NCAA March Madness: 50 Greatest Cinderella NCAA Tournament Runs

By ajfoss2613
Mar. 11, 2017

One of the reasons the NCAA Basketball Tournament is called "March Madness" is because of the lower-seeded teams coming out of nowhere to make a deep run in the tournament.

I have decided to comply a list of what I believe are the 50 greatest runs in NCAA tournament history.

This list features a fixture of mid-majors and powerhouse programs who were able to make their mark in NCAA tournament history with a surprise run that burst many fans' brackets.

I tried to rank a team's run based on the unlikelihood, drama, and how far they got in the tournament, so someone's run to the Final Four might be lower than some team that got eliminated in the Elite Eight.

The list is also limited to 1979, when the NCAA Tournament began using seeding.

With all that out of the way, here now are the 50 greatest runs in the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament:

 50. 1982 Boston College

The Eagles make their first trip to the Elite Eight as they knock off San Francisco, the #1 ranked team the country, DePaul, and Kansas State as the #8 seed of the Midwest Region.

However, their run would come to an end courtesy of the team with #49 run...

John Bagley had two 26-point performances during Boston College's run to the Elite Eight in the 1982 NCAA Tournament.

49. 1982 Houston

The “Phi Slamma Jama” make the first of their three straight trips to the Final Four as they win the Midwest Region as the #6 seed.

The Cougars average 87.5 points per game in their four victories over #11 Alcorn State, #3 Tulsa, #2 Missouri, and #8 Boston College, to earn a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four where they are held to 63 points in a five-point loss to North Carolina.

Rob Williams was the Cougars' leading scorer during their run to the 1982 Final Four as he averaged 17.8 points per game.

48. 1991 Temple

Thanks to Marc Macon’s 24 points per game during their run, the #10 seeded Owls make all the way to the Elite Eight as they knock put together easy wins over Purdue and Richmond during the first weekend of the tournament, then knock off #3 seed Oklahoma State in an 72-63 overtime win in the Sweet 16, where Macon scores eight of Temple’s 17 points in the extra period, before falling by three points to #1 seed North Carolina in the East Regional Final.

Despite not winning the regional, Temple guard Marc Macon was named Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional of the 1991 NCAA Tournament.

47. 1980 Purdue

With All-American Joe Barry Carroll clogging the middle at center, the #6 seed Boilermakers make out of the Mideast Region to earn their second Final Four appearance.

The Boilermakers knock off #11 LaSalle, #3 St.John’s, #2 Indiana, and #4 Duke to win the Mideast Region, before falling to UCLA in the national semifinals, though they would rebound to defeat fellow Big 10 team Iowa in the third place game(The Final Four held a third place game from 1946-1981).

Joe Barry Carroll had three games where he scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds during the 1980 NCAA Tournament.

46. 2012 Ohio

The Bobcats make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1964 as the #13 seed of the Midwest Region shocks #4 seed Michigan 65-60 in the first round, then defeat #12 seed South Florida 62-56, to earn a date with #1 seed North Carolina, where the Bobcats push the Tar Heels to the limit before falling in overtime. 

The Ohio Bobcats became the fifth #13 seed to reach the Sweet 16 with their run in the 2012 tournament.

45. 1990 Texas

Southwest Conference Player of the Year Travis Mays almost single-handedly leads the Longhorns to the Final Four.

As the #10 seed in the Midwest Regional, Texas defeats #7 Georgia in the first round, thanks to a 44-point performance by Mays, who then hit the game-winning free throws with seven seconds to go in Texas’ win over #2 Purdue in the second round.

Then in the Sweet 16, Mays puts up 32 points in the Longhorns’ win over #6 Xavier, but is held to 20 points in the regional final as Texas loses to conference rival Arkansas.

Travis Mays averaged 28 points per game during the Longhorns' run to the 1990 Elite Eight.

44. 2001 Temple

The Owls make their fifth and final trip to the Elite Eight under head coach John Chaney, as they entered the South Region as the #11 seed and proceed to knock off #6 Texas, #3 Florida, and #7 Penn State, before losing to #1 seed Michigan State in the regional final.

Lynn Greer scores two of his game-high 21 points in Temple's 82-74 win over Penn State in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

43. 1997 Chattanooga

The Mocs join the 1986 Cleveland State Vikings as the only #14 seeds to ever make the Sweet 16 as Chattanooga stuns #3 Georgia in the first round and then knocks off #6 Illinois in the second round to advance the Sweet 16 where their run would come to an end courtesy of the team at #42...

