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Going into this season, only four No. 15 seeds have ever won a first-round game. They are: Hampton over Iowa State in 2001, Fang Mitchell’s Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997, Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993 and Richmond over Syracuse in 1991.
Both Norfolk State, who beat Missouri, and Lehigh, who over came Duke, joined this group in 2012. These are generally thought of as fluke wins, and Duke and Missouri fans may claim they will shake off the losses, but it’s just not true.
For the players of Norfolk State and Lehigh, these victories will last a lifetime and be shared around the dinner table at holidays. Nothing is quite as big as a good David versus Goliath story.
For Duke and Missouri fans, it gets worse. Duke has enjoyed success and will continue to do so. Missouri isn’t in the same breath as Duke as far as basketball history, but the Tigers were a formidable bunch and years from now, this will hurt.
Ask any Syracuse fan which loss stings the most. You would think that the loss to Indiana in the ’87 final would be it, or even the loss to Kentucky in the ’96 final, but the one that will prevail is the loss to Richmond. A team losing a championship game is a tough loss, but it’s understandable. When Syracuse lost to Richmond, though, it was unfathomable, and the pain of unfulfilled potential lasts much longer than losing a tough fight.
It’s why we romanticize about the girl that got away, but are ok getting divorced.
Huge upsets like these in the tournament are the stuff that dreams are made of and, conversely, the agony that forms nightmares.