Category Archives: NCAA

Top 10 NCAA Tournament Upsets of All-Time

After a relatively uneventful first round of March Madness, I figured I would give us a chance to reflect on all of the crazy upset finishes we have seen over the last few decades. The art of the upset is something we can all resonate with. The underdog story. Just think of the classic sports movie “Little Giants.” Giants coach Danny O’Shea said it best as he rallied his team at halftime, “Even if those Cowboys are better than you guys, even if they beat you 99 times out of 100, that still leaves…”

“One time.”

That is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. It only takes one game. 40 minutes. That wonderful time of year where that one North Carolina team from the Colonial Athletic Association can take it down to the wire… Wilmington or Asheville or Greensboro.

It’s that magic time of year where the Stephen Curry’s and CJ McCollum’s become household names after leading their teams to victory in the “Big Dance.”

It’s David vs. Goliath. It’s the birth of “Dunk City.” It’s the Cinderella Story. It’s MADNESS… and we love it!

So here are my top 10 upsets in NCAA Tournament history.

Honorable Mention: 12 Stephen F. Austin def. 5 VCU 77-75 (2014)

Stephen F. Austin has quickly become a disruptive program that no Power 5 team wants to see in the first round of the tournament. The Lumberjacks have two tournament wins in four appearances out of the Southland Conference.

In 2014, they had to go up against the “Havoc” press defense of Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams, who had their own Cinderella story a few years earlier, making the Final Four in 2011 as an 11-seed.

It was a back-and-forth battle all game long, but VCU had a 4-point lead with under 10 seconds remaining. SFA’s Thomas Walkup dished the ball to Desmond Haymon, who pulled up from 3 with under 5 seconds left. He nailed the 3-pointer and got fouled in the process to give SFA a chance to tie it with 3.6 seconds left in the game. Haymon completed the 4-point play to send the game in to overtime, where the Lumberjacks were able to finish off the upset.


No. 10: 14 Georgia State def. 3 Baylor 57-56 (2015)

This game provided not only one of the best finishes in tournament history, but it gave us a genuine “This is why we love sports” moment.

The backstory is that Georgia St. head coach Ron Hunter had recently torn his Achilles celebrating a thrilling victory in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game that sent the Panthers to the “Big Dance.” Well, being that it was their first tournament appearance in 16 years, Coach Hunter was not going to miss this game, so he coached from a stool placed on the GSU sideline.

The Panthers hung around against Baylor until they found themselves down 2 with time running out. Coach Hunter’s son, RJ Hunter pulled up from about seven feet behind the 3-point line at the top of the key and nailed it to take a 1-point lead with 2.6 seconds left.

After seeing his son drain the go ahead, and eventual game-winning bucket, Ron Hunter fell off his stool on the sideline in another celebration casualty, but the look of elation on his face was plenty enough to warm the hearts of basketball fans everywhere.

No. 9: 15 Lehigh def. 2 Duke 75-70 (2012)

According to a variety of basketball metrics, this was the least “impressive” 15-over-2 upsets in NCAA history. That might be because Lehigh had an NBA first-round prospect in CJ McCollum. So why does it make my list?

Well first, it’s not every day that a 15-seed defeats a 2-seed. And second, Duke is one of the most storied programs in NCAA history. The Blue Devils are coached by arguably the greatest basketball coach of all-time in Coach K. Upsetting Duke isn’t just about the players on the floor performing. It’s about coaching and game-planning.

Nevertheless, talent took over in this game, as McCollum scored 30 points against the then-defending national champions.

No. 8: 15 Florida Gulf Coast def. 2 Georgetown 78-68 (2013)

This game was the beginning of something that will be talked about in March year after year, tournament after tournament. The birth of “Dunk City.”

I’m sure some of you are wondering why I have this monumental March moment all the way down at No. 8. Well, it’s because although it is memorable, there were better games than this one. FGCU was the better team in this matchup. Maybe not going into the game, but throughout the contest, it was clear that the Eagles were better than the Hoyas.

FGCU scored 54 second half points to defeat the Hoyas, including a barrage of thunderous slam dunks that had the nation going crazy. What is most impressive, is that Florida Gulf Coast had just become a Division 1 program six years earlier in 2007. Don’t tell them that because they were able to become the highest (or lowest, depending how you look at it) seed to make the Sweet Sixteen.

