basketball-men-d1 flag

Joe Boozell | | May 19, 2020

The 17 greatest near-upsets in March Madness history

5 of the greatest near-upsets in March Madness history

We know all about the greatest upsets in March Madness history and the most memorable Cinderella teams. But what about the upsets that almost happened, but didn't?

Here are several of the greatest near March Madness shockers.

Princeton vs. Georgetown, 1989

Princeton, a 16-seed, was not expected to compete with Georgetown. Before the game, Dick Vitale promised to don a Princeton cheerleader outfit if the Tigers could pull off the upset.

They came oh so close. Georgetown, led by future NBA All-Star center Alonzo Mourning, defeated Princeton 50-49.

The Princeton offense was in full force in this one, as the Tigers chewed clock on just about every possession. But the Hoyas ultimately prevailed.

ETSU vs. Oklahoma, 1989

UMBC became the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in 2018. But in 1989, two 16-seeds came within one point of upsetting a top team.

ETSU fell to Oklahoma by a score of 72-71. It led by 17 at one point, but OU stormed back:

The Buccaneers' starting lineup consisted of three sophomores and two freshmen that year, which was rare in that era of college basketball. And the close call must have been a wake up call for the Sooners, because they beat No. 9 seed Louisiana Tech by 43 points in the next round.

Murray State vs. Michigan State, 1990

Murray State is the only 16-seed to ever take a 1-seed to overtime, but the Racers ultimately lost 75-71.

The Racers were led by Popeye Jones, who scored 37 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the game. But it wasn't enough in the end. Steve Smith's 22 points and 11 boards pushed Michigan State to the next round.

Missouri vs. UCLA, 1995

This was the last time UCLA won a national championship, but the Bruins came dangerously close to bowing out against Missouri in the second round.

UCLA trailed by one with 4.8 seconds left. But that was more than enough time for Tyus Edney to work some magic:

UCLA hadn't won a national title in 20 years, and it would snap that drought in 1995, going on to beat Mississippi State, UConn, Oklahoma State and defending national champion Arkansas. The Bruins beat all of those teams by six points or more, so the Tigers presented them their toughest challenge.

Western Carolina vs. Purdue, 1996

Another near 16 vs. 1 upset, as Purdue outlasted Western Carolina by a score of 73-71. Brandon Brantley threw down a dunk with just over a minute left to put the Boilermakers ahead for good. hoops home | Katz's Power 36

But Western Carolina had a golden chance in the waning moments. Brad Miller missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11.6 seconds left, and the Catamounts got two shots up at the rim. But they both missed. Western Carolina was close to becoming the first 16-seed to ever beat a No. 1, but fell just short.

Winthrop vs. Tennessee, 2006

Winthrop, a 15-seed, nearly shocked No. 2 Tennessee in 2006. But then, Chris Lofton happened:

Lofton was only 5-of-14 for the game, but he hit the shot that mattered most. Gregg Marshall, now the coach at Wichita State, was the head man at Winthrop at the time.

Albany vs. UConn, 2006

This may not seem notable at first glance, as UConn ultimately beat 16-seed Albany by 13. But the Huskies were in serious danger in the second half.

Albany trailed by one at halftime, but started off the second half hot, surging to a 12-point lead. Of course, the Huskies answered with a massive run of their own behind Marcus Williams and Denham Brown. But Albany certainly had UConn's attention.

The Huskies may not have lost to a 16-seed that year, but they were upset by one of the most famous Cinderellas ever: UConn fell to George Mason in the 2006 Elite Eight, 86-84.

Xavier vs. Ohio State, 2007

Xavier, a 9-seed, had No. 1 Ohio State on the ropes in the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. But then Ron Lewis delivered some serious heroics.

The Musketeers were up by three, but missed a free throw. Ohio State got the rebound, and Lewis sank an incredibly clutch 3 to tie it.

Side note: this was an incredible Gus Johnson game. Ohio State would go on to win in overtime and reach the national championship game, where it would lose to Florida.

Butler vs. Duke, 2010

Butler, under Brad Stevens, made it all the way to the national title in 2010. The game was played in Indianapolis against Duke. Does the stage get any bigger?

With the Bulldogs down by two, Gordon Hayward threw up a half-court heave as time expired. It looked good off his hand. And it just missed.

Duke won the national championship. But had Hayward's shot been just a few inches shorter, it would have gone in. And he would have owned the greatest shot in March Madness history.

Other notable near upsets

1969: No. 1 UCLA def. Drake, 85-82
1974: No. 2 UCLA def. No. 20 Dayton, 111-100 (3OT)
1998: No. 3 Stanford def. No. 8 Rhode Island, 79-77
2008: No. 1 Kansas def. No. 10 Davidson, 59-57
2008: No. 2 Duke def. No. 15 Belmont, 71-70
2010: No. 2 Villanova def. No. 15 Robert Morris, 73-70 (OT)
2011: No. 4 Kentucky def. No. 13 Princeton, 59-57
2013: No. 1 Gonzaga def. No. 16 Southern, 64-58

Bracketology: NCAA men's basketball tournament projections after the NBA draft early entrant deadline by Andy Katz

Here is how Andy Katz sees the 2024 March Madness field shaking out as of June 1, 2023.

Kansas, Duke lead Power 36 men's basketball rankings after NBA draft early entry withdrawal deadline

With the NBA draft deadline in the rearview, Andy Katz names his latest Power 36 as we get a deeper look into what rosters might look like this fall.

10 lessons learned in this year's men's college basketball attendance numbers

Attendance numbers are out and they are telling a different side of the story that was the 2022-23 men's college basketball season.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners