March Madness 2019: The 10 biggest upsets ever in the opening weekend of the tournament
This isn't for your 12 seeds topping five seeds, these are games that bust everyone's brackets
March Madness is a funny beast. Unless you really love picking underdogs, it's hard not to root for your bracket over the upset. And because it all only lasts several weeks, it's so easy to follow along and obsess over.
Every once in a while, a game comes along early in the tournament and unfolds how nobody could have predicted. A 14-seed beating a 3-seed is rare, but not unheard of. A 15-seed beating 2-seed is truly special. Then, of course, there's the Holy Grail -- a 16-seed beating a 1-seed, something that has only occurred once. That's right, this baby gets interesting even before the Sweet Sixteen sometimes.
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Even if these early upsets ruin your bracket, it's still exhilarating. Below are the 10 craziest, most bracket-breaking upsets the first weekend of the tournament has ever produced.
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10. No. 14 Cleveland State defeats No. 3 Indiana (83-79)
March 14, 1986
Sometimes, the remakes just can't top the original. Cleveland State and Arkansas-Little Rock both took down their Goliaths in the 1986 tournament -- marking the first time any 14 seeds had advanced and the first of just three times two No. 14 seeds would move on. The reason Cleveland State beating Indiana gets the nod over Arkansas-Little Rock is because of the context around this team.
John Feinstein's "A Season on the Brink" gave an inside look at Bobby Knight's 1985-86 Hoosiers. Clinton Ransey led Cleveland State with 27 points in the upset and Cleveland State would eventually make it to the Sweet 16 where they lost by one point to Navy. The team was an early Cinderella and it took down an Indiana team that had very high hopes.
9. No. 15 Hampton defeats No. 2 Iowa State (58-57)
March 15, 2001
Both of these teams entered this game with records of 25-6. What followed after the tip-off was a slowly creeping feeling of "this could really happen" spread out over the course of two hours. It was a low-scoring affair, as people waited for Jamaal Tinsley to finally break out. But it never happened, and Hampton won with seven points off of its bench. Only five players in the game finished in double digits, and Iowa State didn't score in the final two minutes With seven seconds left on the clock, Hampton's Tarvis Williams scored his 15th and 16th points to give Hampton the win in a game that was all about defense.
8. No. 15 Norfolk State defeats No. 2 Missouri (86-84)
March 16, 2012
This is the only season in which the two 15-seeds advanced to the second round, but more on that later. Missouri came into the tournament with high hopes, boasting a 30-5 regular season record and going 14-4 in the Big 12. The team was second behind Kansas in the conference and won the Big 12 tournament over Baylor. They also had a pair of players who were bound for the NBA in Kim English and Phil Pressey.
But Norfolk State wouldn't allow the Tigers to recapture the magic of the 2009 squad that made the Elite Eight. Marcus Denmon and Pressey put up 20 points each for Missouri, but it wasn't enough to match Kyle O'Quinn's performance. He racked up 14 rebounds in addition to 26 points to lead Norfolk State to a win. Notably, the final minute was one of the longest 60-second stretches you will ever see in a basketball game.
7. No. 15 Coppin State defeats No. 2 South Carolina (78-65)
March 14, 1997
Coppin State's depth was a huge reason for this upset. The Eagle bench outscored the Gamecocks' reserves 40-17. Danny Singletary led the way with 22 points. Two Coppin State starters didn't even score in 10 minutes of playing time and neither team shot well from beyond the arc. Coppin State was 2 of 13 and South Carolina hit 4 of 20 from beyond the arc. Coppin State jumped ahead late in the game after trailing throughout, but down the stretch they looked like a team that had been leading all day. Coppin State just looked faster than South Carolina, and went to the line 34 times to South Carolina's 16. It was a huge upset of the SEC champs and an abrupt end to their first tournament appearance since 1989.
March 14, 1991
Once again, we get to the first time one of these major upsets occurred. The Richmond Spiders were making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse, on the other hand, was making its ninth in a row under Jim Boeheim. The Orange had better scorers -- and it showed -- with Billy Owens leading everyone with 22 points. Bench play, a running theme on this list, was the difference. Syracuse got just three points from its reserves and Richmond was able to outlast the Orangemen in a massive, unprecedented upset.
5. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast defeats No. 2 Georgetown (78-68)
March 22, 2013
Florida Gulf Coast not only managed to take down Georgetown, but they went on to beat the No. 7 seed San Diego State afterwards as well. The Eagles came into this game as a solid team, with three players averaging double digits and a 26-11 record. Georgetown boasted future NBA player Otto Porter. For the Hoyas, it was Markel Starks who stole the show, dropping 23 points. But Florida Gulf Coast had both Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson score 20-plus points en route to a 10-point win. The Eagles, nicknamed "Dunk City," became one of the most fun teams to watch the entire month. They dunked five times against Georgetown, including an exclamation point of an alley-oop within the final two minutes.
4. No. 15 Santa Clara defeats No. 2 Arizona (64-61)
March 18, 1993
A point guard named Steve Nash came off the bench for Santa Clara in this one. However, while he had a solid game, he wasn't Santa Clara's ace in the hole. Nash scored 10 points, hauled in seven rebounds and notched four assists. Pete Eisenrich scored 18, leading the way for Santa Clara despite a wild finish. Arizona's press was tough to break, but Santa Clara shot well enough at the line to hold on. Pac-10 Player of the Year Chris Mills was held to 19 points, and an Arizona team with six future NBA players was knocked out in the first round in Salt Lake City.
3. No. 15 Middle Tennessee defeats No. 2 Michigan State (90-81)
March 18, 2016
This game was a big part of the rise of now Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis. The Blue Raiders found themselves up against the No. 2 Spartans, led by Denzel Valentine. How did Middle Tennessee pull this game off? With scoring depth. This wasn't an example of a mid-major just moving the ball better or playing flawless basketball. MSU out-assisted Middle Tennessee 20-16, and had just four more turnovers. But all five Blue Raider starters finished in double digits, with Reggie Upshaw leading the way at 21 points. Middle Tennessee never really pulled away in this game, usually holding between a three and eight-point lead, but MSU simply couldn't stop the Blue Raider offense.
March 16, 2012
This was the other major upset in 2012. Duke had a roster boasting eight future NBA players and looked primed to make a deep run. It was 27-7 overall and finished second in the ACC. But Lehigh, led by future NBA star C.J. McCollum showed that quality trumps quantity. He dropped 30 points in the upset as Duke was booted in the first round for the first time since 2007. Lehigh kept the game close at the half and held on to a small lead down the stretch for the win.
March 16, 2018
This is the wildest upset in tournament history not just because it's the only time a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed, but because of the score What in the world happened to the Cavaliers? Historically, nearly all of the 15 seeds that have won did so by the skin of their teeth. UMBC was utterly dominant over Virginia in a 20-point win. The first sense of "it's happening" came at halftime when the game was tied at 21. UMBC came out of the locker and proved that this was in fact going to happen. They dropped 53 points in the second half, nearly equaling Virginia's total for the game, and Virginia had no answer. The game snowballed, and Virginia ended up in the pantheon of disappointment, becoming not only the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, but doing so in absolutely brutal fashion.
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