The 10 biggest March Madness upsets of the last 20 years

Think of the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament. Which March Madness surprise tops your list?

Is it Florida Gulf Coast beating Georgetown in 2013? No. 15 Middle Tennessee State toppling No. 2 Michigan State last year?

No! Not according to Vegas, at least. We have the list. And this ain’t no subjective ranking! Indeed, we’ve got data, folks, courtesy of Odds Shark, we’ll explore the top-10 biggest upsets in the last 20 years of the NCAA Tournament based on Vegas lines.

To get into the top 10 list, the winner had to be a 13-or-more point underdog. And the biggest upset in tournament history? That came when a 20-point underdog toppled the favorite. Read on to see who the aforementioned 21-point underdog was, as well as the rest of the top 10.

March 22, 2013: Florida Gulf Coast vs. Georgetown
-/+ 13
78-68, Florida Gulf Coast

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles had only been a D-I team for just six years when they took down the Georgetown Hoyas 78-68, covering the spread by a ridiculous 23 points. The Hoyas were up by double digits at one point, before caving to the “Dunk City” offense.


March 21, 2002: Indiana vs. Duke
-/+ 13.5
74-73, Indiana

Duke led by nearly 20 early, but coach Mike Davis’ squad chipped away at the Blue Devils’ lead. Duke went cold in the second half, shooting just 33 percent from the floor, and Jared Jeffries poured in 24 points for the Hoosiers. Jason Williams had a shot at tying the game for Duke with under five seconds left, but his attempt failed.


March 18, 2005: Bucknell vs. Kansas
-/+ 13.5
64-63, Bucknell

Bucknell’s Chris McNaughton poured in a hook shot with 10 seconds left to pull the Bison one point ahead of the vaunted Kansas squad. There was some last-second drama when Kansas’ Michael Lee hit Wayne Simien with a full-court lob, but his shot went awry and Bucknell persevered by a point.

SEE ALSO: Russell Westbrook channels all his rage into a single dunk

March 19, 2015: UAB vs. Iowa State
-/+ 14.0
60-59, UAB

UAB was the No. 4 seed in its own league tournament. Iowa State came out and laid an absolute egg offensively, failing to score 60 points for the only time in their season. UAB’s Robert Brown nailed a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to put UAB ahead, 57-56, and they held on for a 60-59 victory.


March 18, 2010: Ohio vs. Georgetown
-/+ 14.0
97-83, Ohio

Ohio was lights out from beyond the arc versus a superior Georgetown squad. The Hoyas trailed by 19 at one point, before making a run at the underdog Ohio squad. D.J. Cooper led his side with 23 points and a bevy of threes as Ohio coasted to a 97-83 victory, covering the spread by 25 points.


March 11, 1999: Weber State vs. UNC
-/+ 15.0
76-74, Weber State

Harold “The Show” Arceneaux! The man played absolutely out of his mind to almost single-handedly vanquish UNC. Arceneaux rained down 36 points to take down North Carolina. “We just felt like we had a genuine chance to win the game,” said WSU guard Eddie “The Thrill” Gil at his induction to into the Wildcats’ Hall of Fame in 2014. What a win, and what a pair of nicknames.


March 18, 2016: Middle Tennessee State vs. Michigan State
-/+ 16.5
90-81, Middle Tennessee State

Last year’s most improbable victory came when Middle Tennessee State knocked off Michigan State. Reggie Upshaw led his team with 21 points as he team nailed a ridiculous 11 or 19 3-pointers.


March 15, 2001: Hampton vs. Iowa State
-/+ 17.5
58-57, Hampton

Hampton made one heckuva a tourney debut. Iowa State’s Jamaal Tinsley was expected to be the star, but Hampton’s Tarvis Williams stole his thunder. With under 10 seconds left, Williams connected to put his team ahead 58-57. Tinsley was unable to answer at the buzzer.


March 14, 1997: Coppin State vs South Carolina
-/+ 19.0
78-65, Coppin State

SC somehow saw their tournament hopes slipping away down the stretch. Coppin State took a 55-54 lead with just over six minutes left and never looked back. “We didn’t even know it was South Carolina out there,” said Reggie Welch, who had 15 rebounds for Coppin. “We kept on getting confidence, and before you knew it, we were up. We took it five minutes at a time — there’s five minutes, there’s five more.” Incredible the strategy worked for a team who lost by 36 in their only other battle with a D-I team.


March 16, 2012: Norfolk State vs. Mizzou
-/+ 21.0
86-84 Norfolk State

Eventual New York Knick Kyle O’Quinn poured in 26 points and nabbed 14 rebounds and proclaimed “We messed up some brackets!” after his team’s shock 86-84 W. “You always go into the game with a sense of confidence,” O’Quinn said, “but I never thought it was an upset-alert until that buzzer went off.” Just before the “buzzer went off”, Missouri’s Phil Pressey heaved a 3-pointer that didn’t fall, and his team watched in disbelief as Norfolk State beat them by a pair.

Start the discussion

to comment