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The Top 25 NCAA Tournament Upsets of the 21st Century

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIMarch 11, 2012

The Top 25 NCAA Tournament Upsets of the 21st Century

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    The turn of the century has changed the college landscape forever.

    The one-and-done rule was instituted by the NBA in 2005, making high school players ineligible to be drafted. This has forced players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden to attend college.

    With many of the top schools seemingly having a revolving-door roster, this has given an advantage to some of the experienced mid-major teams to make unexpected NCAA tournament runs. 

25) 2004 No. 10 Nevada 91, No. 2 Gonzaga 72

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    From 1999-2001, Gonzaga had three surprising runs to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16.

    The tables were turned on them by Nevada.

    The Wolfpack had a 20-point lead at one point in the first half and settled into a 15-point lead at halftime.

24) 2001 No. 13 Kent State 77, No. 4 Indiana 73

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    Overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit, the Golden Flashes rallied behind Trevor Huffman.

    Huffman scored 24 points, including 11 of Kent State’s final 15 points to shock the Hoosiers.

    IU would avenge the loss a year later in the Regional Finals on their way to being the national runner-up.

23) 2000 No. 10 Gonzaga 82, No. 2 St. John’s 76

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    A year after making surprising run to the Elite Eight, Gonzaga once again pulled off two shocking upsets to reach its second consecutive Sweet 16.

    They defeated Louisville in the first round and followed that up by knocking off the West Region’s second-seed St. John’s.

    The Red Storm advanced to the Elite Eight the previous season as a No. 1 seed.

22) 2001 No. 13 Indiana State 70, No. 4 Oklahoma 68 (OT)

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    After trailing by seven at halftime, the Sycamores rallied behind Matt Renn.

    Renn scored 22 points, including making 12 of 17 at the foul line.

21) 2003 No. 3 Marquette 83, No. 1 Kentucky 69

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    The talk at the beginning of the 2003 NCAA tournament was how the tournament's consensus top two teams (Arizona and Kentucky) could be slated to meet in the Final Four.

    Dwayne Wade and the Golden Eagles upset Kentucky, and Kansas eliminated Arizona in the Regional Finals to make both points moot.

    Wade recorded just the fifth triple-double in NCAA tournament history with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to lead Marquette to its first Final Four since Al McGuire led the Warriors to their then-only national championship in 1977.

20) 2002 No. 8 UCLA 105, No. 1 Cincinnati 101 (2OT)

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    A year after losing in the second round as a No. 2 seed without Kenyon Martin, the Bearcats were shocked in the second round again.

    UCLA had struggled throughout the season after being ranked No. 4 in the preseason.

    Dan Gadzuric scored 26 points to lead the Bruins.

    Leonard Stokes had 39 points and 10 rebounds in the loss for Cincinnati.

19) 2007 No. 11 VCU 79, No. 6 Duke 77

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    Normally, a No. 11 over a No. 6 would be considered a mild upset.  

    A year after George Mason had their amazing run, the Patriots' Colonial Conference rivals pulled their own shocker.

    Eric Maynor hit a runner with 1.8 seconds remaining to knock Duke out in the first round for the first time in 10 years.

    The Rams nearly pulled another upset in the second round before losing to Pittsburgh 84-79 in overtime.

18) 2005 No. 14 Bucknell 64, No. 3 Kansas 63

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    Two years after playing for the national championship, the Jayhawks suffered their first first-round loss since 1978.

    Bucknell became the first Patriot League team to win an NCAA tournament game.

17) 2005 No. 13 Vermont 60, No. 4 Syracuse 57

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    A T.J. Sorrentine three-point field goal with 1:07 remaining in overtime extended the Catamounts' lead to four, and they never looked back.

    It was Vermont’s first NCAA tournament win and sent coach Tom Brennan into retirement after they lost to Michigan State in the second round.

