My favorite NCAA tournament upsets – and near upsets

There's been much debate ever since the NCAA expanded the field of the men's Division 1 Basketball Tournament to 64 teams in 1985. This, paired with the NCAA's decision (also that year) to introduce the shot clock, has helped make it possible for the mid-major and smaller conferences to better compete with the power conferences.

Rick Wilking/Reuters
Morehead State center Kenneth Faried celebrates defeating Louisville as Louisville forward Terrence Jennings looks on (R) in their second round NCAA tournament basketball game in Denver, March 17.

I’ve been watching college basketball fairly consistently since the late 90s and wanted to include some outstanding games I’ve seen along the way. I’m also including two games I saw, featuring 16 seeds against 1 seeds that were very nearly upsets and ones that got me off my seat to cheer for the little guy.

Though a 16 has never beaten a 1, in my opinion, these opening-round games are important to the tournament for that very reason. Everyone seems to agree that one day this will happen, and when it does, there will be only more validation in having widened the tournament field to now include 68 teams.

So here are my top ten in chronological order:

1. Coppin State (15) over South Carolina (2), 1997

2. Princeton (13) over UCLA (4), 1997

3. Valparaiso (13) over Mississippi (4), 1998

4. Weber State (15) over North Carolina (2), 1999

5. Hampton (15) over Iowa State (2), 2001

6. Vermont (13) over Syracuse (4), 2005

7. George Mason (11) over University of Connecticut (1), 2006

8. Morehead State (13) over Louisville (4), 2011

9. East Tennessee State (16) v. Pittsburgh (1), 2009. Pittsburgh, a team that has, in recent years, earned a reputation as an underachiever during the NCAA tournament (they lost, again as a #1 in the 2nd round this year to 8th seeded Butler) played horribly in this game, and was up by only five points with just over a minute left. “We had them,” said senior guard Kevin Tiggs. “We just couldn’t get over the hump.” It's the closest I’ve ever seen a 16 get to beating a 1;

10. S.U.N.Y. Albany (16) v. University of Connecticut (1), 2006. One of my all-time favorites. Connecticut’s 72-59 win was almost anticlimactic when considering that S.U.N.Y. Albany, that year’s America East conference champion, was ahead 50-38 over arguably one of Division 1's best offenses with just over eleven minutes to play. Add to that the fact that Albany had never previously used a zone defense of any kind, but absolutely confounded Connecticut with one through much of the first and over 9 minutes into the second half.

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