History of 15 seeds that have upset 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament since 1985

Posted at 11:09 AM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 12:48:09-04

It's happened eight times in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.

A 15 seed upsetting a 2 seed is rare, but when it happens, it upsets more than just a basketball team and its fan base. It usually puts a quick end to many brackets.

Just ask those who had Michigan St. going deep in the 2016 tourney. The Spartans, a favorite to win the title, fell to No. 15 Middle Tennessee.

Since 1985, the average margin of victory in 2 vs 15 matchups has been just over 17 points per game, and that includes the eight times a 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed. The games aren't typically competitive, but the little guys come in knowing they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Such was the case for these Davids, who defied the odds and took down their Goliaths.

2016 - Middle Tennessee State shocks Michigan St., 90-81

And, this is why they call it madness. Middle Tennessee St. of Conference USA was dancing for just the second time in 25 years and quickly gave notice they weren't leaving after 40 minutes of regulation. The Blue Raiders jumped out to a six-point halftime lead over the Spartans and never looked back. They destroyed the brackets of many who picked MSU to win it all.

MTSU ran out of gas in the Second Round and fell to Syracuse, 75-50.  

2013 - Florida Gulf Coast beats Georgetown, 78-68

In just its second year of being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, the high-flying Eagles scored the most recent upset of a 2 seed. They used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas.

FGCU beat San Diego State, which knocked out Oklahoma in its opening game, in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

2012 - Norfolk St. stuns Missouri, 86-84

The Spartans were in the tourney for the first time, and did they ever make an impression, as they knocked off the Big 12 champs in Omaha. It was the first 15 seed over a 2 seed in 11 years, but it wouldn't take that long for the next 15 seed to hold their heads up high in victory.

Norfolk St. fell to Florida in round 2. For the record, the head coach of the Missouri Tigers was current Tulsa Golden Hurricane head coach Frank Haith.

2012 - Lehigh takes down Duke, 75-70

Riding an eight-game winning streak, and using Norfolk State's upset as inspiration, Lehigh knocked off prohibitive tournament favorite Duke in North Carolina. It was the first time two 15 seeds won in the same NCAA tournament.

Lehigh fell to Xavier in the second round.

2001 - Hampton dances over Iowa St., 58-57

The Pirates traveled cross-country from Virginia to Boise, Idaho to face Iowa St. and its future first-round NBA picks Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley. That didn't faze Hampton in their first NCAA Tournament. They hung tough with the Cyclones and knocked off the Big 12 regular season champs.

The Pirates' Cinderella run would end with a second-round loss to Georgetown.

1997 - Coppin St. crushes South Carolina, 78-65

It's hard to believe looking at the score that Coppin St. was a 30-point underdog. So much for the oddsmakers, huh?

The victory wasn't just the Eagles' first NCAA win, it was also the first victory for its conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coppin St. nearly pulled off another upset in the second round but eventually fell to Texas, 82-81.

1993 - Santa Clara surprises Arizona, 64-61

Future NBA all-star Steve Nash scored 10 points for Santa Clara as the Broncos became just the second 15 seed to advance to the second round. Arizona built a 13-point second half lead, but the West Coast Conference champions fought back to send the Wildcats home after the first round for the second year in a row.

Santa Clara dropped its next game to Temple, 68-57.

1991 - Richmond snares Syracuse, 73-69

Richmond had tasted NCAA Tournament success as a 12 seed in 1984 when it upset 5 seed Auburn. And they did it again in 1988 when, as a 13 seed, the Spiders made a run to the Sweet Sixteen.

They made history in '91 when they dropped high-powered Syracuse in the first round to become the first victorious 15 seed. They fell to Temple in the second round, 77-64.

Now, after reading all that, which of these 2 seeds do you think is most vulnerable this season?


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