Chattanooga's Johnny Taylor goes up for a shot in the Mocs' 75-63 second round win over Illinois in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.


42. 1997 Providence

The Friars make their deepest run in the tournament since their 1987 Final Four run as they make it all the way to the Elite Eight as the #10 seed in the Southeast Regional.

Providence easily dispatches of Marquette in the first round, then shocks #2 seed Duke in front of a partisan crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina(almost 2 ½ hours from Duke’s campus) to make it the Sweet 16 where they end the Cinderella run of Chattanooga, to earn a trip to the regional final where they fall in overtime to eventual national champion Arizona.

God Shammgod averaged over seven assists per game during Providence's run to the 1997 Elite Eight.

41. 1986 Auburn

Led by All-American Chuck Person, the Tigers advance all the way to the Elite Eight in their deepest run in a NCAA tournament.

The #8 seeded Tigers defeat Arizona in the first round, then stun #1 seed St. John and national player of the year Walter Berry, winning 81-65 to earn a trip to the Sweet 16 where they overcome a 14-point deficit to knock off UNLV, to advance to the West Regional Final where they are defeated by eventual national champion Louisville.

Chuck Person averaged nearly 24 points per game during Auburn's run to the 1986 Elite Eight.

40. 2002 Missouri

The Tigers become the lowest seed to ever reach the Elite Eight as the #12 seeded Tigers in the knock off #5 Miami, #4 Ohio State, and #8 UCLA, only to lose to conference rival Oklahoma in the West Regional Final.

Missouri head coach Quin Snyder, giving instructions to Travon Bryant, lead the Tigers to the Elite Eight for the 4th time in school history.

39. 1981 Kansas State

After knocking off San Francisco in their opening round game, the #8 seeded Wildcats stun #1 seed Oregon State when Rolando Blackman hits a 17-footer with two seconds to go, the third and final buzzer beater in one day of the NCAA tournament, to send Kansas State to the Sweet 16.

There, KState would defeat Illinois 57-52 to advance to the West Regional Final where their run would come to an end as they would lose to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Head Coach Jack Hartman and Rolando Blackman would lead the Kansas State Wildcats to the Elite Eight in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

38. 1998 Valparaiso

Most college basketball fans remember Valparaiso's win over Ole Miss on Bryce Drew’s game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

But what they might not remember is Valpo defeating Florida State 83-77 in overtime in the second round to become only the second #13 seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16, where their end comes to an end after being defeated by Rhode Island.

37. 2006 Bradley

In the first round, the Braves won their first tournament game in 51 years as they upset #4 seed Kansas 77-73, where they would knock off #5 seed Pittsburgh to advance to the Sweet 16 in the West Regional, where they would be knocked out the #1 seed Memphis Tigers.

Bradley head coach Jim Les high fives some of the cheerleaders after directing the Braves to the Sweet 16 of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

36. 1988 Richmond

The Spiders make history as they become the first #13 seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16, as they upset defending national champion Indiana in the first round, then knock off #5 seed Georgia Tech, before losing in the East Regional Semifinals against top-seeded Temple.

Richmond Dick Taurrant directed the Spiders to a run to the Sweet 16 of the 1988 NCAA tournament.

35. 2013 LaSalle

The Explorers make their deepest run in the tournament since playing in the 1955 national championship game.

After defeating Boise State in the “First Four” to earn the #13 seed of the West Region, the Explorers hold off a furious rally to upset #4 Kansas State, then knock off Ole Miss thanks to Tyrone Garland’s game-winning layup with two seconds left to make it to the Sweet 16, where they are defeated by the Wichita State Shockers to end their run.

34. 2004 Alabama

The Crimson Tide make it to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a surprise run as the #8 seed in the West Regional.

Bama survives their first round game as Antoine Pettway hits the game-winning layup with five seconds to go to give the Tide the win over Southern Illinois, which is followed by the Tide taking down #1 seed Stanford in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1990.

The Tide continue their roll in the Sweet 16 as they knock off defending national champion Syracuse to advance to the regional final, where they are blown out by the UConn Huskies.

Alabama players celebrate after making to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

33. 1998 Rhode Island

Three years after leading UCLA to its first national championship in 20 years, head coach Jim Harrick almost leads the Rhode Island Rams to their first Final Four appearance.

Entering as the #8 seed of the Midwest Region, the Rams easily defeat Murray State in the first round, then knock off #1 seed Kansas to earn Rhodes Island its first trip to the Sweet 16 in 10 years.

