history of #15 seeds upsetting #2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament……