10 biggest NCAA tournament upsets of the last decade
On Friday, the 2016 NCAA tournament witnessed its first truly shocking upset: No. 15 Middle Tennessee State beat No. 2 Michigan State, a team favored by many to advance to the Final Four.
Michigan State's surprising defeat is perhaps one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1, but the Spartans are one of just a handful of No. 2 seeds to lose to a No. 15.
In all but two seasons (2000, 2007) since the tournament expanded to its current 64-team format in 1985, a team seeded 12 or lower has managed to win at least one game.
After Middle Tennessee State's big upset, revisit 10 of the biggest tournament upsets of the last 10 years (not including this season), in reverse chronological order.
2015: No. 14 Georgia State 57, No. 3 Baylor 56
R.J. Hunter’s amazing game-winning shot from distance and coach Ron Hunter falling off his stool will likely rank among the tournament's most iconic moments for years to come. Hunter was able to shake off a poor shooting performance, going just two for seven from three-point range, to seal a furious Georgia State comeback. Baylor led 56–44 with 2:54 remaining, but Georgia State held the Bears scoreless for the rest of the game to secure a shocking victory.
2015: No. 14 UAB 60, No. 3 Iowa State 59
Senior Robert Brown scored a game-high 21 points and sophomore William Lee tallied the final four points as UAB stunned Iowa State to win its first tournament game since 2005. The game was close the entire way, but the Blazers did just enough to become the third No. 14 seed to win in as many years. The win was a big moment for fans of the school, who were still dealing with the news that the school’s football program had been shuttered.
2014: No. 14 Mercer 78, No. 3 Duke 71
Mercer came into Raleigh with a starting lineup consisting of five seniors and took down Jabari Parker and the Blue Devils. The Bears never trailed by more than four in the second half and pulled away in the last minute to seal the victory. Five Mercer players scored in double figures, led by Jakob Gollon’s 20 point performance.
2013: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast 78. No. 2 Georgetown 68
In just its second year of NCAA tournament eligibility after making the move to Division I in the 2007–08 season, Florida Gulf Coast dunked its way to a convincing win over Georgetown. Sherwood Brown led the way with 24 points as the Eagles completed one of the most memorable wins in the tournament’s recent history. FGCU didn’t stop after the first round, knocking of San Diego State 81–71 to become the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.
2012: No. 15 Lehigh 75, No. 2 Duke 70
Future Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum dropped 30 points as Lehigh became the sixth No. 15 seed to win a game, beating Duke 75–70. Lehigh led for most of the game and won over a crowd in Greensboro, just 55 miles from Duke’s campus. The loss was just the second first-round exit for the Blue Devils over the past 16 seasons.
2012: No. 15 Norfolk State 86, No. 2 Missouri 84
In its first ever trip to the tournament, Norfolk State relied on a trio of phenomenal performances to become the first No. 15 seed to win a game since 2001. Kyle O’Quinn, Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams each scored at least 20 points, with O’Quinn’s 26 points and 14 rebounds leading the way. Missouri had the chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Phil Pressey’s three could not find its way into the basket.
2011: No. 11 VCU 71, No. 1 Kansas 61
The Rams became just the third No. 11 seed to advance to the final four after a convincing 71–61 win over Kansas. Jamie Skeen played the game of his life, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as VCU led most of the way. The Rams would end up falling to fellow mid-major Butler in the Final Four, but completed an improbable run after being the last team to make the tournament bracket.
2010: No. 14 Ohio 97, No. 3 Georgetown 83
Ohio picked up its first tournament win in 27 years, and looked comfortable doing so, cruising to a win over Georgetown. The Bobcats only made the tournament after winning the MAC tournament, posting a losing record in conference play. Armon Bassett scored 32 points, and Ohio trailed for only 25 seconds the entire game.
2006: No. 11 George Mason 86, No. 1 Connecticut 84
George Mason barely made the tournament as an at-large bid in 2006, but that didn’t stop the team from making what is arguably the most improbable Final Four run ever. UConn’s starting lineup had three players taller than anyone on the Patriots roster, but George Mason continually knocked down big shots and eventually beat the Huskies 86–84 in overtime. All five of George Mason’s starters scored in the double digits, with Jai Lewis leading the way with 20 points. George Mason also upset No. 6 Michigan State, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 7 Wichita State before bowing out to eventual champion Florida in the Final Four.
2006: No. 14 Northwestern St. 64, No. 3 Iowa 63
Northwestern State pulled off an amazing 17-point comeback in the second half to knock off Iowa, but the comeback is almost forgotten because of Jermaine Wallace’s all-time great buzzer beater. With time running out, Wallace launched a fadeway away three from the corner that sent him falling past the baseline. He watched through the backboard as the ball fall into the hoop. Clifton Lee finished with 18 points to lead the Demons to the exciting upset.