Check out the biggest upsets in NCAA men's tournament history

Every year, millions of fans complete an NCAA tournament hoping to predict which teams will pull off a miraculous upset and go on a Cinderella run. With March Madness underway, let's look back at the biggest upsets in NCAA men's tournament history.


No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson beats No. 1 Purdue, 2023

Before this game, Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson was caught on camera telling his team, “The more I look at Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.” Turns out he was right. Fairleigh Dickinson defeated Purdue 63-58 in just the second instance of a No. 16 seed defeating a No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament history.

The Knights were led by Sean Moore (19 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds), Demetre Roberts (12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists), Grant Singleton (8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals) and Cameron Tweedy ( 10 points and 6 rebounds). Zach Edey, the National College Player of the Year, recorded 21 points and 15 rebounds for Purdue in the loss. Fairleigh Dickinson ultimately lost to Florida Atlantic in the second round.

No. 16 UMBC beats No. 1 Virginia, 2018

Virginia entered the 2018 NCAA Tournament with the second-best odds to win the national championship, and its loaded squad would win the title the following year. However, they were on the wrong side of history against UMBC, becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. And UMBC didn't just sneak past Virginia; They dominated this contest 74-54.

UMBC did what it wanted and Virginia couldn't buy a single bucket. The Retrievers shot 54.2% from the field and 50% from three-point range, while the Cavaliers shot 41.1% from the field and just 18.2% from beyond the arc. UMBC was led by Jairus Lyles (28 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists), Arkel Lamar (12 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists) and Joe Sherburne (14 points, 6 rebounds). It took 33 years to pull off an upset of this magnitude, but UMBC showed that a 16-seeded team could defeat a top-seeded giant.


No. 15 Princeton beats No. 2 Arizona, 2023

The 2023 NCAA Tournament featured a couple of shocking upsets in the first round, as Princeton also managed to defeat Arizona, 59-55. Only one Princeton player scored in double figures: Tosan Evbuomwan, who finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. However, seven of their eight rotation players scored at least six points. This was a defensive struggle, as Princeton shot just 40.6% from the field and 16% from three, while Arizona shot 42.1% from the field and 18.8% from three. The Tigers held the Wildcats scoreless for the final 4:43 of the contest, with a 9-0 run sealing the victory. Princeton advanced to the Sweet 16, where it lost to No. 6 Creighton.

No. 15 Saint Peter's beats No. 2 Kentucky, 2022

The Saint Peter's Peacocks shocked the world when they defeated the mighty Kentucky Wildcats, 85-79, in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Saint Peter's caught fire from three-point range, shooting 52.9% to 26.7 Kentucky % from deep. The Peacocks were led by Daryl Banks III (27 points, 5 three-pointers and 4 rebounds) and Doug Edert (20 points and 4 rebounds). Oscar Tshiebwe had an impressive performance of 30 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals, but it was not enough to lead the Wildcats to victory. San Pedro's Cinderella run continued to the Elite 8, where they lost to No. 8 North Carolina.

No. 15 Oral Roberts beats No. 2 Ohio State, 2021

Oral Roberts entered the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a 17-10 record, but they are all 0-0 entering March Madness and Oral Roberts made the most of its opportunity in the Big Dance. The Golden Eagles defeated the Buckeyes, 75-72, in an overtime thriller. Kevin Obanor (30 points, 11 rebounds and 5 triples) and Max Abmas (29 points, 5 rebounds, 5 triples, 3 assists and 2 steals) led the way for Oral Roberts, who advanced to the Sweet 16 before being eliminated by No. .3Arkansas.

No. 15 Middle Tennessee beats No. 2 Michigan State, 2016

In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Middle Tennessee pulled off an upset against Michigan State, 90-81. All five Blue Raiders starters scored in double figures, with Reggie Upshaw (21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks) and Giddy Potts (19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals) leading the charge. Middle Tennessee lost in the second round to No. 10 Syracuse.

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast beats No. 2 Georgetown, 2013

In its March Madness debut, Florida Gulf Coast became the talk of the tournament. FGCU defeated Georgetown, 78-68, in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and “Dunk City” quickly became a fan favorite thanks to its high-flying style of play. Sherwood Brown (24 points, 9 rebounds and 3 triples), Bernard Thompson (23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 triples) and Brett Comer (12 points and 10 rebounds) led FGCU past Otto Porter's Hoyas. Florida Gulf Coast advanced to the Sweet 16, where they lost to No. 3 Florida.

No. 15 Norfolk State beats No. 2 Missouri, 2012

Norfolk State defeated Missouri, 86-84, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Spartans were led by Kyle O'Quinn (26 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks), Pendarvis Williams (20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 triples) and Chris McEachin (20 points and 4 triples). Norfolk State lost in the second round to No. 7 Florida, but O'Quinn's excellent tournament performance helped him be selected 49th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft and he would play eight seasons in the league.

No. 15 Lehigh beats No. 2 Duke, 2012

This was the coming-out party for CJ McCollum, who put Lehigh on his back to defeat a loaded Duke team that included eight future NBA players. McCollum scored 30 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals, lifting mid-major Lehigh past Duke 75-70. Gabe Knutson contributed 17 points and 8 rebounds on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field. After the following season, McCollum was selected 10th overall in the NBA Draft.

No. 15 Hampton beats No. 2 Iowa State, 2001

In recent years, there have been quite a few major upsets in the NCAA tournament, but it wasn't as common in the 1990s and 2000s. When Hampton defeated Iowa State 58-57 in the 2001 NCAA tournament, it was a surprise. Tarvis Williams dominated the Cyclones, finishing with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks. Marseilles Brown contributed 14 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds in the victory. Hampton lost in the second round to No. 10 Georgetown.

No. 15 Coppin State beats No. 2 South Carolina, 1997

In the 1997 NCAA Tournament, Coppin State defeated South Carolina in convincing fashion, 78-65. The HBCU program had never won a game in the NCAA tournament, but became the third No. 15 seed in history to defeat a No. 2 seed. The Eagles were led by Terquin Mott (11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks), Danny Singletary (20 points and 5 steals) and Antoine Brockington (20 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals). Although Coppin State lost in the second round to No. 10 Texas, the win was huge for the school. ESPN released a documentary about Coppin State's big upset called “On & Coppin” that is available on ESPN+.

No. 15 Santa Clara beats No. 2 Arizona, 1993

The Arizona squad had seven future NBA players, but Santa Clara managed to surprise 64-61 thanks to Pete Eisenrich (19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks), John Woolery (10 points, 6 steals, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and DeWayne Lewis (13 points and 7 rebounds). They also got solid contributions from a certain rookie guard named Steve Nash, who contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists off the bench (and later became a two-time NBA MVP).

No. 15 Richmond beats No. 2 Syracuse, 1991

This was the first time a No. 15 seed pulled off an upset in the first round, when Richmond defeated Syracuse, 73-69. The Spiders shocked the world a few years earlier when they upset No. 4 Indiana as a No. 13 seed in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, so they were no strangers to big upsets. Richmond, which never trailed in this game, was led by Curtis Blair (18 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals), Terry Connolly (14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists) and Kenny Wood (12 points and 7 rebounds). . Syracuse had four players score in double figures, including Billy Owens (22 points and 7 rebounds), but it wasn't enough to advance.

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