As March Madness shifts into high gear, upsets are just a turnover or a made 3-pointer away.
It can be a Florida Gulf Coast shocking a Georgetown or a Lehigh or a Mercer beating Duke. It also can be Butler, VCU or George Mason making a long run all the way to the Final Four. But one thing is certain, weird things happen on the hardwood at this time of the year.
How weird? Here’s a look at 10 memorable upsets in NCAA Tournament history:
No. 10. Richmond bounces Syracuse (1991) — The Spiders were a 15 seed against the Orange, who had an all-American in Billy Owens and were the No. 2 seed in the East Region. But Dick Tarrant had his team ready, and Richmond threw a variety of different defensive looks at Syracuse and came away with a 73-69 win. It was the first time a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2. It wouldn’t be the last.
No. 9. Santa Clara survives vs. Arizona (1993) — The Broncos, a 20-point underdog in Salt Lake City, got a big lead, survived a big run by the Wildcats and prevailed 64-61 thanks to a then-unknown point guard from Victoria, British Columbia, named Steve Nash, who has gone on to have a pretty good NBA career. Like Richmond-Syracuse two years before, here was a 15 seed beating a two.
No. 8. Princeton back-doors UCLA (1996) — The Tigers were almost giant-killers back in 1989 when they nearly upset Georgetown as a No. 16 seed, losing 50-49 in the first round. This time, as a No. 13, the Tigers played Pete Carril’s meticulous, deliberate style and lulled the No. 4 Bruins to sleep, winning 43-41 and cementing Carril’s legacy as a Hall of Fame coach.
No. 7. Kansas gets Farokhmaneshed (2010) — UNLV fans remember Ali Farokhmanesh, the dagger-tossing shooting guard from Northern Iowa who had knocked Lon Kruger’s team out of the tournament in the opening round with his long-distance shooting. But Kansas fans have even more contempt for Farokhmanesh after his long 3-pointer late enabled Northern Iowa to advance to the Sweet 16 with a 69-67 upset win. The Jayhawks were the first No. 1 seed to go out that year, and Farokhmanesh will be a hero forever in Cedar Falls.
No. 6. Valparaiso beats buzzer (1998) — Fourth-seeded Mississsippi appeared to be on its way to the second round only to run into a feisty Valpo squad with the father-son tandem of Homer and Bryce Drew. But two missed free throws with four seconds left gave the 13th-seeded Crusaders one last shot, and Bryce Drew’s 3-point heave at the buzzer dropped through and Ole Miss was headed home a 70-69 loser.
No. 5. Changing of the guard? (2013) — Gonzaga had earned its first No. 1 seed playing in the West. But the Zags were believed to be vulnerable and almost became the first top seed to lose its first game, barely surviving No. 16 Southern, 64-58. But lurking was No. 9 Wichita State, another mid-major team that was starting to build a program much like Gonzaga’s — tough-minded, smart players who stuck around. The Shockers wound up shocking Gonzaga 76-70 and went all the way to the Final Four. This year? Wichita State is a No. 1 seed while Gonzaga is a No. 8.
No. 4. History is made (1966) — Not many were giving Texas Western a shot in the ‘66 national title game against mighty Kentucky. And when Don Haskins started five black players, the skepticism grew. But on a historic night in College Park, Md., the Miners outplayed the Wildcats, who had Pat Riley on their team, winning 72-65 and forever changing college basketball.
No. 3. Perfection denied (1991) — UNLV was two games away from becoming the first team to go undefeated since Indiana did it in 1976. But in the national semifinals in Indianapolis, the Rebels were facing Duke, the same team it had demolished in the title game by 30 points the year before, and the Blue Devils were hell-bent on revenge. Greg Anthony fouled out late, the Rebels were unable to hold off Duke and the Blue Devils had their revenge, 79-77. UNLV has not sniffed the Final Four since.
No. 2. David beats Goliath (1985) — Georgetown, the defending national champion, appeared to be on its way to repeating. Standing in its way at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., was Villanova, a No. 8 seed which had lost twice to the Hoyas during the regular season. But the Wildcats, coached by Rollie Massimino, were almost perfect that night, shooting an astonishing 78 percent from the floor and winning 66-64.
No. 1. Survive, advance and conquer (1983) — North Carolina State was the proverbial “hot” team that year, finding ways to win. The Wolfpack had beaten Pepperdine, UNLV, Utah, Virginia and Georgia to reach the final in Albuquerque, N.M. But the run was expected to end against Houston, with its collection of athletic stars known as Phi Slamma Jamma. But despite getting hit by a 17-2 Houston run during the second half, N.C. State hung in and when Alvin Franklin missed a free throw, the Wolfpack had one last chance. With time running out, Dereck Whittenburg launched a 30-footer that was going to be short of the mark. But Lorenzo Charles alertly had tracked the flight of the ball, and he went up and over the Houston defense and slammed it home with a second remaining, ultimately giving N.C. State a 54-52 win and making coach Jim Valvano a national celebrity.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at 702-387-2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @stevecarprj.