In the Sweet 16, the Rams end fellow Cinderella Valparaiso’s run(see number 38), to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history where the Rams hold a six-point lead with a minute to play, only to be outscored 14-6 during the last 60 seconds as they fall to Stanford.

Cuttino Mobley help lead Rhode Island on its deepest run in a NCAA tournament with their run to the 1998 Elite Eight.


32. 1984 Dayton

1984 became the “Year of Dreams” for the Flyers as they made a magical run to the Elite Eight as the #10 seed of the West Region.

The Flyers defeat LSU in the first round, then upset #2 seed Oklahoma thanks to a 41-point effort by Roosevelt Chapman, to advance to the Sweet 16 where they would knock off #6 seed Washington, before falling #1 seed Georgetown in the regional final.

However, it would not be the last time the Flyers would make the Elite Eight as a double digit seed...


Roosevelt Chapman was the leading scorer of the 1984 NCAA tournament, as he averaged 26.3 points per game.

31. 2014 Dayton

30 years after their run to the 1984 Elite Eight as a #10 seed, the Flyers make it back to the Elite Eight, this time as a #11 seed.

The Flyers’ run started with a 60-59 win over #6 seed and intrastate rival Ohio State as Vee Sanford hit the game-winning layup with 3.8 seconds left, which was followed by a 55-53 win over #3 seed Syracuse to earn Dayton a trip to the Sweet 16, where they defeated fellow double digit seed, #10 Stanford 82-72, to earn a spot in the South Regional Final where their run would come to an end courtesy of the Florida Gators.



30. 2015 Michigan State

Head Coach Tom Izzo and his Spartans proved they are a threat to make it to the Final Four from any seed as they make it the Final Four as a #7 seed in the East Regional.

During the run, the Spartans knock off #10 Georgia, #2 Virginia, #3 Iowa State, and #4 Lousiville to earn coach Izzo his seventh trip to the Final Four in his career, though the run would come to an end at the hands of Duke in the semifinals.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo holds the net after leading the Spartans to the 2015 Final Four.

29. 1994 Boston College

12 years after their run to the Elite Eight(see number 50), the Eagles make another Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, this time as a #9 seed.

BC knocks off Washington State in the first round, then stuns #1 seed North Carolina 75-72 in the second round, ending the Tar Heels’ run of 13 straight trips to the Sweet 16.

In the Sweet 16, the Eagles defeat Indiana to advance to the East Regional Final, where their run comes to an end as they were beaten by the Florida Gators.

Bill Curley(15) is hugged by his teammates after Boston College shocked #1 North Carolina in the second round of the 1994 NCAA tournament.

28. 2000 North Carolina + Wisconsin

The 2000 Final Four had not one, but two #8 seeds make it to the Final Four, the first time any #8 seed had made it to the Final Four since Villanova in 1985.

One of them was Wisconsin, who knocked off #9 Fresno State, #1 Arizona, #4 LSU, and #6 Purdue in succession to earn the Badgers their first Final Four appearance since 1941.


The other #8 seed to make it to the Final Four was North Carolina, who defeated #9 Missouri, #1 Stanford, #4 Tennessee, and #7 Tulsa, for the Tar Heels’ sixth Final Four appearance in nine years.

Both Wisconsin and North Carolina would lose their national semifinal games to Michigan State and Florida, respectively.

Wisconsin(left) and North Carolina(right) both made it to the 2000 Final Four as #8 seeds.

27. 1980 UCLA

During the 1979-80 season Sports Illustrated published an article called “The Bruins Are In Ruins” as UCLA was no longer the dominant force in college basketball and were on their third head coach since the legendary John Wooden retired, in the form of Larry Brown.

But in the 1980 tournament, the Bruins came out of the ruins as they made a surprise run to the national title game as they came out of the West Region as the #8 seed by defeating Old Dominion, the #1 seed and top-ranked team entering the tournament DePaul, #4 seed Ohio State, and #6 seed Clemson to reach the Final Four where they defeated Joe Barry Carroll and the Purdue Boilermakers in the national semifinals(see number 47) before falling to Louisville 59-54 in the championship game.

Larry Brown coached UCLA to a runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA Tournament.

26. 2014 Kentucky

You don’t put together the terms “Cinderella” and “Kentucky Basketball” in the same sentence, but that was the case in the ‘14 tournament as the Wildcats were seeded #8 in the Midwest Regional and proceeded to advance all the way to the national championship game.

After knocking off Kansas State in the first round, “Big Blue” ended #1 seed Wichita State’s dreams of an undefeated season with a 78-76 win to advance to the Sweet 16.

