March Madness: Ranking the 6 Biggest Upsets in NCAA Tournament History

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2012

March Madness: Ranking the 6 Biggest Upsets in NCAA Tournament History

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    Going into this year's NCAA tournament, a No. 15 seed had only beaten a No. 2 seed four times in 108 tries (since the tourney went to 64 teams in 1985).

    Today, two more No. 15 -seeded teams beat their second-seeded opponents.

    Since no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed, these six losses could be considered the six biggest upsets in NCAA history.

    Here's a ranking of the half-dozen most dumbfounding defeats of all time in March Madness.

6. Richmond Shuts Down Syracuse (1991)

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    In 1991, the Spiders opened the eyes of the college basketball world by becoming the first No. 15 seed to win a first-round game. Richmond upset Syracuse, 73-69.

    The Orange were 26-5 and the Big East Champions going into what was supposed to be a simple win.

    The Spiders opened an early lead and never gave up their advantage, hitting three free throws in the closing seconds of the game to clinch this huge upset.

    Curtis Blair (pictured) led Richmond with 18 points.

5. Coppin State Nails South Carolina (1997)

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    The Eagles were 30-point underdogs when they met the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first round of the 1997 NCAA tournament.

    Danny Singletary led Coppin State to this unbelievable 78-65 upset. He scored all but four of his game-high 22 points in the second half.

    Like most of these other No. 15-seed winners, this was the first NCAA tournament win in Coppin State's school history.

    Not only that, but the Eagles became the first team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to win an NCAA Division-I tournament game.


4. Hampton Knocks off Iowa State (2001)

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    In 2001, the Hampton Pirates were up against an Iowa State squad that featured future first-round NBA picks Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley.

    But it was the Pirates' Tarvis Williams (pictured) who knocked down a shot with 6.9 seconds left to give Hampton a 58-57 victory.

    The Cyclones had one last chance to win, but Tinsley missed a layup with 1.2 seconds on the clock.

    This was Hampton's first appearance ever in the NCAA tournament.

3. Santa Clara Knocks off Arizona (1993)

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    In 1993, Santa Clara and their marginally known freshman Canadian point guard (Steve Nash) stunned the Arizona Wildcats, 64-61.

    U of A had three future NBA players (Chris Mills, Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves) on their roster.

    The game nearly slipped through Santa Clara's fingers when Nash missed a pair of free throws with less than 10 seconds left.

    Fortunately for the Broncos, Arizona couldn't capitalize on this.

    Stoudamire unsuccessfully attempted a desperation three as time expired.

    This was the second consecutive year that Arizona had lost in the first round. Lute Olson's Wildcats were knocked off the previous year as a No. 3 seed, by No. 14 seed East Tennessee State.

2. Norfolk State Messes Up Missouri (2012)

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    Norfolk State has played Division-I basketball only since 1997.

    In their first NCAA tournament appearance, the Norfolk State Spartans made it count by beating Missouri, 86-84.

    Kyle O'Quinn led all scorers with 26 points while grabbing 14 rebounds.

    The loss brought Missouri head coach Frank Haith's magical first year to a screeching halt.

    NSU is out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), the same conference that Coppin State and Hampton come from.

    Rumor has it that the league is changing its name from the MEAC to the GKC (Giant-Killer Conference).

1. Lehigh Downs Duke (2012)

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    All of the aforementioned No. 2-seed-over-No. 15-seed upsets were huge—but none were as big as Lehigh's beat down of the Blue Devils, 75-70.

    You would think that a team like Lehigh would have to play a near-perfect game to take down a team like Duke.

    Not so.

    Lehigh was out-rebounded 37-34 for the game, only shot 38 percent for the first half and was down by two at intermission.

    Duke, for no apparent reason, over-relied on shooting from beyond the arc, hitting only 6-for-26 three-point attempts.

    C.J. McCollum, the two-time Patriot League player of the year and the nation's fifth-leading scorer, was brilliant for the Mountain Hawks, scoring 30 points.

    This year's Blue Devils were not, by far, one of the better teams in school history.

    But this is still Duke, and their long-standing success and multiple national championships pushes this upset to the top of this list.