No. 7: 13 Princeton def. 4 UCLA 43-41 (1996)

Much like the Lehigh-Duke game, Princeton wasn’t just playing a first round game in March. They were going up against the defending National Champions and one of the most storied NCAA programs in UCLA.

In a very low-scoring, methodical game, Princeton was able to hang around all game long. In the final seconds, the Tigers’ Gabe Lewullis received a backdoor bounce pass and finished the go-ahead layup to put Princeton ahead. They were able to survive a buzzer shot by the Bruins en route to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history to that point.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was a part of that 1996 team and was almost able to lead his Tigers to an upset win against Notre Dame in this year’s opening round.

No. 6: 14 Bucknell def. 3 Kansas 64-63 (2005)

This win was much bigger than your typical 14-3 upset, as the Jayhawks were the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Although they were a 3-seed, many people still had them advancing to the Final Four.

The Bucknell Bison, out of the Patriot League, were not fazed by all of the accolades that Kansas had entering the opening weekend.

After battling for 39 minutes and 50 seconds, Bucknell’s Chris McNaughton made a hook shot over All-American Wayne Simien for the game-winning bucket with 10 seconds left.

No. 5: 14 Northwestern State def. 3 Iowa 64-63 (2006)

I wouldn’t call Iowa a perennial basketball powerhouse, but this was one of the most exciting games in NCAA history. Many viewers probably turned it off though, as the Demons were trailing the Hawkeyes by 17 with 10 minutes left in the second half.

Northwestern St., out of the Southland Conference, never quit and were able to fight their way back to get within 2 points in the final seconds of the game.

Down 63-61, the Demons missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds remaining, but a lucky bounce off the rim landed in NW St.’s Jermaine Wallace’s hands in the corner. With time running out, Wallace launched a desperation 3 at the buzzer that found its mark to give them the 64-63 upset victory.

No. 4: 13 Valparaiso def. 4 Ole Miss 70-69 (1998)

For all of you millennials and Villanova fans, before you deemed last year’s game-winning shot by Kris Jenkins in the National Championship game “The Shot,” this game was referred to as “The Shot.” Google it.

We don’t really need a backstory for this game, as it is arguably the greatest final play in basketball (Not just NCAA) history.

With 2.5 seconds left, Valpo was down by 2 and had to travel the length of the court for a potential game-tying or game-winning field goal. In basketball’s version of the hook-and-ladder, head coach Homer Drew designed the perfect final play for his son Bryce Drew. A long heave landed in the Crusaders’ Bill Jenkins hands, who immediately relayed the pass to Drew. Drew, with no time to waste, squared up and fired from 3… BANG!

Game over.

No. 3: 15 Middle Tennessee State def. 2 Michigan State 90-81 (2016)

Heading into last year’s tournament, the big story was how everyone believed the Spartans were robbed of a No. 1 seed. It certainly showed, as more people chose Michigan St. to win it all than all of the No. 1 seeds. So you could say that in a lot of people’s minds, the Spartans were the favorite to cut down the nets.

NOT SO FAST.

Year after year, people make a big fuss about how a 16-seed has never taken down a 1-seed. After this year’s tournament, 1-seeds are 132-0 in the first round. Well, this very well could have been that historic moment if the committee made a few changes heading into opening weekend.

Nevertheless, Middle Tennessee St. dominated this high-scoring game from start to finish. There was nothing that NCAA Player of the Year Denzel Valentine could do to stop the Blue Raiders.

Middle Tennessee State is looking to become this year’s darling as well, following a controlling victory over 5-seed Minnesota in the opening round.

No. 2: 15 Norfolk State def. 2 Missouri 86-84 (2012)

According to FiveThirtyEight, the sports analytics website created by analytics genius Nate Silver, this is the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. Taking a variety of measureable metrics into account, Norfolk St. was ranked 212th in Division 1, while Missouri was ranked 7th.

Before this game, the last time a 15-seed defeated a 2-seed was 2001. Of course, later that day, our No. 9 upset happened when Lehigh took down Duke. And since then, we saw two more (FGCU, MTSU). So you could say these Spartans started a new trend, as a 15-seed has won at least one game in 3 of the last 5 tournaments.

Norfolk State needed three 20-point scorers (Kyle O’Quinn, Pendarvis Williams, Chris McEachin) to take down the Tigers.

