In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy told her little dog: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Well, Dorothy, Kansas isn’t in the NCAA tournament any more either after being kayoed by Northern Iowa in a Cinderellian effort. The top-seeded Jayhawks were knocked out by ninth-seeded NIU in one of the bigger surprises in NCAA history.
The Panthers became the first team to beat a No. 1 seed in the second round since UAB and Alabama did it to Kentucky and Stanford, respectively, in 2004.
The Kansas loss ranks as one of the top upsets in the history of the tournament, but there have been many. Here are the top 10, in chronological order:
10 Great NCAA Upsets
1944: Utah 42, Dartmouth 40 (OT) — Utah originally turned down an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but was given a second chance after losing in the NIT, and after Arkansas pulled out of the tourney after two players were injured in an automobile accident. In those days there were no seedings and no 64-team field, just two, four-team regionals and a title game at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The Utes, shown left, were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months. And in the midst of World War II, the team had two Japanese-American players, one on release from an internment camp. The Utes defeated Eastern champion and heavily favored Dartmouth in the championship game on a set shot by forward Herb Wilkinson in the first overtime championship game in NCAA history. Utah became known as the Whiz Kids, Zoot Utes, and the Live Five from the Jive Drive.
1956: Canisius 79, North Carolina State 78 (4OT) — The Wolfpack was ranked second in the nation when they faced Canisius in the first round. The Golden Griffins won in four overtimes. The two teams set a record for longest NCAA Tournament game that’s been once tied (1961), but never broken. The San Francisco Dons, led by Bill Russell, won the NCAA title that year.
1966: Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso) and its all-black starting five was a heavy underdog to Kentucky’s all white starting five, including Pat Riley, and openly racist coach, Adolph Rupp. Yet the Miners managed the win. Rupp “carried the memory of that game to his grave,” wrote his biographer, Russell Rice.
1979: Penn 72, North Carolina 71 — The Quakers beat top-rated UNC in the East Regionals and later St. John’s in the Eastern regional finals, and became what remains the last Ivy League team to make the Final Four. Penn would be the only team to beat four higher seeded opponents to reach the Final Four until the feat was matched in 1986 by LSU and again in 2006 by George Mason. Penn was crushed in the national semis by Magic Johnson and Michigan State, which went on to beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team for the championship.
1983: NC State 54, Houston 52 — NC State had lost 10 games during the regular season and wasn’t expected to be in the title match. The Cougars and their “Phi Slamma Jamma” crew of Akeem (later Hakeem) “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, meanwhile, were the nation’s top-ranked team and on a 25-game winning streak. But when Lorenzo Charles slammed home an errant shot as time expired, the Wolfpack had an improbable win and coach Jim Valvano, right, went “looking for someone to hug.”
1985: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — Many thought the eighth-seeded Wildcats didn’t belong on the same court with Patrick Ewing and the defending champion Hoyas. Georgetown had already beaten Villanova twice during the regular season. But the Wildcats shot a record 78.6 percent from the field, missed only one shot in the entire second half, and became the lowest-seeded team ever to win the national championship.
1991: Richmond 73, Syracuse 69 — Richmond became the first No. 15 to beat a two seed (16 seeds have never beaten a one seed in 104 tries in the tournament.) The win inspired the immortal headline: Orangemen Bitten by Spiders. Other 15-2 shockers include Santa Clara over Arizona in 1991 and Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997.
1998: Valparaiso 70, Mississippi 69 — One of the most famous last-second shots in basketball history and the poster child for buzzer beaters was the three pointer by Bryce Drew, left, that helped 13-seed Valparaiso beat Ole Miss in a stunner.
2006: George Mason 86, Connecticut (OT) — A suburban commuter school from Fairfax, Va., that was a dicey choice to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, the 11th seeded Patriots upset No. 1 seed UConn and reached the Final Four. The Patriots were only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four, matching LSU’s run, also as an 11th seed, in 1986. They were the first true outsider to crash the quartet since Penn and Indiana State both got there in 1979.
2010: Northern Ohio 67, Kansas 65 — It’s rare that the top seeded team in the tournament goes out this early. But NIU guard Ali Farokhmanes, the answer to future trivia question, hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to ultimately doom Kansas.
Yes Dorothy, lions and tigers and bears….and Panthers too.
Related Blog: Top 10 Championship Games in Final Four History
Is George Mason this year’s George Mason? It was just two years ago that Jim Larranaga’s 12th-seeded Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association made a run to the Final Four before losing to eventual champ Florida in the national semis.
A nice story, but Cinderellas in the Final Four are about as rare as a snowy day in Miami. Really, outside of the Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and SEC — who makes the Final Four?
Marquette (2003) and Louisville (2005) got there, but both were on the verge of leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East.
In 1998, Utah out of the Mountain West Conference lost to Kentucky in the championship game. UMass from the Atlantic 10 advanced to the Final Four in 1996.
But for a real Cinderella, you need to go back-back-back to the Penn Quakers in 1979. That same year, Indiana State and Larry Bird lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the title game.
And for a Cinderella winner how about Texas Western upsetting top-ranked Kentucky in 1966. Don Haskins unheralded Miners knocking off the legendary Adolph Rupp and his top-ranked Wildcats.
Guess I’m just trying to rationalize my picks in this year’s tournament — three 1 seeds (North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA) and a 2 seed (Texas) in the Final Four.
Cinderella, forget about it. I do have a 13 seed (Siena), 12 seed (Western Kentucky), 11 seed (St. Joe’s) and two 10 seeds (Davidson and St. Mary’s) winning in the first round.
And two 6 seeds (USC and Purdue) reaching the Elite Eight. But that’s about it as far as upsets.
The final pick — the North Carolina Tar Heels edge Texas, 83-82, in a thrilling shooting for their fifth national title and second under Roy Williams.
Let the Madness begin.
Enter at your own risk, At the center of the March Madness maelstrom, it’s the toughest test in America. The law boards, your first driver’s test or that final exam in quantum physics are cupcakes compared to this exercise.
It’s “Comms Before the Storm,” the IBM communications NCAA basketball pool.
One year ago, I picked the Final Four, and had Florida beating Ohio State for the championship. That’s precisely what happened. Heck, I even went to the Final Four in Atlanta to bear witness to my prognostic abilities live and in person at the Georgia Dome.
So how much did I win? Nothing. Nada. Finished out of the money. Didn’t even get a mention in the wrap-up story.
Who am I picking this year? I’ll let you know after I consult my crystal ball, do my homework and fill out my brackets.
Like I said, toughest test in America. It’s awesome baby.