In the first round of NCAA men’s basketball tournament east region on Thursday, 15th seed Saint Peter’s upset the No. 2-seeded Kentucky Wildcats.
Saint Peter’s is a small school in Jersey City coached by former prep standout and Queens hoops legend Shaheen Holloway. In four seasons at the helm, Holloway has amassed a 62-56 record and earned his first NCAA Tournament berth this season. This is the 10th time a 15 seed has upset the a No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament history. So where does this one rank?
First, let’s list all the times it’s happened:
- 1991: Richmond defeated Syracuse 73-69
- 1993: Santa Clara defeated Arizona 64-61
- 1997: Coppin State defeated South Carolina 78-65
- 2001: Hampton defeated Iowa State 58-57
- 2012: Lehigh defeated Duke 75-70
- 2012: Norfolk State defeated Missouri 86-84
- 2013: Florida Gulf Coast defeated Georgetown 78-68
- 2016: Middle Tennessee defeated Michigan State 90-81
- 2021: Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State 85-79
Now we can get into where it ranks.
#5. Santa Clara defeated Arizona 64-61 in 1993
Arizona was turning into an elite program under Lute Olsen. This team was led by future NBA point guard Damon Stoudamire. They went 24-3 during the regular season to earn the two seed in the West Region. Santa Clara was a small school from the West Coast Conference making its first tourney appearance since 1987.
Santa Clara wasn’t given much of a chance by the prognosticators, but in a single-elimination tournament anything is possible. Santa Clara kept it close all game and received 10 key points off the bench by a future two-time NBA MVP named Steve Nash.
#4. Hampton defeated Iowa State 58-57 in 2001
Iowa State dominated the Big 12 in 2001, going 13-3 in the regular season to claim the title before losing to Baylor in the conference tournament. They finished the season at 25-4 and were led by future pro Jamaal Tinsley.
The Hampton Pirates out of the MEAC were making their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates’ Tarvis Williams hit a go-ahead jumper with under 7 seconds to go, and Iowa State’s Tinsley saw his layup roll off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
#3. Saint Peter’s defeated Kentucky 85-79 in 2022
Kentucky is the bluest of blue blood college programs. This was an all-time win by Holloway’s Peacocks.
#2. Middle Tennessee defeated Michigan State 90-81 in 2016
Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans were the No. 1 two seed in 2016. Many people predicted they would win the national title. They had a loaded roster that returned nearly everyone from the previous year’s Final Four team, including star guard Denzel Valentine. They went 29-5 during the regular season and won the Big Ten Tournament.
Middle Tennessee State was the Conference USA champion and made 11 of 19 threes to bury the Spartans.
#1. Lehigh defeated Duke 75-70 in 2012
Duke in many ways has been the gold standard of college basketball for the last 30 years or so. This was a classic Mike Krzyzewski Duke team. They had future pros Mason and Miles Plumlee, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry. Duke cruised through the ACC regular season and finished the season 27-6.
Maybe they received too high a seed, as they often do. But that would’ve ruined one of the great upsets in March Madness history.
Lehigh were the Patriot League champions, and as is customary when playing Duke in the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney, it was a road game in Greensboro, North Carolina.
But Lehigh was unfazed as they featured the best player on the floor in future NBA star C.J. McCollum. He torched the Blue Devils for 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes. It was sweet.