A big upset happens every year. You come to expect it, yet still can't believe it. Once the NCAA brackets are announced, NCAA Tournament fans start looking for the unknown or overlooked team that will surprise a heavily favored school from one of the power conferences. Waiting for the Cinderella to appear is one of the great joys of the tournament. What makes a Cinderella? For ESPN Classic's Cinderella ranking, we used the following criteria: a Cinderella can't come from a traditional power conference, must beat a highly regarded traditional power and must be seeded No. 12 or higher. Also, only games since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 have been considered.
1. Patient Precision
|Guard Sydney Johnson and coach Pete Carril of the Princeton Tigers celebrate Princeton's 43-41 upset of UCLA.|
#13 Princeton 43 #4 UCLA 41
March 14, 1996
The perennial would-be Cinderella finally getting it done -- and against the defending national champion -- tops our list. After so many near misses -- losses by a combined 15 points in its last four NCAA Tournament games, Princeton and Pete Carril finally got their upset win. The Tigers beat defending champion UCLA 43-41 with a classic Princeton play -- a backdoor layup. Freshman Gabe Lewullis converted Steve Goodrich's pass to give the Tigers the lead. UCLA's Toby Bailey missed a shot at the buzzer. Princeton shut out UCLA over the final six minutes, erasing a seven-point deficit. Carril retired after the 1996 Tournament.
#15 Richmond 73 #2 Syracuse 69
March 14, 1991
College Park, Maryland
The Spiders claim the second spot with a history-making win. Richmond claimed its second stunning tournament upset in three years with a 73-69 win over Syracuse. Richmond became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed.The Spiders jumped to an early lead and never trailed in the contest. Curtis Blair led Syracuse with 18 points. Billy Owens, who scored 22 points, hit a bucket with 32 seconds left to pull the Orangemen to within one. Richmond hit three free throws down the stretch to claim the upset.
3. Father Knows Best
#13 Valparaiso 70 #4 Mississippi 69
|Coach Ron Abegglen of the Weber State Wildcats gets mobbed after his team claims a 76-74 upset win over North Carolina.|
March 13, 1998
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Valparaiso didn't knock off one of college basketball's traditional powers, but its stunning last-second win and subsequent trip to the Sweet 16 merit the third spot. The will be remembered for "the shot." Bryce Drew hit a leaning three-pointer at the buzzer to give Valpo a 70-69 win over Ole Miss. The final play in Valpo's win over Ole Miss was named "Pacer." Homer Drew, Bryce's dad and Valpo's coach, took the play from the NBA's Pacers. With 2.5 seconds remaining, Jaime Sykes threw a long pass from the baseline past midcourt to Bill Jenkins who executed a perfect touch pass to Drew, who knocked it in. Drew, who scored 22 points, was mobbed by his Crusader teammates. Valpo would advance to the Sweet 16.
4. Spiders Surprise
#13 Richmond 72 #4 Indiana 69
March 18, 1988
In 1987, Keith Smart hit a jumper to give IU the national title. This year his jumper with 20 seconds left misses and with it goes the Hoosiers chance at a repeat. This marked the first time since 1981 that the defending national champion had been eliminated in its first tournament game the following year. Rodney Rice's jumper with 53 seconds gave Richmond the lead and his rebound of Smart's miss led to a fastbreak bucket by Ken Atkinson to seal the 72-69 win. Rice tallied 21 points in the Spiders upset win. Keith Smart led the Hoosiers with 23 points. Richmond would beat Georgia Tech to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time.
5. Bronco Bustin'
#15 Santa Clara 64 #2 Arizona 61
March 19, 1993
One oddsmaker listed Santa Clara's chances to win the national title at 8 million to 1 and Arizona's at 7 to 1. Vegas listed the Broncos as a 19-point underdog. Santa Clara "drafted" the Vanderbilt band, got the Salt Lake City crowd behind them, and used a spread offense to beat the odds and upset the Wildcats. Arizona, led by Chris Mills, Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves, had a 25-0 run and still managed to lose to the West Coast Conference Broncos. Freshman guard Steve Nash hit six straight free throws late in the game for Santa Clara, but Arizona's had one last chance. When Stoudamire's 25-footer at the buzzer came up short, Santa Clara became only the second No. 15 seed to advance.
6. The Mouse That Roared
|Gene Keady's Purdue teams have been to 16 NCAA tournaments in his 20 seasons.
#14 Cleveland State 83 #3 Indiana 79
March 13, 1986
Syracuse, New York
Indiana's "Season on the Brink" is put to rest by the unheralded Cleveland State Vikings. The third-seeded Hoosiers are dominated from the opening moments in a shocking 83-79 losss to coach Kevin Mackey's "off-Broadway guys." The Vikings of the Mid-Continent Conference exciting style of college basketball substituted frequently and had no single star. Clinton Ransey, Clinton Smith and freshman guard Ken "Mouse" McFadden -- a native of Queens who did not play high school basketball -- and Eric Mudd a senior center, who joined the team only after his aunt talked Mackey into giving him an opportunity to play, led Cleveland State over Steve Alford and Indiana.
7. The Hampton Hustle
#15 Hampton 58 #2 Iowa State 57
March 15, 2001
In their first NCAA appearance, Tarvis Williams flipped in a 4-footer in the lane with 6.9 seconds remaining as 15th-seeded Hampton stunned second-seeded Iowa State 58-57. Iowa State's Jamaal Tinsley took the ball downcourt but missed a layup with 1.2 seconds to go, setting off a midcourt frenzy as the Pirates, their band, their cheerleaders and their fans swarmed the floor. David Johnson carried Hampton coach Steve Merfeld halfway around the court as the coach furiously pumped his fists and kicked his legs.
8. The Eagles Have Landed
#15 Coppin State 78 #2 South Carolina 65
March 14, 1997
Coach Fang Mitchell led Coppin State to a 78-75 shocker over SEC power South Carolina. How big was this upset? The Eagles became the first team from Baltimore and first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to win an NCAA Division I tournament game. For just the third time in NCAA Tournament history, a No. 15 seed knocked off a No. 2 seed. The Gamecocks' guard trio of Larry Davis, B.J. McKie and Melvin Watson were held to 31 points.
9. Carolina Blues
|Bob Knight coached Indiana to national titles in 1976, 1981 and 1987.|
#14 Weber State 76 #3 North Carolina 74
March 11, 1999
North Carolina always advances to the Sweet 16 -- the Tar Heels had not lost an opening game since a 72-68 (2OT) loss to Texas A&M in 1980. Someone neglected to tell Weber State. Harold Arceneaux capped a spectacular 36-point performance with two free throws with 13 seconds left as Weber State stunned North Carolina 76-74. The Big Sky champion Wildcats outscored the Tar Heels 9-2 to start the second half and didn't trail again. Ademola Okulaja, who scored 17 points hit his fifth three-pointer with 31.6 seconds left to bring the Heels within two, 70-68.
10. Let's Go Peay
#14 Austin Peay 68 #3 Illinois 67
March 12, 1987
The high-flying Illini, led by Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson and Ken Norman, were grounded by Austin Peay. Tony Raye hit a pair of free throws with two seconds left to lift overwhelming underdog Austin Peay to a 68-67 win over Illinois. Austin Peay coach Lake Kelly said their strategy was to "Sic 'em. If we had to play the Lakers and Celtics combined Saturday night, it wouldn't have made any difference." Darryl Bedford led Austin Peay with 24 points, 15 on 3-pointers. Norman paced the Illini with 17.