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Basketball Upsets

Charlotte Green takes a look at some of the most stunning basketball upsets in the history of March Madness.

The beauty of March Madness is that it is fun for anyone, whether you are a basketball fan or not. In addition to cheering on your team, seeing an underdog defeat a powerhouse is one of the best parts of March Madness.

N.C. State Over Houston for the Championship (1983)

As a real Cinderella up against a top dog, the North Carolina State Wolfpack barely made it into the tournament, while the Houston Cougars were the definition of a "sure win." In the semi-final game, the Cougars trounced Louisville's No. 2 team, entering the championship with a little too much confidence.

The game ebbed and flowed until N.C. State's Lorenzo Charles tipped in Dereck Whittenburg's prayer of a shot as the clock hit zero to take down the mighty Cougars.

Villanova Over Georgetown for the Championship (1985)

Georgetown entered the championship game on a 17-game winning streak, looking to secure back-to-back national titles. Up 66-64 with two seconds remaining, Villanova only had to inbound the ball to win the game. The Villanova Wildcats didn't even finish in the Top 20 in the season's final NCAA basketball poll.

The game ends with Villanova's Harold Jensen successfully inbounding the ball to Dwayne McClain, securing the upset.

Princeton Over Defending Champion UCLA (1996)

As a school that used an intricate offence to compete with more physically talented teams, Princeton stunned the defending champion UCLA Bruins in a 43–41 first-round victory. It is an approach that a coach may take with a sports management degree from Adelphi University.

With 18 seconds remaining, the Tigers used that offence to drain a backdoor layup and ultimately drain the clock for the win.

George Mason over Connecticut (2006)

In an 86–84 overtime thriller, No. 11 seed George Mason stunned the top-seeded Connecticut Huskies for an incredible trip to the Final Four. Connecticut's loss marked the last No. 1 seed to fall in the tournament, while the Patriots were the first double-digit seed to make it that far since LSU in 1986.

Norfolk State Defeats Mighty Missouri (2012)

Another first-round upset, the No. 15 Norfolk State Spartans took an 86-84 win over the No. 2 seed Missouri Wildcats. After leading for most of the game, the Spartans held a slim two-point lead before missing three consecutive free throws to give the Wildcats a chance with 2.9 seconds left.

Missouri managed to inbound the ball after coming off a timeout and got off a quality three-point attempt but missed, surrendering the win to Norfolk State.

David beating Goliath

That kind of magic has developed over the years for the NCAA Men's Basketball postseason, resulting in some of the most storied moments in collegiate athletics.

While the competition itself is fun to watch, and the highest-ranked teams typically rise to the top, there is nothing like seeing the unlikely David overtake the mighty Goliath.

Page Reference

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  • GREEN, C. (2015) Basketball Upsets [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Charlotte Green is a freelance journalist.