NCAA

The Biggest First-Round Upsets in NCAA Tournament History

Thursday was supposed to be the start of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, a national holiday for college basketball junkies. Sadly, March will be held without any madness this year.

Normally, there would be 32 basketball games scheduled for the next two days. The round of 64 is a nonstop thrill ride with three or four games on at any time from noon until 1 a.m. on the east coast. But today — nothing.

During this cruel time devoid of all sports, all we can do is reminisce on the memories March Madness gave us in the past. Here are the biggest first-round upsets in NCAA Tournament history:

2012: No. 15 Lehigh over No. 2 Duke

CJ McCollum is one of the best pure scorers in the NBA today, but before he was getting buckets alongside Damian Lillard, he was shocking Coach K and Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

McCollum averaged 21.3 points per game in his career at Lehigh. In 2012, he finished fifth in the nation in scoring, capped off by a 30-point game in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament against Duke. McCollum also had six rebounds and six assists in the upset victory.

Future NBA players Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee, and Quinn Cook all suited up for Duke that day. McCollum outplayed them all and Lehigh sunk the Blue Devils, 75-70.

2012: No. 15 Norfolk State over No. 2 Missouri

Missouri was one of the favorites to win the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Tigers went 30-4 in the regular season and had one of the best groups of guards in the country. Four of the team’s guards averaged over 10 points per game that season.

Enter Norfolk State, a team that had two losses of 30-plus points on their 2012 resume. Vegas didn’t give them much of a chance to hang with Missouri, making them a 21.5-point underdog. The Spartans didn’t just cover the number, they won outright. The money line for Norfolk State could be found at 45-to-1 odds.

Kyle O’Quinn was the star for Norfolk State, scoring 26 points and securing 14 rebounds in the upset. O’Quinn now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.

2012 was the first season in NCAA history that saw two No. 2 seeds lose in the first round.

2013: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 2 Georgetown

“Dunk City” took the world by storm in 2013. Florida Gulf Coast exploded for 54 second-half points and five dunks to send Georgetown home early in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

FGCU’s high flying style of play captivated America in the 2013 opening week. The Eagles threw down 15 dunks and six alley-oops in the tournament. After beating Georgetown in the first round, they crushed San Diego State to move on to the Sweet 16. That’s where their magical season ended against Florida.

2016: No. 15 Middle Tennesee St. over No. 2 Michigan State

Tom Izzo rarely loses in the first weekend of March Madness. His Michigan State teams constantly make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, but Middle Tennesee St. had something to say about that in 2016.

Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes lead the Spartans to a 29-5 regular season. They were a 17-point favorite against the Blue Raiders, but MTSU controlled the game wire-to-wire to secure the convincing upset, 90-81. All five Blue Raiders’ starters had more than 10 points in the game and the team hit 11 of its 19 threes attempted.

2018: No. 16 UMBC over No. 1 Virginia

Many thought we would never see a 16 seed beat a 1 seed as No. 1 seeds were 131-0 in first-round games prior to 2018. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County made it 131-1.

UMBC didn’t just beat the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, it throttled Virginia, 74-54. The game was never even in doubt in the second half. Jairus Lyles led the Retrievers with 28 points, including 23 in the second half.

UMBC was a 20.5-point underdog in the game. A $100 bet on the Retrievers to win the game would’ve profited $2,000. Simply put, UMBC’s upset win over Virginia in 2018 is the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.