From there, guard Aaron Harrison takes over as he hits the go-ahead three-pointer in the Wildcats’ win over arch rival Louisville in the Sweet 16, then the game-winners against Michigan in the Elite Eight and Wisconsin in the Final Four, before the ‘Cats magic ran out in the title game as they fell to fellow Cinderella UConn 60-54.

25. 1979 St. John’s

The Redmen were the 40th and last team selected to be in the 1979 NCAA Tournament, but did not play like the last team picked to be in the tournament as they made all the way to the Elite Eight.

The #10 seeded Redmen defeat Temple in their opening round game, then shock #2 seed Duke in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of “Black Sunday” where both North Carolina and Duke went down in their home state.

The following week, St. John’s defeats Rutgers to advance to the East Regional Final where they faced off with #9 seed Pennsylvania, who end St. John’s dream run with a 64-62 win.

Reggie Carter and head coach Lou Carneseca help lead St. John's to the Elite Eight as a #10 seed in the 1979 NCAA Tournament.

24. 1981 St. Joseph’s

The Hawks run to the Elite Eight was filled with late-game heroics as their first three games were decided by one possession.

In their opening, the #9 seeded Hawks defeated Creighton 59-57 on Tony Costner’s game-winning free throws with three seconds left, which was followed by their dramatic upset over #1 seed DePaul as John Smith made the game-winning lay-up as time expired giving St. Joseph’s a 49-48 win and a trip to the Sweet 16, where Brian Warrick hit the go-ahead free throws with 22 seconds left to give the Hawks a 42-41 win over #5 seed Boston College to advance to the Mideast Regional Final where their run came to an abrupt end as they lost by 32 points to eventual national champion Indiana.

23. 2002 Kent State

Kent State becomes the first team from the Mid-American Conference since Ohio in 1964 to make all the way to the Elite Eight.

The South Region’s #10 seed, the Golden Flashes knock off #7 Oklahoma State and #2 Alabama during the first weekend to advance to the Sweet 16 where they defeat #3 Pittsburgh 78-73 in overtime, thanks to a 22-point and 8-rebound performance by future NFL tight end Antonio Gates, to advance to the regional final where they are beaten by the Indiana Hoosiers.

Before becoming a star in the National Football League, Antonio Gates helped Kent State make it all to way the Elite Eight of the 2002 NFL Tournament.

22. 1986 Cleveland State

The Vikings become not only the first #14 seed to win a NCAA tournament game, but become the first #14 seed to make it to the Sweet 16.

In their opening game, the Vikings with their up-tempo offense, known as the “Run n’ Stun” shock the #3 seeded Indiana Hoosiers 83-79, which is followed by a 75-69 win over #6 seed St.Joseph’s to advance the Sweet 16 where the Vikings’ magical run comes to an end at the hands of the team with #21 run...


21. 1986 Navy

The United States Naval Academy make the deepest run of any military academy in a NCAA tournament, thanks to 7’1” center David Robinson.

Robinson scored 30 points in the #7 seed Midshipmen’s first round win over Tulsa, then poured in 35 to lead Navy past #2 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome(Syracuse’s home arena) to advance to the Sweet 16 where “The Admiral” blocks a then-tournament record nine shots and scores the game-winning basket with six seconds left to give Navy a 71-70 win over fellow Cinderella Cleveland State to send the Midshipmen to the East Regional Final where they fall to Duke.

David Robinson averaged 27.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and nearly six blocked shots per game during Navy's run to the Elite Eight in the 1986 Tournament.


20. 2013 Florida Gulf Coast

Entering the 2013 tournament, a #15 seed had won a NCAA tournament game six times, but had never made it to the Sweet 16.

That changed with Florida Gulf Coast, who in their second year as a Division I program, used an array of spectacular slam dunks, earning them the nickname “Dunk City” as they knocked off #2 Georgetown in the first round, then defeated San Diego State, to become the first #15 seed to ever make it to the Sweet 16.

“Dunk City” would go no further than the round of 16 as FGCU was knocked out by intrastate rival Florida.

19. 2016 Syracuse

The Orange become the fourth double digit seed, but first #10 seed to make it to the Final Four as they coast to easy wins over Dayton and Middle Tennessee in their first two games to advance to the Sweet 16 where they come back from a nine-point deficit to defeat Gonzaga which is followed by the Orange overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Virginia in the Elite Eight to earn head coach Jim Boeheim his sixth trip to the Final Four, where their run comes to an end at the hands of North Carolina in the semifinals.

