The 5 Greatest Underdog Stories in NCAA March Madness History

Published 02/16/2021, 12:04 PM EST


The NCAA March Madness tournament always delivers exciting games every season. There’s plenty of action to be witnessed during the tournament, which over the years has become famous for its unpredictability.

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There’s always room for upsets when it comes to March Madness and the Top 3 seeds aren’t always the ones who go on to win the National Championship. There have been several underdogs
who’ve etched their names in history, and here are five of the best! 

Top 5 underdog moments in NCAA March Madness Tournament

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1985 – Villanova Wildcats

The 1985 Villanova team was truly one of its kind. It marked the season where the Wildcats won their maiden NCAA championship, and it came through one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history. 

Villanova entered the March Madness tournament on the back of a 19-10 record and they lost the Big-East Tournament semi-finals as well. The Wildcats were handed the #8 seed in the NCAA tournament, and nobody expected them to go all the way and defeat #1 seed Georgetown in the National Championship game. 

The 1985 Villanova team to date remains the lowest-ranked side to have clinched the National title, and it came in dramatic fashion! 

1986 – LSU Tigers

Louisiana State University men’s basketball team enjoyed a memorable run back in the 1986 NCAA tournament which is forever etched in history. The Tigers became the first #11 seed to reach the Final Four of the tournament, which was later matched by others. 

However, they still hold the special recognition of being the only #11 seeded team to defeat the #1, #2, and #3 seeds of their region in the same tournament. 

LSU defeated the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the Regional Finals but was humbled by Lousiville in the Final Four. Nonetheless, it was a tournament to remember for Louisiana State University. 

2006 – George Mason Patriots

We now move into the millennium after looking at a couple of Cinderella runs from the 1980s. The 2005-06 George Mason team’s massive achievements turned out to be a fairytale season. 

They became the first team in the history of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) to reach the NCAA tournament, and on top of that, matched LSU’s record of being the lowest-ranked team (11) to reach the Final Four. 

George Mason defied all odds and sent home the top-ranked UConn team in the Elite Eight, but eventually fell to the Florida Gators in the subsequent round. It marked the end of an incredible run, owing to the fact that George Mason had never won a game at the NCAA tournament until 2006. 

2008 – Davidson Wildcats

The Davidson Wildcats had never won an NCAA tournament game since 1969, but all of that changed in 2008 due to the heroics of sophomore guard Steph Curry.

The Wildcats had lost in the first round of March Madness in the previous 2006-07 season, but Curry avenged the loss by carrying his team all the way to the Elite Eight.

Curry broke loose in the first three games of the NCAA tournament and averaged 34.3 points in 52.8% three-point shooting in that stretch where Davidson upset Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. 

The Wildcats put on a valiant fight in their Elite Eight matchup against Kansas Jayhawks but ended up losing the game by just two points. However, this result was enough to push Curry into a new land of stardom. 

2018 – Loyola Ramblers

The chronological order has come to an end! The 2017-18 Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team didn’t win the National Championship, but they certainly exceeded expectations. 

The Ramblers will always be remembered for their sensible style of basketball, and they were another #11 seed who made it to the historic Final Four during 2018 March Madness.

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Despite winning the Missouri Valley Tournament, Missouri Valley regular-season, and the Savannah Invitational, Loyola Chicago came in as underdogs and almost shocked the world. 

After wonderful performances, Loyola Chicago reached the Final Four for the first time since 1963 but lost to a stacked Michigan Wolverines team. 

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DIVE DEEPER

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Arjun Athreya

1940 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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