Greatest Early-round Upsets
As the NCAA tournament gets under way, underdogs needing inspiration can look to these games, the most shocking first- and second-round results.
1 1956Canisius 79, North Carolina State 78
'Twas different back then. The Griffins qualified after winning the three-team Western New York Little Three Conference—and then promptly dispatched the No. 2 team in the country in four overtimes. There was no seeding within regions then (it didn't start until 1979), but had there been, fans would have glimpsed a sight they have yet to see: a No. 1 seed losing in the first round.
2 1991 (15) Richmond 73, (2) Syracuse 69
The Spiders were no strangers to upsets, but their defeat of the Big East champs made history: It was the first victory for a 15th seed.
3 1996: (13) Princeton 43, (4) UCLA 41
After a handful of near upsets (most notably against Georgetown in 1989), the Tigers finally showed a major power the (back) door.
4 1981 (9) St. Joseph's 49, (1) DePaul 48
The Blue Demons were the nation's No. 1 team heading into the NCAAs, but Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings & Co. were bounced in their first game, a second-rounder. Surprising but not unprecedented: It had happened to DePaul the year before, when the team pulling the upset was UCLA, which then went all the way to the title game.
5 1997 (15) Coppin State 78, (2) South Carolina 65
"We didn't even know it was South Carolina out there," said Eagles forward Reggie Welch. You couldn't really blame him. The Gamecocks—who were 30-point favorites against a team whose best player was hobbled by a sprained ankle—played nothing like the juggernaut that went 15--1 in the SEC.
6 1994 (9) Boston College 75, (1) North Carolina 72
The Tar Heels were loaded, with three starters from the '93 championship squad, plus newcomers Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. No matter. The Eagles bounced the nation's top team with a pesky performance during which mild-mannered Carolina coach Dean Smith had to be restrained from going after BC's Danya Abrams following a hard foul.
7 2012 (15) Lehigh 75, (2) Duke 70
Behind 30 points from guard C.J. McCollum, the Mountain Hawks handed the Blue Devils their second opening-game defeat in 16 years.
8 1978:Miami (Ohio) 84,Marquette 81
The Warriors, ranked third in the country, complained openly of a potential second-round showdown with No. 1 Kentucky. Didn't matter. The 18--8 Redskins overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 3:38 of regulation to oust the defending champs in OT.
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 84 teams seeded fifth or better have been ousted in their opening games. There has been at least one bracket-buster every year except 2000 and '07. The most: five, in 2001 and last year, when 15th-seeded Norfolk State (left) upset Missouri.
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BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (NORFOLK STATE)
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH ADLER: CHRIS KEANE/REUTERS (LEHIGH)