The NCAA Tournament – March Madness, that is – thrives on the magic of the first-round upset, those moments when Cinderella achieves that “One Shining Moment” and busts your bracket.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1984-85, there have been 55 first-round upsets where a teams seeded No. 13 or lower beat teams seeded 2-4 in the first round of the tournament. That includes 26 victories by No. 13 seeds over No. 4, 21 victories by No. 14 seeds over No. 3 and eight victories by No. 15 seeds over No. 2. March Madness, indeed. Yet, we’ve never seen a No. 1 seed lose in the first round.
To celebrate all those shocking first-round upsets, Sporting News ranked them all, with the top 20 below. So, as you’re filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket, enjoy the memories (or relive the nightmares, depending on who you were rooting for) and check them out. And by all means, get lost in the old-school videos.
Most shocking first-round NCAA Tournament upsets
20. No. 14 Bucknell 64, No. 3 Kansas 63 (2005)
Kevin Bettencourt scored 19 points and hit 5 3-pointers to beat Kansas. Wayne Simien scored 24 in the loss and just missed a shot at the buzzer. No. 6 Wisconsin knocked the Bison out 71-62 in the next round.
19. No. 14 Siena 80, No.3 Stanford 78 (1989)
Marc Brown scored 32 points, including the game-winning free throws with two seconds left, to lead Siena past a Stanford team that featured Adam Keefe. No. 11 Minnesota ended the Saints’ run with an 80-67 win in the next round.
18. No. 14 UAB 60, No. 3 Iowa State 59 (2015)
The Blazers entered the tournament with 15 losses, but Brown led the upset of the Cyclones with 21 points. No. 11 UCLA beat UAB 92-75 in the second round.
17. No. 14 Harvard 68, No. 3 New Mexico 62 (2013)
Wesley Saunders scored 18 points to led four Harvard players in double digits for the win under coach Tommy Amaker. No. 6 Arizona beat Harvard 74-51 in the second round.
16. No. 14 Northwestern State 64, No. 3 Iowa 63 (2006)
Jermaine Wallace hit the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to knock the Hawkeyes out of the tournament. No. 6 West Virginia beat the Demons 67-54 in the second round.
15. No. 14 Georgia State 57, No. 3 Baylor 56 (2015)
R.J. Hunter buried a memorable game-winning 3-pointer that literally knocked coach Ron Hunter out of his chair. No. 6 Xavier beat the Panthers 75-67 in the second round.
14. No. 15 Coppin State 78, No. 2 South Carolina 65 (1997)
The first 2-15 upset on this list was a shocker. The Eagles dominated the Gamecocks behind 22 points from Danny Singletary and 20 points from Antoine Brockington. No. 10 Texas edged Coppin State 82-81 in the second round.
13. No. 14 Austin Peay 68, No. 3 Illinois 67 (1987)
Darryl Bedford scored 24 and Lawrence Marshall added 22 to lead the Governors past the Flyin’ Illini in a shocking upset. Austin Peay lost 90-87 to No. 6 Providence in the second round.
12. No. 13 Valparaiso 70, No. 4 Ole Miss 69 (1998)
Bryce Drew hit the impossible 3-point shot on a play that might just be the most-memorable first-round buzzer beater in tournament lore. The Crusaders beat No. 12 Florida State 83-77 before falling to No. 8 Rhode Island 74-68 in the Sweet 16.
11. No. 14 Mercer 78, No. 3 Duke 71 (2014)
Jakob Gallon was the leader of five Mercer players who hit double figures. He scored 20 points to knock out the Blue Devils. The Bears lost 83-63 to No. 11 Tennessee in the second round.
10. No. 13 Richmond 72, No. 4 Indiana 69 (1988)
The Spiders knocked off Keith Smart and the defending national champions behind 21 points from Rodney Rice. Richmond also beat No. 5 Georgia Tech to advance to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 Temple 69-47.
9. No. 13 Princeton 43, No. 4 UCLA 41 (1996)
It doesn’t get much better than a back-door layup by Gabe Lewullis to knock off the defending national champions. Princeton coach Pete Carril pulled of the big upset in his 29th season as head coach. No. 5 Mississippi State beat the Tigers 63-41.
8. No.15 Florida Gulf Coast 78, No. 2 Georgetown 68 (2013)
Perhaps no underdog grabbed the tournament by the rim quite like “Dunk City.” Sherwood Brown scored 24 against the Hoyas, and the high-flying Eagles beat No. 7 San Diego State to advance to the Sweet 16. No. 3 Florida ended the run with a 62-50 victory in that round.
7. No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57 (2001)
Tarvis Williams hit the game-winner in the final 10 seconds and Iowa State’s Jamal Tinsley just missed a buzzer beater. Remember Hampton coach Steve Merfield running around in the aftermath? No. 10 Georgetown ended Hampton’s run 76-57 in the next round.
6. No. 15 Norfolk State 86, No. 2 Missouri 84 (2012)
Kyle O’Quinn took over. He scored 26 points with 14 rebounds for Norfolk State to lead a shocking upset against Missouri. The Spartans lost 84-50 to No. 7 Florida in the second round.
5. No. 15 Lehigh 75, No. 2 Duke 70 (2012)
In the same tournament, C.J. McCollum scored 30 points to lead Lehigh to a stunning first-round upset against Duke in Greensboro, N.C. No. 10 Xavier defeated Lehigh 70-58 in the next round.
4. No. 15 Middle Tennessee State 90, No. 2 Michigan State 81 (2016)
The Spartans were led by Denzel Valentine and were a popular pick to win the tournament, but MTSU jumped out to a 15-2 lead and never looked back. Reggie Upshaw led the Blue Raiders with 22 points. No. 10 Syracuse beat MTSU 75-50 in the second round.
3. No. 15 Santa Clara 64, No. 2 Arizona 61 (1993)
Steve Nash became a house-hold name with 10 points and four assists against an Arizona team that had just three losses in the regular season and featured Chris Mills, Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. The Broncos survived despite missing four free throws in the final eight seconds.
2. No. 14 Cleveland State 83, No. 3 Indiana 79 (1986)
This upset changed the dynamic of March Madness as we know it. Clinton Ransey scored 27 and Ken “Mouse” McFadden became a household name in the Vikings’ upset of a Bob Knight-led Indiana team. Steve Alford scored 24 points in the loss. Cleveland State advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing 71-70 to No. 7 Navy.
1. No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69 (1991)
It’s the first 2-15 upset in the expanded bracket era, and that gives it the edge above the rest. Curtis Blair scored 18 points for the Spiders, who then held off a Syracuse rally led by Billy Owens, who had 22 points for the Orangemen. That knocked a Syracuse team that won the loaded Big East regular season title by two games out of the tournament.