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The Biggest March Madness Upsets Ever

The Biggest March Madness Upsets to Date | Tipico
The Biggest March Madness Upsets to Date | Tipico
Danny Scaramella - Tipico
Published: 2023-03-06

Sports fans, fanatics, and those guilty by association — they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again when sweat and adrenaline fill the air, crowds roar with excitement, and dreams can be made and shattered instantly. History has proven that anything can happen in this wild month of March when a single shot or play can make all the difference in a team’s trajectory.

March Madness upsets remind us the tournament isn’t just about the surefire picks—it’s also about the underdogs who rise to the challenge when the stakes are at their highest. These upsets keep fans coming back each year to watch one of the most exciting and unpredictable tournaments in sports.

Before you calculate the odds of your March Madness betting, let’s recap some of the tournament’s greatest upsets to date.


You may be wondering about the various factors that can contribute to March Madness upsets. The truth is many events and reasons can impact the outcome of a game during March Madness. But, historically speaking, some of the most common factors include:

  • Seed differential – Teams throughout the NCAA are ranked according to seeds—1-16 in each region—based mainly on regular season performance. When two teams with a significant ranking difference play one another, it creates an opportunity for an upset.

  • Unpredictable events – Whether it's injuries, foul trouble, or other events, these types of things can heavily impact the outcome of a game and create opportunities for the underdogs.

  • Underrated talent – Sometimes, the lower-seeded teams have talented players that aren't well-known but can make huge differences throughout the tournament.

These are just a few factors that have often contributed to upsets over the years. In fact, keep an eye out below and see if you can spot some of these factors in the list we’ve prepared.

So, without further ado, let’s check out some of March Madness' biggest upsets.


From the NCAA men's tournament, these are the most historic bracket-breakers:

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles over No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas, 78-68, 2013

This game was significant for many reasons. Not only was it a Cinderella story of a 15th seed team beating a 2nd seed team and a favorite to win March Madness, but FGCU’s win over Georgetown marked the first time in the tournament's history that a 15th seed team made it to the Sweet 16.

FGCU, also known as “Dunk City” for its vigorous and exciting brand of basketball, lived up to its name, stealing the crowd with five acrobatic dunks in the final 20 minutes. The senior, Sherwood Brown, led the team in scoring 24 points and dominated the boards with eight rebounds.

Plus, it was the first time FGCU made it to the NCAA tournament. This win helped put them on the map, giving the school national exposure while gaining the attention of college basketball fans across the country.

No. 15 Lehigh Mountain Hawks over No. 2 Duke Blue Devils, 75-70, 2012

If one name is remembered from this evening, it’d be Lehigh’s standout guard, C.J. McCollum. He led the Hawks to a David vs. Goliath victory over one of the NCAA’s top-ranked teams, Duke’s Blue Devils.

McCullom's stats were impressive, with:

  • A game-high 30 points

  • Six rebounds/assists

  • Two steals

This game is known as one of the biggest upsets in tournament history, and it exemplifies how a single player can have a massive impact on the outcome of the National Championship game. The win captivated college basketball fans and demonstrated the unpredictability and excitement of March Madness.

McCollom’s performance that season, specifically that game, was one for the books. Despite Xavier eliminating them in the next round, McCollom would be picked up by the Blazers in the 2013 NBA Draft the following year.

No. 15 Richmond Spiders over No. 2 Syracuse Orangemen, 73-69, 1991

This game is significant because unlike the previous 15th-seed wins, Richmond became the first lowest-seeded team to win March Madness since the tournament’s expansion in 1985 to win a first-round match. Not only did they win, but they also managed to keep the lead above the Orangemen the entire game.

Richmond’s upset over Syracuse resulted from a collective effort by the team. However, their defense was a critical factor in the win, disrupting Syracuse’s offensive flow by forcing them into difficult shots and limiting their scoring opportunities. 

Syracuse had several chances to tie the game in the final five minutes and one hope to take the lead. But Richmond’s defense proved too much for the Orangemen, leading to one of the most memorable first-round upsets in the tournament’s history.

No. 16 UMBC Retrievers over No. 1 UVA Cavaliers, 74-54, 2018

This game is often considered the biggest upset in NCAA history, and for good reason.

Let’s take a look at why:

  • It was the first time a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 16 seed in the men’s division since its expansion in 1985.

  • The win broke a 33-year, 135-game losing streak between No. 16 and No. 1 seeded teams.

  • It was the first UMBC NCAA tournament win in school history.