No. 1: 8 Villanova def. 1 Georgetown 66-64 (1985)

David vs. Goliath. The Perfect Game. The Biggest Upset of All-Time.

To me, this was an easy No. 1 pick. It wasn’t a double-digit seed. It wasn’t a first round game. It was the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.

Rollie Massimino’s Villanova Wildcats made an incredible run to the title game, but for all intensive purposes, it seemed like it was coming to an end with the Hoyas waiting for them.

With the best player in the nation, Patrick Ewing leading Georgetown, it seemed like an impossible task for the Wildcats. It was almost as if Villanova would have to play, well… a perfect game.

The crazy thing is that 1985 was the year that the tournament officially expanded to 64 teams. Now at 68 teams, the Wildcats are still the highest (or lowest) seed to win it all as an 8-seed.

Paul Schaum

Sports Writer. Avid sports fan. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate. Currently living in Tempe, AZ.

2017 NCAA Tournament Preview

5 Potential Upsets

11 Rhode Island over 6 Creighton

Rhode Island just battled through their conference tournament to become the A-10 Champions. Now, they did enter championship week as a bubble team very susceptible of being left out of the tournament, but they are streaking at the right time. Creighton has played well as of late. They made the Big East Tournament Championship before falling to Villanova, but I believe the loss of their star point guard will really affect them come tournament time.

12 Middle Tennessee State over 5 Minnesota

Minnesota was rewarded the second highest seeding amongst Big Ten teams, which is ridiculous considering Wisconsin trounced them at the end of the regular season, and they didn’t make the tournament finals. Nevertheless, MTSU upset a fellow Big Ten opponent last year in Michigan State as a 15 seed. Now, they are a 12… the most popular upset seed, and they have a better team than a year ago.

14 Florida Gulf Coast over 3 Florida State

I’m sure most of you remember the Dunktastic Sweet 16 run that FGCU made a couple years ago. Well, they’re back… and they’re still dunking. They drew Florida State in the first round, which is tricky because they have some future NBA players on their team, but they are also one of the most inconsistent top teams in the tournament. We could certainly see an upset here.

12 Nevada over 5 Iowa State

Iowa State has been susceptible to first round upsets in the past, but after seeing how they’ve played on their way to the Big 12 Tourney Championship, I don’t think this will be an upset. HOWEVER, Nevada does have a couple NBA prospects on their team, which means they could make a run in the tourney. Just ask NBA All-Stars Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward.

12 UNC-Wilmington over 5 Virginia

Much like FSU, Virginia has been extremely inconsistent this season. The only reason they got a 5-seed is because they play in the ACC. UNC-Wilmington has some veteran players with tournament experience so I have them taking out the Cavaliers early.

My Final Four Picks

East: Duke

I think we can all agree that Duke has finally hit their stride after a late season skid. The Blue Devils are finally healthy. Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles are key to defeating the Villanova Wildcats, as they can matchup in the backcourt. What a couple of star-studded matchups with Josh Hart-Jason Tatum, Grayson Allen-Jaylen Brunson and Luke Kennard-Kris Jenkins.

Midwest: Kansas

Kansas has the best and most consistent back court in the nation. Mason, Graham and Jackson will lead the Jayhawks to the Final Four, despite lacking the size they’ve had in previous years.

South: North Carolina

In my opinion, this is the toughest region with UNC, Kentucky and UCLA at 1, 2 and 3, but I still believe that UNC is the best team in that group. They have the clearer bracket leading up to the Elite 8, while the Wildcats and Bruins will beat up on each other prior to that game.

West: Arizona

On the flip side, I think this is the weakest region in the tournament. It has the lowest 1-seed in Gonzaga, who is a great team, don’t get me wrong. I believe that Arizona and the Zags will have a rematch of their early-season matchup, where Gonzaga defeated the Wildcats. However, Zona did not have Trier or Jackson-Cartwright in that loss, which is why I have Arizona advancing to the Final Four.

My Potential Cinderella Story

11 Rhode Island to the Elite 8

Let me stress that I do not have the Rams advancing past the second round; however, if I were to pick a double-digit seeded team that had the best chance to advance deep in the tournament, they would the team. First, they start by playing Creighton. Rhode Island can certainly beat them. Call it momentum from winning their tournament. Call it Napoleon-syndrome from being the smallest state in the U.S. Either way, this team has something to prove… including that you can never wear too much blue.