The Syracuse Orange celebrate after becoming the first #10 seed to ever make it to the Final Four.

18. 1984 Virginia

One year after three-time national player of the year Ralph Sampson graduates, the Cavaliers make a stunning trip to the Final Four as they become the first #7 seed to reach the Final Four with four nail-biting wins over Iona, Arkansas, Syracuse, and Indiana, with the largest margin of victory being only eight points(coming against Syracuse) and the other three wins decided by one possession as the Cavs win the East Regional.

In the national semifinals, Virginia plays another nail-biter but loses to the Houston Cougars 49-47 in overtime.

Virginia head coach Terry Holland cuts the down nets after the Cavaliers' win over Indiana in the 1984 East Regional Final.

17.1992 Michigan

“The Fab Five” make history as they become the first team with a starting lineup consisting of all freshmen to make it to the Final Four.

The Wolverines entered the tournament as the Southeast Region’s #6 seed and proceed to defeat Temple and East Tennessee State in the first weekend to advance to the Sweet 16 where they defeat #2 seed Oklahoma State 75-72, then knock off #1 seed and bitter rival Ohio State in overtime to advance the Final Four.

Michigan defeats Cincinnati in the semifinals to advance to the championship game where they fall to Duke 71-51, in the first of back-to-back national title game losses for “The Fab Five”.

The Fab Five(Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Chris Webber) plus head coach Steve Fisher made the first of their two straight trips to the Final Four in 1992.

16. 1997 Arizona

The Wildcats not only made history by becoming the first #4 seed to win the national championship, but they became the first team to knock off three different #1 seeds in the same NCAA tournament.

After wins over South Alabama and College of Charleston in the first weekend, ‘Zona moved on the Sweet 16 in the Southeast Regional where they faced off with #1 seed Kansas.

The ‘Cats upset the Jayhawks 85-82, then defeated Providence in overtime to advance to the school’s third Final Four in ten years.

In the national semifinals, the ‘Cats defeated their second #1 seed, North Carolina, ending Dean Smith’s 36-year career as the Tar Heels’ head coach, then defeated defending national champion Kentucky 84-79 in overtime, to give Arizona its first ever national championship in basketball.

In his 24th season as a head coach, Lute Olson finally got to hold the NCAA championship trophy.

15. 2013 Wichita State

The Shockers live up to their nickname as they shock the college basketball world by making it to the Final Four out of the West Region as the #9 seed to earn their first trip to the Final Four since 1965.

After defeating Pittsburgh in the first round, Wichita State upsets #1 seed Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet 16, where they knock off fellow Cinderella LaSalle to earn a trip to the Elite Eight where the Shockers defeat Ohio State 70-66.

Wichita’s run would come to an end in the national semifinals as they fall to Louisville 72-68 as the Cardinals overcame a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the Shockers.

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall holds the trophy for the Shockers winning the West Regional.

14. 1999 Gonzaga

Gonzaga begins their run as a mid-major power with their memorable run to the Elite Eight in the ‘99 tournament.

As the #10 seed of the West Region, the Bulldogs knock off Minnesota in the first round, and then Pac-10 champion and #2 seed Stanford in the second round, to advance to the Sweet 16, where the Zags stun Florida on Casey Calvary’s game-winning putback with 4.4 seconds to go, to earn a trip to the Regional Final where they fall to eventual national champion UConn 67-62.

Since this magical run, Gonzaga has made the NCAA tournament every year and become one of the most recognized college basketball programs in the country.

13. 1987 Providence

In the first NCAA tournament with the three-point line, the Friars hit 40 of 78 three-point shots in their four victories of UAB, Austin Peay, Alabama, and Georgetown to come out of the Southeast Regional as the #6 seed and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1973 as Rick Pitino makes his first of seven trips to the Final Four.

The run comes to end in the national semifinals as the Friars go 5-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc in an 88-73 loss to Syracuse.

Rick Pitino barks out instructions to guard and future head coach Billy Donovan during Providence's 1987 Final Four run.

12. 2008 Davidson

Davidson’s run in the ‘08 tournament was the launching pad for Steph Curry into superstardom as he led the Wildcats to within a three-point basket of making it to the Final Four.

The #10 seeded Wildcats began their run with a first round win over Gonzaga, thanks to a 40-point performance by Curry, which was followed by Steph scoring 25 of Davidson’s last 30 points as the Wildcats came back from a 17-point deficit to knock off #2 seed Georgetown in the second round, and then followed by an easy win over Wisconsin where Curry scored 33.

