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10 Biggest First Round Upsets in Recent NCAA Tournament History [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

March Madness first-round upsets
Al Bello/Brian Bahr/Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

The annual NCAA Tournament kicks off Tuesday with two games featuring lower seeds vying for a spot in the field of 64.

The winners of those matchups will try to make history by then knocking off a top seed. No #16 seed has ever ousted a #1, but four #15s have taken care of #2s in the first round. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable first round upsets that have at once propelled some lesser known schools to fame and busted up many pool participants’ brackets:

#15 HAMPTON – 2001

In their first March Madness appearance, the Hampton Pirates took down #2 Iowa State in a nail-biter, as Tarvis Williams scored with 6.9 seconds left to give them a 58-57 win. They’re the most recent team to pull off such a big upset. The team celebrated in style. “In a moment that has been part of March Madness montages ever since, Hampton coach Steve Merfeld was lifted in the air by his players, pumping his fists in jubilation,” reported Hampton’s success was short-lived, though. They were cut down by #10 Georgetown in the second round.

#15 COPPIN STATE – 1997

Choppin State, March Madness 1997
Al Bello, Getty Images

“We believed. We always believes,” said one Coppin State player after his team knocked off #2 South Carolina in a first round shocker. They battled back against the Gamecocks in the second half before pulling away for a 78-65 victory. Coppin State fought hard in the next round against #10 Texas, but ultimately lost 82-81.

#15 SANTA CLARA – 1993

Steve Nash
Otto Greule Jr., Getty Images

The Steve Nash-led Santa Clara Broncos showed they were a force to be reckoned with when they ousted #2 Arizona from the tournament. After Nash missed two key throws that could have sealed the game, the team still held on for a 64-61 win. “They didn’t panic,” said Santa Clara Coach Dick Davey, “but I did.” The Broncos lost by 11 to #7 Temple in the next round.

#15 RICHMOND – 1991

Richmond 1991 game
University of Richmond

They made history, becoming the first #15 seed to take down a #2 seed, with Syracuse being their victims. “In every huddle, we said it was our game, we were going to win it,” said coach Dick Tarrant. They also made television history with their 73-69 win. More importantly, it was the first year that CBS had the rights to the opening round of the tournament. Richmond shocked the world, in primetime, on network television, and CBS has paid the NCAA billions to keep every game on its airwaves since,” reported TIME. Richmond dropped their next game to Temple.

#14 OHIO – 2010

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Ohio pulled off the biggest upset in recent years when it beat #3 Georgetown. “We may not be a better team, just got to be a better team on a given night,” said one Bobcats player. They pulled out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising 97-83. Senior Armon Bassett led the way with 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting for the Bobcats. They couldn’t keep the magic alive, dropping their next game by 15 to #6 Tennessee.


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Jermaine Wallace sunk a last-second miracle three to give Northwestern State an unlikely victory against #3 Iowa. The final was 64-63. “I chased it down and looked at the clock,” Wallace said. “I knew I had chance for one or two dribbles, so I shot it and fell.” But they were brought back to reality in the second round, falling to sixth-seeded West Virginia.

#14 BUCKNELL – 2005

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Bucknell took home a surprise win 64-63 as they defeated #3 Kansas in a tight game. “Certainly it’s the biggest win we’ve ever had,” said coach Pat Flannery. “Our kids battled their big kids all night long. Our kids made them work for everything they got.” It sent a message that smaller schools were a force worth worrying about. Bucknell lost to #6 Wisconsin two days later.

#14 – WEBER STATE – 1999

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Harold “The Show” Arcineaux made a name for himself, scoring 36 points in a first round upset of #3 North Carolina, sending Weber State to a 76-74 win. “I didn’t imagine we’d lose in the first round,” North Carolina player Ademola Okulaja said. “We’re definitely the better team,” North Carolina’s Ed Cota said. “But in this tournament, the best team doesn’t always win.” Weber Stat lost to #6 Florida in the next round.

#14 – RICHMOND – 1998

Richmond 1998 game
Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Richmond struck again seven years later, eking out a 62-61 win over #3 South Carolina.  As great as the Richmond win was, the focus was largely on South Carolina’s second straight disappointing season. “Upsets are going to happen, it’s happened to us two years in a row,” said South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler. “We’re going to have to live with this, but it’s not the end of the world.” The Spiders dropped their next game to #11 Washington by 15 points.

#14 CHATTANOOGA – 1997

Chattanooga, March Madness 1997
Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Chattanooga made a real run of it after beating #3 Georgia. They then tackled #6 Illinois. Ultimately, they were cut down by #10 Providence in the Sweet Sixteen. After the Illinois win, one Mocs player said, “They didn’t acknowledge who we were… They acted like they were going out for a scrimmage or something.”

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