16) 2005 No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee over No. 5 Alabama and No. 4 Boston College

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    Earlier in his career, it's speculated that Panthers head coach Bruce Pearl had been blacklisted from Division I coaching after reporting Illinois for recruiting violations.

    The Panthers pulled two upsets as a No. 12 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

    The dream would end against UWM alum Bruce Weber and Illinois in Chicago. 

15) 2006 No. 13 Bradley 77 over No. 4 Kansas 73, 72 over No. 5 Pittsburgh 66

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    Behind center Patrick O’Bryant, the Braves had their best tournament run since 1955.

    O’Bryant had 28 points and seven rebounds against fellow seven-footer Aaron Gray and Pittsburgh in the second round. 

14) 2005 No. 10 West Virginia 110, No. 2 Wake Forest 105 (2OT)

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    Wake Forest's Chris Paul was one of college basketball's biggest stars in 2005.  

    Wake led 40-27 at halftime and seemed to be cruising to a Sweet 16 berth.  

    Behind forwards Tyrone Sally and Mike Gansey, the Mountaineers exploded for 84 points in the second half and the overtime, messing up a lot of brackets.  

    Gansey scored 19 of his game-high 29 in the two overtimes to lead WVU. He scored eight in the final two minutes of the second overtime.

    Included was a crucial layup that fouled out Paul.  West Virginia advanced the Elite Eight before relinquishing a 20-point lead to Louisville to fall short of the Final Four.

13) 2000 No. 8 Wisconsin 66, No. 1 Arizona 59

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    Led by Dick Bennett and his 1950s style of play, Wisconsin pulled off the stunner over Arizona.  

    The Wildcats were playing without center Loren Woods, whom they lost late in the season with a back injury.  

    Wisconsin and their over-aggressive defense out-toughed the Wildcats.  

    Five Wisconsin players finished in double figures, while Arizona was led by freshman Gilbert Arenas with a game-high 21 points.

12) 2000 No. 8 North Carolina 60, No. 1 Stanford 53

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    No team has been at both ends of spectrum of second-round upsets as much as UNC.

    The Cardinal earned its first-ever No. 1 seed after sharing the Pac-10's regular season championship with Arizona.  

    They entered the 2000 NCAA tournament a year after getting ousted in the second round by Cinderella Gonzaga as a No. 2 seed. 

    The Tar Heels pulled the shocker and advanced to the Sweet 16 on the strength of a late 10-0 run.

    The Heels were led by freshman Joe Forte with 17 points.  During the 2000 season, Forte became the first freshman to lead UNC in scoring.  

    The win secured UNC's 30th consecutive 20-win season. 

11) 2002 No. 10 Kent State over No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Pittsburgh

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    The Golden Flashes added to their resume of knocking off schools from the power conference a year after eliminating Indiana in the first round.

    Led by future NFL Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates, the Golden Flashes dominated the Crimson Tide 71-58 and then outlasted Pittsburgh 78-73 in overtime behind Gates’ 22 points. 

10) 2010 No. 14 Ohio 97, No. 3 Georgetown 83

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    The Bobcats pulled off the shocker with guards Armon Basset and Tommy Freeman combining for 55 points.

    The Bobcats raced out to a 12-point halftime lead, shot 58 percent from the floor, 56 percent on their threes and made 20 of 26 from the line for the school’s first NCAA tournament win in 27 years. 

9) 2004 No. 8 UAB 76, No. 1 Kentucky 75

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    Kentucky was familiar with 40 minutes of hell from playing against Arkansas in the SEC.

    UAB head coach Mike Anderson was an assistant at Arkansas during their title runs in the mid-1990s.  

    Anderson enacted 40 minutes of hell II in Birmingham.

    The Blazers' pressure defense forced 16 UK turnovers.  

    Mo Finley won it for UAB on a jumper with 12 seconds remaining to eliminate the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.  