But in the Midwest Regional Final against Kansas, Curry could not lead the Wildcats past the #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks as Steph, who scored 25 in the game, could not get a last-second shot off and was forced to pass to teammate Jason Richards, whose 25-footer hit the top off the backboard and no good as the Wildcats lost 59-57.

Steph Curry averaged 32 points per game during Davidson's run to the Elite Eight in 2008.

11. 1979 Pennsylvania

The Quakers made it all the way to the Final Four as a #9 seed, as they first defeated Iona, who was coached by future NC State head coach Jim Valvano, then knocked off #1 seed North Carolina 72-71 in Raleigh, North Carolina on “Black Sunday” (see number 25)to move on to the Sweet 16, where Penn defeated Syracuse to earn a trip to the East Regional Final with #10 seed St. John.

James Salters’ two free throws with 23 seconds left broke a 62-62 tie and after the Redmen missed three shots in the final seconds, the Quakers had a 64-62 and clinched their first trip to the Final Four.

However, Penn was crushed by Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans 101-67 in the national semifinals, then lost to DePaul 96-93 in overtime in the third place game(which was held from 1946-1981) to finish 4th in the 1979 tournament.

10. 1989 Michigan

While they entered the tournament as the #3 seed in the Southeast Regional, most experts did not believe the Wolverines would be much of a threat because of the departure of head coach Bill Frieder, two days before Michigan’s first game in the tournament as Frieder planned to leave after the tournament to take the Arizona State job, only to have athletic director Bo Schembechler declare “A Michigan man will coach Michigan” and had Frieder replaced by assistant head coach Steve Fisher.

But led by sharpshooter Glen Rice and point guard Rumeal Robinson, the Wolverines made it won the Southeast Regional with wins over Xavier, South Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia to advance to the Final Four where they knocked off Big Ten rival Illinois in the Semifinals on a last-second basket by Sean Higgins, then defeated Seton Hall in the title game on Robinson’s game-winning free throws with three seconds left to earn the school their first national championship and Fisher the permanent gig as head coach.

Tony Price(15) celebrates with Penn fans after the Quakers defeated St. John's in the East Regional Final to earn a spot in the Final Four.

10. 1989 Michigan

While they entered the tournament as the #3 seed in the Southeast Regional, most experts did not believe the Wolverines would be much of a threat because of the departure of head coach Bill Frieder, two days before Michigan’s first game in the tournament as Frieder planned to leave after the tournament to take the Arizona State job, only to have athletic director Bo Schembechler declare “A Michigan man will coach Michigan” and had Frieder replaced by assistant head coach Steve Fisher.

But led by sharpshooter Glen Rice and point guard Rumeal Robinson, the Wolverines made it won the Southeast Regional with wins over Xavier, South Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia to advance to the Final Four where they knocked off Big Ten rival Illinois in the Semifinals on a last-second basket by Sean Higgins, then defeated Seton Hall in the title game on Robinson’s game-winning free throws with three seconds left to earn the school their first national championship and Fisher the permanent gig as head coach.

The Sports illustrated cover after Michigan won the 1989 national championship under interim head coach Steve Fisher.

9. 2014 UConn

After defeating St. Joseph's in overtime in the first round, it did not look like the #7 seeded Huskies were going to go very far in the Tournament.

But led by All-American guard Shabazz Napier, the Huskies would go on to defeat #2 seed Villanova, #3 Iowa State, and #4 Michigan State to win the East Regional and earn their fifth trip to the Final Four in 16 years where they stunned #1 overall seed Florida in the semifinals and they defeated Kentucky 60-54 in the title game to become the second lowest seed and first #7 seed to ever win the national championship.

Shabazz Napier averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game during UConn's 2014 national championship run.

8. 1986-87 LSU

In 1986, the Tigers make history as they become the first double digit seed to make the Final Four.

As the #11 seed of the Southeast Regional, LSU uses its “Freak Defense” to pull off a double overtime win over Purdue in the first round, then knock off Memphis in the second round thanks to a buzzer beater by Anthony Wilson as time expired to move to the Sweet 16 where they defeated Georgia Tech to advance to the regional final where they faced off with #1 seed and SEC rival Kentucky, a team the Tigers had lost to three times during the season.

But the fourth time would be the charm for LSU as they knocked off the Wildcats 59-57 to earn a trip to the Final Four, where their run came to an end as they lost to eventual national champion Louisville.

The following year, LSU almost duplicates their magical 1986 run, this time as #10 seed in the Midwest Regional as they defeat Georgia Tech, Temple, and Depaul to make it to the regional final, where they fall to Indiana after holding a nine-point lead with 4:38 to play.

