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NCAAB Championship: Best Upsets

As it is a single-game elimination tournament, there are bound to be a few surprises along the way every year at the NCAAB Championship, but some of the upsets in years gone by have been truly remarkable.

These single-game wins and improbable runs rank right up there with the greatest upsets across all sport and we have a run through some of the most monumental shocks as this year’s edition of NCAAB Championship approaches.

1. University of Maryland stun Virginia, 2018

UMBC’s incredible 74-54 win over 1-seed Virginia back in 2018 may just be the biggest upset in the history of the sport of basketball, as it marked the first time in the tournament’s history that a 16-seed had beaten a top seed in 135 attempts.

The Retrievers didn’t just beat the Cavaliers, they dismantled them with a 20-point win to take out a team who had only lost twice all season previously by a combined total of eight points.

Nobody expected UMBC to win and few even thought they could be competitive In this first round match-up.

They entered the tournament with a 25-11 (12-4) record and had suffered blowout defeats to Vermont and Albay, losing 83-29 to the latter, but somehow managed to put together a perfect performance to see off Virginia.

UMBC’s fairytale run was ended in the second round, however, as they were sent home by Kansas State.

2. Villanova edge Georgetown in championship game, 1985

While UMBC’s success ranks as the greatest single game upset, Villanova’s incredible journey to becoming national champions in 1985 is clearly the most unlikely of team runs.

The Wildcats had scraped into the tournament and had an uninspiring 25-10 (9-7) record in the regular season, but they clicked into gear in March to complete the ultimate Cinderella story.

Villanova opened the tournament with a close win over Dayton and then produced a huge shock to stun 1-seed Michigan. They made it all the way through to the championship game where they came up against a Georgetown side they had already lost to twice earlier in the season.

The Hoyas were expected to prevail, but Villanova produced what has since been labelled as a ‘perfect game’ - shooting 78.6% from the field - to record a 66-64 win and become the first 8-seed to win the NCAAB Tournament.

3. Gonzaga dominance starts with a shock, 1999

Gonzaga are among the big players in college basketball right now and they have reached two national title games in recent years, in 2017 and 2021, but back in 1999 they were very much the plucky underdogs.

The Bulldogs won their first ever NCAAB Tournament game by seeing off Minnesota, but their run was widely expected to end in the second round as they came up against 2-seed Stanford.

The Zags won that game 82-74 and made it all the way through to the Elite Eight, where they went down in a close game to eventual winners Connecticut.

Since then, Gonzaga have qualified for the tournament in every season, reaching the Sweet 16 or better in 11 of those.

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4. Kentucky upset sparks Saint Peter’s run, 2022

Saint Peter’s unlikely march through to the Elite Eight last year is right up there with the most unlikely of team runs and it began with a huge single-game upset as they stunned Kentucky in overtime in the first round.

The fact the Peacocks had reached the Big Dance was a surprise to most after a 19-11 season but they upset the odds to win the MAAC Tournament. Saint Peter’s were huge underdogs against 2-seeds Kentucky but they managed to keep pace with the Wildcats and then pulled clear in overtime to record an 85-79 victory.

The Peacocks backed up that win by seeing off Murray State and Purdue to become the first-ever 15-seed to make it to the Elite Eight, before they fell to a heavy defeat to eventual runners-up North Carolina.

5. Florida Gulf Coast take out Georgetown, 2013

Nine years before Saint Peter’s incredible run, Florida Gulf Coast had made a similar run through to the Sweet 16 and it started with a 78-68 win over Georgetown.

The Eagles had only been competing in Division I basketball for two seasons and the game against the Hoyas was their NCAA Tournament debut, and they managed to record what was ultimately a convincing 10-point win over the 2-seeds.

FGCU went on to become the first 15-seed to make the Sweet 16, where they were bested by Florida Gators.

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