8) 2010 No. 9 Northern Iowa 69, No. 1 Kansas 67

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    Kansas entered the tournament as the clear favorite to capture the school's fourth NCAA championship.  

    Behind fearless play from sharpshooter Ali Farokhmanesh and center Jordan Egelseder, the Panthers pulled off the upset.  

    The defining moment came with 34 seconds left.  Leading by one and alone on the wing, Farohkmanesh let a three-pointer fly—and made it.  

    The prudent decision would have been to pull the ball back and burn the clock.  

    With two made free throws, UNI would have been up three, still giving Kansas a chance to even the game.  

    Farokhmanesh's decision iced the game and sent the Panthers to their first Sweet 16. 

7) 2006 No. 14 Northwestern State 64, No. 3 Iowa 63

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    Iowa seemed to have the game in hand with a 17-point lead with 8.5 minutes remaining.  

    A frantic rally and an improbable shot allowed Northwestern State to pull the upset.

    The Demons pulled off the improbable victory when Jermaine Wallace chased down a loose ball and fired up a prayer three-pointer from the corner.  

    Amazingly, it went in and gave Northwestern State a one-point victory.

6) 2001 No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57

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    The lasting legacy from this game was Hampton coach Steve Merfeld being carried off the court by Pirate player David Johnson.

    Hampton finished the game on a 14-2 run concluded by a Tarvis Williams' short shot with 6.9 seconds to go.

    Williams played the majority of the second half with four fouls.  

5) 2004 No. 8 Alabama 73, No. 1 Stanford 70

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    The story of the 2004 college basketball season was the undefeated regular seasons of Stanford and St. Joseph.  

    The Cardinal earned a No. 1 seed for the second time in five seasons.

    The Crimson Tide used a 16-0 second-half run to overcome a 13-point deficit and made 34 out of 44 from the line to eliminate the Cardinal as a first or second seed for the third time in six years.  

    Alabama was able to overcome missing 16 out of 17 shots from the field at one point in the second half.

4) Davidson’s 2008 NCAA Tournament Run

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    The Wildcats upset Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before falling to eventual national-champion Kansas in the Midwest Regional Final.

    Davidson’s star Guard Stephen Curry scored at least 30 points in all four of Davidson games.

    He was only the fourth player ever to connect for at least 30 in his first four tournament games. 

3) 2002 No. 5 Indiana 74, No. 1 Duke 73

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    After falling behind by 17 points in the second half, Indiana rallied and had a four-point lead in the waning seconds.

    Jay Williams connected on a three-point attempt and was fouled in the process.  

    Williams was only a 67.7-percent free-throw shooter on the season.

    He missed a free throw that would have tied the game.

    Carlos Boozer’s follow missed, and the Hoosiers' upset was sealed.

    Duke’s season ended at 29-4. IU’s run continued all the way to the National Championship Game, where they fell to Maryland. 

2) 2011 No. 11 VCU 71, No. 1 Kansas 61

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    Five years after George Mason became the first true mid-major to advance to the Final Four in 27 years, VCU continued to show the Colonial Athletic Conference is deep and talented.

    Having to play in the first four, the Rams had to win five games to advance to Houston and the Final Four.

    The Rams took a 41-27 lead into halftime and never let up.

    They made 48 percent of their three-point field goals and shot 77 percent from the line while holding Kansas to 2-of-21 from beyond the arc.

    The Rams' amazing run ended to fellow Cinderella Butler in the Final Four.

1) 2006 No. 11 George Mason 86, No. 1 UConn 84 (OT)

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    George Mason shocked the No. 1 overall seed UConn by overcoming a 12-point first-half deficit and a buzzer-beater by the Huskies to send the game to overtime.

    The Patriots became the first true mid-major to advance to a Final Four since Pennsylvania lost to Michigan State in 1979.

    Jai Lewis, Will Thomas and Lamar Butler combined to score 58 points for George Mason.

    Six UConn players would later go on to play in the NBA. 

    For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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