LSU head coach Dale Brown led the Tigers to the Final Four in 1986 as a #11 seed and to the Elite Eight in 1987 as a #10 seed.

7. 2010-11 Butler

The little Catholic school of only 4,000 students in Indianapolis stunned the college basketball world, not once, but twice as they made it to back-to-back national championship games.

In the 2010 tournament, the Bulldogs came out of the West Region as a #5 seed as they defeated UTEP and Murray State in the first weekend, earning a trip to the Sweet 16 where the Bulldogs knocked off the top-two seeds of the region, #1 Syracuse and #2 Kansas State, to earn Butler a trip to the Final Four, where they would be playing only a few miles from campus at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Butler defeated Michigan State 52-50 in the national semifinals to advance to the title game where they came within inches of a shocking national title as Gordon Hayward's half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim, resulting in a 61-59 defeat to the Duke Blue Devils.


Not many experts expected the Bulldogs to make much noise the following year as they entered the 2011 tournament as the #8 seed in the Southeast Region.

But the Bulldogs made it back to the Sweet 16, thanks to the heroics of Matt Howard, who hit the game-winning buzzer beater in the Bulldogs’ first round win against Old Dominion, and then hit the game-winning free throw with 0.8 seconds left to knock off Pittsburgh in the second round.

Butler defeated Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, advancing to the Elite Eight where they faced Florida, who the Bulldogs defeated in overtime to earn their second trip to the Final Four.

But after knocking off VCU in the national semifinals, the Bulldogs chance at redemption came to an end as they lost Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies 53-41 in the championship game.

6. 1988 Kansas

Led by national player of the year Danny Manning and a bunch of no-names, “Danny and the Miracles” win the Jayhawks their first national championship in 36 years.

As the #6 seed in the Southeast Regional, Manning and the Jayhawks knock off Xavier, then hold to on a three-point victory over #14 seed Murray State in the second round, then go on to defeat Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16 and then Kansas State in the Elite 8 to make it to the Final Four, which is played in Kansas City, which is about 40 miles from the University of Kansas’ campus in Lawrence.

In the Final Four, Kansas defeats Duke, behind Manning’s 25 points and 10 rebounds, to advance to the championship game where they face off with conference rival Oklahoma, who entered the game as 8-point favorites over the Jayhawks.

But thanks to Manning’s 31 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 steals, Kansas stuns the Sooners 83-79 to win the national title.

Danny Manning was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1988 NCAA tournament was he almost single-handly lead the Kansas Jayhawks to the national title.

5. 1990 Loyola Marymount

Following the death of star Hank Gathers in the West Coast Conference Tournament, many experts and college basketball fans wondered how the #11 seeded Lions would perform in the West Region.

All LMU did was make it all the way to the Elite Eight, as they defeated New Mexico State in the first round, then knocked off defending national champion Michigan in the highest scoring game in NCAA Tournament history thanks to a record 11 three-pointers from Jeff Fryer, which was followed by a win over Alabama in the Sweet 16 to advance to West Regional Final, where the magical run came to an end of eventual national champion UNLV.

The most enduring image of LMU’s run was Bo Kimble honoring Gathers, by shooting the first throw in three of the four Lions’ games left-handed, just like his Gathers did.

All three times, Kimble’s one-handed free throw was successful.

4. 2011 VCU

In 2011, the tournament introduced the “First Four”, as the last four at-large teams and lowest automatic bid conference champions play in four games across two days.

In the inaugural “First Four” is Virginia Commonwealth University, who defeat USC 59-46 to earn the #11 seed in the Southwest Regional.

From there, the Rams knock off #6 seed Georgetown and #3 seed Purdue to earn a trip to the Sweet 16 where they defeat the Florida State Seminoles 72-71 on Bradford Burgess’ game-winning lay-up with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, to advance to the Elite Eight where they face off with #1 overall seed Kansas.

The Rams shock the Jayhawks 71-61 to earn a trip to the Final Four, becoming the first team to win five NCAA tournament games in order to secure a Final Four berth.

However, the Rams’ magic carpet ride comes to ride in the semifinals as they fall to Butler.

3. 2006 George Mason

When George Mason was selected to be the #11 seed in the East Region of the ‘06 tournament, many pundits in the college basketball media believed that the Patriots did not deserve the at-large bid as they were coming out of the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Patriots proved they belong during the first weekend of the tournament as they knocked off powerhouses Michigan State and North Carolina, to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.

