March Madness is the biggest basketball tournament in the United States. It’s more publicized than the NBA playoffs, mainly because of the playing format.
As its name suggests, the tourney is in March and has 64 of the best college basketball programs trying to win it all. The format single elimination. It is win and advance or lose and go home.
By nature, it’s the perfect scenario for a lot of upsets. Underdogs beating favorites is always a charm to watch, and March Madness delivers plenty.
With that said, remembering the top 10 March Madness tournament upsets is the perfect way to hype the 2021 event. Let’s do it.
Top 10 NCAA Tournament Upsets
10) No. 6 NC State over No. 1 Houston in 1983
One of the most legendary photos in NCAA history is Jimmy Valvano’s shot running on the court after NC State beat Houston in the March Madness final in 1983.
Valvano put together a fantastic run that ended with the win over the Cougars of Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. The 30 for 30 documentary called Survive and Advance immortalized Jimmy Valvano’s run during the tournament.
9) No. 8 Villanova over No. 1 Georgetown in 1985
Back in 1985, Georgetown had a kid named Patrick Ewing. A center who could do it all and was ahead of his time. But Villanova cared little about Ewing.
Instead, they rode their wave and made it to the March Madness final, where they beat Georgetown by two points. Villanova had talented players like Dwayne McClain, Ed Pinckney, Harold Jensen, and Harold Pressley, but all far from superstars.
8) No. 15 Richmond over No. 2 Syracuse, in 1991
Richmond was the first 15th seed team who won a March Madness game. For 27 years, beating Syracuse in 1991 was the biggest upset in the tournament’s first round.
The Orange had Billy Owens as their star player. He ended playing for the Sacramento Kings in the NBA, but that didn’t matter that night. Richmond won 73-69 in College Park, Maryland, and became the first team to win as a 15th seed. Since then, several had followed those steps.
7) No. 11 George Mason over No. 1 Connecticut in 2006
Lots of people were mad George Mason made it into the tournament. But in 2006, not only did they show they belong, but the Patriots also upset everybody they faced.
The Patriots started the competition by beating Michigan State and then North Carolina in two unreal performances. A win over Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen took them to uncharted territory.
When they faced UConn in the Elite Eight, nobody picked them to reach the Final Four. George Mason took the Huskies to overtime and stole a victory in the last second. They reached the semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.
6) No. 15 Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993
The Wildcats were a 20-point favorite in the first round over Santa Clara. Arizona never got a healthy lead and couldn’t shake the underdogs, making this game a close one until the end.
Santa Clara had a Canadian playmaker leading the way. You might have heard of Steve Nash, a two-time NBA MVP. Santa Clara became the second 15th seed to beat the 2nd seed in March Madness history with a 64-61 win.
5) No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth vs. No. 1 Kansas in 2011
Virginia Commonwealth was in the play-in game that season. They weren’t supposed to arrive in the Elite Eight, and when they did, a loss against Kansas was more than just a probability.
VCU left nothing to chance and took a 17-point lead in the first half over Kansas. When the Jayhawks tried to get back in the game, it was too late. Virginia Commonwealth pulled a major upset by reaching the Final Four over a 1st seed.
4) No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 2 Georgetown in 2013
Florida Gulf Coast was known as Dunk City during the entire month of March. It all started when they took down Georgetown in an upset for the ages during the first round.
FGG made their tournament debut in only their second year of Division I eligibility. Their 78-68 win over the Hoyas remains the best in school history. Their Cinderella story ended in the Sweet Sixteen.
3) No. 15 Lehigh over No. 2 Duke in 2012
Is it an upset when the underdog has CJ McCollum as their star player? It is when your team is Lehigh, and you beat Duke in the first round of the tournament.
McCollum scored 30-points in the game and sent coach K packing earlier than expected.
2) No. 14 Mercer over No. 3 Duke in 2014
Duke again? Are we sensing a trend? Two years after losing to Lehigh, Duke lost in the first round against Mercer.
Duke had NBA players like Quinn Cook, Jabari Parker, and Rodney Hood when they lost 78-71. The game was at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, which made the upset even more incredible.
1) No. 16 UMBC over No. 1 Virginia in 2018
The biggest upset in March Madness history belongs to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The Retrievers are the only 16th seed who had beaten the 1st seed in March Madness history.
By the way, this game was never close. UMBC destroyed the Cavaliers 74-54 in an absolute shocker. Virginia won the NCAA basketball championship the following year, making UMBC’s upset even more impressive.
Are March Madness Upsets Predictable?
Predicting a March Madness upset is difficult, but unbelievable results happen often. There is at least one upset in every tournament and usually plenty of them in the same year. You must pick the right situation.
According to SBS, these are the most trusted and reliable online sportsbooks for March Madness to place your bets on this year’s Cinderella story.
Before filling your bracket, get to know the teams inside the tournament and the competition format. Then select which underdogs might have the biggest chance of an absolute shocker during the 2021 March Madness.
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