6 Biggest Upsets In NCAA March Madness History

The NCAA defines a tournament upset as "a victory by a team seeded 5 or more lines below its defeated opponent."

An extreme example happened in 2018 when the No. 16 seed UMBC Retrievers became the first team in that bracket to upset the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers 74-54 in the first round, which is now widely regarded as the greatest upset in college basketball history.

Cinderella teams — teams placed at 8-seed or below — produce upsets each year and games with these teams are usually more exciting to watch.

Here are the five (additional) biggest upsets in the history of March Madness.

Golden Eagles (Oral Roberts) beat the Buckeyes (Ohio State), 2021

The No. 15 seed Golden Eagles defeat the No. 2 seed Buckeyes in a thrilling overtime performance, 75-72, led by top shooters Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas. The Buckeyes had the opportunity to tie the game when Duane Washington Jr. was set up to shoot a 3-pointer just outside the 3-point line, and with an unfortunate miss and buzzer, the game was over.

Broncos (Santa Clara) beat the Wildcats (Arizona), 1993

The No. 15 seed Broncos defeated the No. 2 seed Wildcats 64-61 in a final two minutes filled with fouls and free-throws. Steve Nash and Pete Eisenrich, a freshman at the time, were credited with bringing glory to the Broncos in their exciting second-half performance. Arizona had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer when Damon Stoudamire launched a dramatic shot. But it bounced off of the rim, giving the win to the Broncos. 

Blue Raiders (Middle Tennessee) beat the Spartans (Michigan State), 2016

The No. 15 seed Blue Raiders defeat No. 2 seed Spartans 90-81 in proper fashion as the starting five players on the Blue Raiders offense ended the game with double-digit scores. The Spartans were down the entire game, only ever coming within three points of taking the lead.

Peacocks (Saint Peter’s) beat the Wildcats (Kentucky), 2022

The No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s beat the No. 2 seed Wildcats 85-79 in the final 90 seconds of overtime with standout performances by leading scorers Daryl Banks III and Doug Edert, who came off of the bench.  

Mountain Hawks (Lehigh Mountain) beat the Blue Devils (Duke), 2012

The No. 15 seed Mountain Hawks defeat No. 2 seed Blue Devils 75-70 in a game where both teams scored 15 points or more in the thrilling final three minutes. Duke’s defeat was etched in stone when now NBA star C.J McCollum was fouled, then sank both free-throws putting the Mountain Hawks up five points with 0.4 seconds left in the second half. 


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