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Best Upsets in NCAA tournament History

Three notable 15th seed upsets over a 2nd seed 

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship is a single elimination tournament where many upsets have taken place in the past 25 years. Although a number one seed has never been defeated, there have been a number of close calls such as Georgetown edging Princeton in 1989 by a point, and Oklahoma getting the best of East Tennessee State 72 to 71. The best upsets have been in the 15th seed versus 2nd seed matchups including Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and Georgetown in 2013, Santa Clara and Arizona in 1993, and the first instance with the Richmond versus Syracuse game in 1991.

FGCU was making their first NCAA basketball tournament visit in 2013 against Georgetown’s 29th appearance. FGCU was so new that the school had not eligible to participate until 2012. Guard Sherwood Brown led FGCU with 24 points in the 78 to 68 second round upset in the South Regional. After a close first half, FGCU sprinted out to a 21 to 2 run in the second half and ultimately hung on to defeat the second seed. Guard Bernard Thompson contributed 23 points for FGCU, a state university in Fort Myers with an enrollment of 12,000 students. The Big East champion Georgetown Hoyas who finished the year with 25 wins, lost to a double digit seed for the four consecutive year. FGCU dismantled Georgetown’s defense which had allowed only 55.7 point per game and just 37.6 percent from the field. FGCU finished the contest shooting 42.9% and held Georgetown to 37.5%. Notably, FGCU held down the Big East Player of the Year Forward Otto Porter to 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting.

During the 1992-93 season, the Arizona Wildcats appeared to be the top team in the nation. The Wildcats ran through 19 straight opponents while completing the PAC 10 season with 17 wins, and one lone defeat which included a sweep of hated rival UCLA. Arizona was led by two future NBA guards in Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves who were accurate shooters, ran the court versus their opponents, and each contributed to the ball movement that was a promoted by Head Coach Lute Olsen. No one knew anything about the Santa Clara Broncos let alone the freshman point guard (future NBA star) Steve Nash who was recruited by only a few schools. Santa Clara slowed the game down to prevent Arizona from doing what they did well which was getting up and down the court quickly. Arizona went on a 25 to zero run to end the first half and held a 35 to 33 lead, yet they were anything but comfortable. Santa Clara stiffened their defense which frustrated Stoudamire, Reeves, and forward Chris Mills. In the end, Santa Clara held Arizona to 30.9% from the field including the Arizona guard tandem shooting two of 18. As the shots failed, Arizona panicked which led Santa Clara to a 64 to 61 victory.

In 1985, the NCAA tournament field was expanded to 64 teams. The University of Richmond became the first 15th seed to send home a 2nd seed. The Big East champion Syracuse Orangemen fell behind 44 to 36 at the intermission as Richmond shot 16 of 26 from the field. Richmond led by as many as 10 points mid-way through the second half yet forward Billy Owens hit a shot with 31 seconds remaining to cut the Richmond lead to 70 to 69. However, the Spiders would not be denied as little used guard Mike Hopkins was fouled and promptly hit two free throws to ice the game. Senior forward Terry Connolly came off of the bench to score 14 points and pull down 7 rebounds that led the way to the Spider’s upset.

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