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9 Biggest Sweet Sixteen Upsets In NCAA Tournament History

by: Joseph On  Monday, March 23, 2015

sweet sixteen upsets

Everybody knows March Madness is all about the upsets. However, while they are plentiful through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, historically speaking, Sweet Sixteen upsets are rare.

Is that bad news for those of you who have No. 7 Wichita State beating No. 3 Notre Dame, or No. 11 beating No. 2 Gonzaga in 2015? Frankly, yes. The odds are not in your favor.

However, just so you don’t go and lose all hope, we’ve done a little digging and put together this list of the biggest Sweet Sixteen upsets in NCAA Tournament history. So if you’ve got two hands handy, start reading and get counting—and you might just run out of fingers by the time this year’s Sweet Sixteen is over.

Biggest Sweet-Sixteen Upsets In NCAA Tournament History

sweet sixteen upsets

Everybody knows March Madness is all about the upsets. However, while they are plentiful through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, historically speaking, Sweet Sixteen upsets are rare.

Is that bad news for those of you who have No. 7 Wichita State beating No. 3 Notre Dame, or No. 11 beating No. 2 Gonzaga in 2015? Frankly, yes. The odds are not in your favor.

However, just so you don’t go and lose all hope, we’ve done a little digging and put together this list of the biggest Sweet Sixteen upsets in NCAA Tournament history. So if you’ve got two hands handy, start reading and get counting—and you might just run out of fingers by the time this year’s Sweet Sixteen is over.

Biggest Sweet Sixteen Upsets - Illinois Over Columbia

As I mentioned in the intro, Sweet 16 upsets are a lot less common than those that take place earlier in the tournament. So you have to reach back a bit to find some primo Sweet Sixteen upsets—as far back as 1951, in fact, when the previously undefeated Columbia lost a Sweet Sixteen game to Illinois.

1951: Illinois Over Columbia

Biggest Sweet Sixteen Upsets - Illinois Over Columbia

As I mentioned in the intro, Sweet 16 upsets are a lot less common than those that take place earlier in the tournament. So you have to reach back a bit to find some primo Sweet Sixteen upsets—as far back as 1951, in fact, when the previously undefeated Columbia lost a Sweet Sixteen game to Illinois.

Biggest Sweet Sixteen Upsets - North Carolina Over Saint Bonaventure

Another surprising Sweet Sixteen upset happened almost 20 years later, when St. Bonaventure, another undefeated team heading into the Sweet Sixteen portion of the tournament with a record of 22-0, lost to North Carolina.

1968: North Carolina Over St. Bonaventure

Biggest Sweet Sixteen Upsets - North Carolina Over Saint Bonaventure

Another surprising Sweet Sixteen upset happened almost 20 years later, when St. Bonaventure, another undefeated team heading into the Sweet Sixteen portion of the tournament with a record of 22-0, lost to North Carolina.

We jump into the modern era in 1986, which also happens to be the year that the first-ever 11-seeded team won a Sweet Sixteen game. That team was LSU, who managed a victory over Georgia Tech despite the latter being 2nd-seeded – the definition of a big Sweet Sixteen upset.

1986: LSU Over Georgia Tech

We jump into the modern era in 1986, which also happens to be the year that the first-ever 11-seeded team won a Sweet Sixteen game. That team was LSU, who managed a victory over Georgia Tech despite the latter being 2nd-seeded – the definition of a big Sweet Sixteen upset.

There’s no such thing as a sure win in sports, particularly NCAA basketball, but 7th-seeded Alabama had relatively little to worry about from 11th-seeded Loyola Marymount before their Sweet Sixteen matchup in 1990. Or at least it seemed that way, before LM squeaked by with a 2-point victory.

1990: Loyola Marymount Over Alabama

There’s no such thing as a sure win in sports, particularly NCAA basketball, but 7th-seeded Alabama had relatively little to worry about from 11th-seeded Loyola Marymount before their Sweet Sixteen matchup in 1990. Or at least it seemed that way, before LM squeaked by with a 2-point victory.

Few people expected Temple University, 11th-seeded as they were, to come out on top over Penn State in their 2001 Sweet Sixteen matchup. And if they did, they probably didn’t expect Temple to beat Penn State handily by 12 points – but that’s exactly what they did.

2001: Temple Over Penn State

Few people expected Temple University, 11th-seeded as they were, to come out on top over Penn State in their 2001 Sweet Sixteen matchup. And if they did, they probably didn’t expect Temple to beat Penn State handily by 12 points – but that’s exactly what they did.

“George Mason? You mean the character played by the great Xander Berkeley in seasons one and two of 24? He won’t be a problem, I’m pretty sure that guy died of radiation poisoning or something.” – What I imagine fans of Wichita State saying before their 2006 Sweet Sixteen game against George Mason University, which they lost.

2006: George Mason Over Wichita State

“George Mason? You mean the character played by the great Xander Berkeley in seasons one and two of 24? He won’t be a problem, I’m pretty sure that guy died of radiation poisoning or something.” – What I imagine fans of Wichita State saying before their 2006 Sweet Sixteen game against George Mason University, which they lost.

Ask a Florida State fan about Sweet Sixteen upsets, and they might just get a far-off look in their eyes and tell you about the time in 2011 when the 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth basketball team beat the Seminoles by just one point in overtime.

2011: Virginia Commonwealth Over Florida State

Ask a Florida State fan about Sweet Sixteen upsets, and they might just get a far-off look in their eyes and tell you about the time in 2011 when the 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth basketball team beat the Seminoles by just one point in overtime.

Just last year there was a notable Swet Sixteen upset when 11th-seeded Dayton managed a ten-point lead over the 10th-seeded Stanford (hey, I told you Sweet Sixteen upsets are rare, didn’t I?).

2014: Dayton Over Stanford

Just last year there was a notable Swet Sixteen upset when 11th-seeded Dayton managed a ten-point lead over the 10th-seeded Stanford (hey, I told you Sweet Sixteen upsets are rare, didn’t I?).

There might be some debate over the other Sweet Sixteen upsets on this list, but for the number one spot there’s really only one option. The reason for that is that when the 12-seeded Missouri beat out the 8-seeded UCLA in 2002, they became the only 12-seeded team to ever win a Sweet Sixteen game. Ever!

2002: Missouri Over UCLA

There might be some debate over the other Sweet Sixteen upsets on this list, but for the number one spot there’s really only one option. The reason for that is that when the 12-seeded Missouri beat out the 8-seeded UCLA in 2002, they became the only 12-seeded team to ever win a Sweet Sixteen game. Ever!



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