Baby blue and navy blue DO look good together!

They would follow up their first round win with a game against Oregon. While, I do have the Ducks winning this game, they did just lose their defensive stopper, which could be a problem. Rhode Island could pull of the upset.

Next, they would play probably Louisville, but I have the Cardinals losing to streaking Michigan in the second round, so Rhode Island would need to take down the Wolverines to make the Elite 8. Suppose Michigan’s luck runs out, the Rams could make it happen in the Midwest bracket.

Now… let me be clear…

This is an unlikely scenario, so even I can’t say that Rhode Island could pull off that many upsets and then still beat the Kansas Jayhawks. Sure, they’d be riding a whole lot of momentum, but Kansas is arguably the best team in the nation… so my Cinderella story ends at the Elite 8.

Written by: Paul Schaum

Sports Writer. Avid sports fan. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate. Currently living in Tempe, AZ.

How the NCAA can make the College Football Playoff even better

Today’s NCAA College Football Playoff is one of the most exciting changes to the sports landscape in years and has the potential to be the largest source of income for the NCAA. Seen by most as a vast improvement over the outdated BCS system, the playoff can finally bring a sense of parity to the college football landscape. However, the viewership in 2016 decreased by 36 percent, so there is always room for improvement. I believe the following changes would maximize revenue for the NCAA, while also bringing a sense of parity among the Power 5 Conferences.

Bringing change to the College Football Playoff system has to start with scheduling differences among the conferences. Within the Power 5 conferences, there are several different formats that the conferences have to adhere to. For example, the Big 12 plays every school within the conference without divisions, SEC schools throw in “cupcake” games against FCS opponents, and the Big Ten has recently changed to a nine game conference schedule without FCS opponents. Within my newly proposed system, the Power 5 programs would be required to play only other Power 5 schools… including Independent FBS schools like Notre Dame. It would completely separate the FBS schools from the FCS schools and would increase competition within all five conferences in hopes of achieving more parity in college football. An example of a Big Ten Schedule would be nine conference games plus an SEC, Pac 12 and ACC opponent.

power 5

The ultimate motivating factor within the NCAA is the same as any other organization—money. In order to maximize the potential earning by increasing interest and national viewership, I propose increasing the CFP to eight teams. These eight teams would be decided as follows: seeds 1-5 are the conference champions ranked according to the AP poll with three “wild card” bids going to the next highest ranked teams that didn’t win their conference. (I know what you’re thinking… YES, Notre Dame would have to join a conference). With the conferences having similar schedules, the College Football Playoff would be able to reward teams based on record, as opposed to the current system of the committee picking the teams to enter the College Football Playoff. Having a guaranteed playoff contender from each conference would solidify the viewership from every region of the country and ultimately drive up ratings nationwide.

The final step in increasing and maintaining the viewership of the College Football Playoff would be to give the Playoffs its own separate entity, separate from the College Bowl Season. This change would increase the presence of the CFP, while also maintaining the integrity of the crumbling bowl season. In the 2015-16 bowl season, there were 41 bowls played but only 77 bowl eligible teams (6-6 record or better), so the NCAA had to invite teams with a 5-7 record to fill the empty slots in the remaining bowl games. While the increase in the number of bowls would theoretically increase overall revenue, I propose increasing the bowls for the elite schools at the top… not the bottom. This would involve adding an entire College Football Playoff system, similar to the NFL Playoffs, and have the rest of the teams play in the other bowls. It would maintain the lure of getting into a larger bowl for the teams that may have lost a conference championship game and would also keep “traditional” bowl games with their respective conferences.

rose bowl

For example, the Rose Bowl would be the loser of the Big Ten Championship against the loser of the Pac 12 Championship. Overall, I believe this would increase revenue and competition at the top of the rankings and would remove many of the bowls at the bottom that may need a 5-7 team.

Overall, the CFP has changed NCAA football for the better. It just needs a few more tweaks before reaching its full financial and entertainment potential. With time will come improvement, and I believe it should happen sooner rather than later.

alex

  Alex Richter

Avid sports fan specializing in NFL and NCAA football. University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. Living in Madison, WI. Go Badgers!

Twitter: @richterat13