UMBC got off to a fast start, and both teams went back and forth up until the half. Virginia struggled miserably on offense, only 4 for 22 from three-point range. The Retrievers pressed hard defensively and were able to disrupt their offensive flow and ball movement, which was a point of pride for the Cavaliers throughout the regular season. 

Jairus Lyles, a UMBC guard, had a standout performance with a game-high of 28 points, shooting 9 for 11 and leading the team to victory over the Cavaliers. 


These memorable matchups from the women’s tournament were the most historic NCAA upsets:

No. 16 Harvard Crimson over No. 1 Stanford Cardinal, 71 - 67, 1998

This game goes down in the history books, mainly due to the large seed discrepancy between these two teams. It was the first time in NCAA tournament history, including men’s and women’s basketball, that a No. 16 team beat a No. 1 team. Plus, it marked the first win in an NCAA tournament game by an Ivy League school.

The game was played on Stanford’s home court to make the loss even more bitter. But something many people don’t know about this matchup is that Stanford lost two key starters a week earlier due to injuries, which didn’t help against Harvard’s Allison Feaster, who was the nation’s leading scorer.

Despite the Crimson’s 21 turnovers and 25 fouls, they were able to shoot a remarkable 65 percent from field goal range and hold the Cardinals outside of the paint—forcing them to shoot from the perimeter, where they were only able to muster a lousy 25.9 percent.

No. 5 Louisville Cardinals over No. 1 Baylor Bears, 82-81, 2013

The Bears entered this tournament on a 32-game winning streak, led by Brittney Griner. They hoped to win their second consecutive national championship, but the Cardinals' tough defense swarmed Griner and prevented the star from scoring the entire first half.

Louisville, a whopping 24-point underdog in the casinos, started the game strong by taking the lead early on. This helped set the tone and gave the Cardinals the confidence they needed to outperform the heavily favored Bears and become the National Champions.

Louisville’s Antonita Slaughter hit a remarkable seven 3-pointers, including a critical one before the half to put Louisville up by 5. Shoni Schimmel also had a phenomenal game, hitting five 3-pointers and dishing out seven assists, making her tough to handle for Baylor and a critical factor in the Cardinal’s win. This game is considered one of the most remarkable and highly competitive in women’s basketball.

No. 5 Southwest Missouri State Lady Bears over No. 1 Duke Blue Devils, 81-71, 2001

This was another impressive matchup and yet another upset as the first-seeded team was ousted by an underdog. The Lady Bears, at one point, were down by 12 points in the first half but came back strong at the beginning of the second with a 12-4 run.

There were nine lead changes throughout the game until the Southwest Missouri State star, Jackie Stiles, helped the Lady Bears take the lead for good. Duke struggled to put a lid on Stiles, who scored a mighty 41 points, 25 of which were in the second half.

Duke’s Alana Beard helped keep the Blue Devils alive by scoring 27 points. However, late in the game, she entered foul trouble, and Duke gave up three turnovers they couldn’t come back from. Stiles’ impressive scoring ability and clutch performances made her a fan favorite, proving anything’s possible during March Madness.


As we can see from above, the NCAA March Madness tournament is no stranger to upsets. It's where the underdog frequently rises, the impossible becomes possible, and the analyst's predictions for the highest seed to win March Madness get shattered by unforeseen circumstances. These moments in sports history aren't just victories for the teams and fans but also for those who put their money where their heart is.

The beauty of sports betting is that anyone can win big, especially if you're betting on an underdog that rises to the call. From Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’  win over Georgetown to Harvard's triumph over Stanford, these games will be remembered as the moments when the underdog outperformed and refused to give up the good fight.

If you're a sports bettor or fan looking to get a little closer to the game, check out Tipico Sportsbook.

It’s one of the hottest online betting applications that allows you to bet on just about every sport. With easy deposits and lighting fast payout options, it’s no wonder people are bringing a little more excitement to the game.


SB Nation. March Madness memories: Florida Gulf Coast dunks its way to 2013 Sweet 16.

NBC Sports. CJ McCollum leads Lehigh upset over Duke.

Washington Post. Richmond Makes Syracuse, NCAA History.

Washington Post. NCAA stunner: No. 16 seed UMBC makes history by knocking out No. 1 Virginia.

The Harvard Crimson. A Look Back to 1998: Harvard Topples Stanford.

The San Diego Tribune. Louisville upsets No. 1 Baylor 82-81.

Imago / Icon Sportswire

The Biggest March Madness Upsets to Date | Tipico


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