Playing in Washington D.C., just 20 miles from campus, the Patriots defeated Wichita State to move on the Elite Eight where they faced off with #1 seed and tournament favorite UConn.

The Patriots seemed on the verge of pulling off a miracle as they held a four-point lead with 10 seconds to play, but the Huskies come back to tie it up and send the game into overtime.

But the Patriots regrouped and when UConn’s Denham Brown’s potential game-winning three-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired, George Mason had a 86-84 win and become the second #11 seed to ever advance to the Final Four.

Though their incredible run ended in the semifinals as they lost to the Florida Gators, the Patriots’ run to the Final Four opened the door for other mid-majors to make it college basketball’s ultimate stage.

George Mason Jim Larranga(in hat and T-shirt) celebrates with his team after the Patriots shocked the world by making it to the Final Four.

2. 1985 Villanova

If the NCAA tournament had not expanded the field to 64 teams in 1985, the Villanova Wildcats likely would have not made the tournament with their 19-10 record and 4th place finish in the Big East.

But the Wildcats made the tournament as the #8 seed in the Southeast Region, yet were forced to play #9 seed Dayton at Dayton’s home arena for their first game.

The ‘Cats were able to defeat the Flyers 51-49 to advance the second round where they upset #1 seed Michigan 59-55, earning ‘Nova a trip to the Sweet 16.

Following a 46-43 win over Maryland, the ‘Cats faced off with North Carolina in the regional final where ‘Nova outscored the Tar Heels 39-22 in the second half for a 56-43 win, clinching the school’s first trip to the Final Four since 1971.

The Wildcats defeated the only non-Big East team in the Final Four, Memphis, 52-45, to earn a trip to the national championship game where they faced off the #1 team in the country and defending national champion Georgetown.

Though they were nine-point underdogs, the ‘Cats were not intimidated by the Hoyas as they shot 22-of-28 from the field, 9-of-10 in the second half, to pull off the 66-64 upset in one of the most shocking upsets in NCAA tournament history.

To this day, the 1985 Wildcats are still the lowest seeded-team to ever win the national championship.

Gary McLain holds the national championship trophy after Villanova shocked Georgetown 66-64 in the championship game.

1.1983 NC State

Entering the 1983 ACC Tournament, the North Carolina State Wolfpack were clearly on the bubble for a berth in the NCAA tournament as they stood with a 17-10 record.

However, the Wolfpack put together a series of narrow victories over Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Virginia, to get the automatic berth for winning the ACC Tournament and earned the #6 seed in the West Region.

It looked the Wolfpack’s run would come to an early end as they trailed Pepperdine 59-53 with 59 seconds left in overtime.

But the “Cardiac Pack” went on a 6-0 run, culminating with Cozell Mcqueen’s game-tying eight footer to send the game into a second overtime, where the Wolfpack prevailed 69-67.

In their next game, NC State come back from a 12-point deficit with 12 minutes to play to knock off #3 seed UNLV 71-70 as Thurl Bailey rebounded a missed Derrick Whittenburg shot and put it back in for the game-winning basket with four seconds to play.

The Wolfpack needed no dramatics in their Sweet 16 game against Utah as they easily dispatched of the Utes 75-56 to earn a trip to the Elite Eight where they faced off with #1 seed and ACC rival, led by national player of the year Ralph Sampson.

NC State outscored Virginia 10-4 during the last five minutes of play and dodged two final shots by the Cavaliers in the final seconds to earn a 63-62 win and the school’s first trip to the Final Four since 1974.

The Wolfpack defeated Georgia 67-60 in the national semifinals to earn a spot in the title game where they would face off with Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and the rest of the “Phi Slama Jama” Houston Cougars, who entered the game on a 26-game winning streak and were the #1 team in the country.

The 7 ½ point underdog Wolfpack entered the halftime break with a 33-25 lead, but were outscored by the Cougars 17-2 to fall behind 42-35 with over 10 minutes to play in regulation.

Once again, the Wolfpack would come back and eventually tie the game at 52 and had possession of the ball with 1:05 left to win the game in regulation(there was no shot clock in 1983).

The Pack ran the clock all the way down to the final seconds where Whittenburg launched a desperation shot from 35 feet out that was going to be an airball, only to have Lorenzo Charles catch and slam it down for the game-winning basket as time expired to give NC State the 54-52 win, the national championship, and completing the greatest run in NCAA tournament history.

Lorenzo Charles throws the game-winning slam dunk in the final seconds of the national title game to give NC State the 54-52 win over Houston.