1. Duke (2) loses to Lehigh (15)
Since 1985 (when 64 teams began to participate in the NCAA tournament as opposed to the original 53 teams), there have only been six games where the No. 15 seed has beaten the No. 2 seed—and two of those games happened to take place in this year’s March Madness tournament.
On the first day of the tournament, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (No. 15) crushed the Duke Blue Devils (No. 2) by a score of 75-70, something that was absolutely unexpected considering Duke’s long-standing success in the NCAA tournament. Major props go to Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year and the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, who earned the Mountain Hawks 30 points. This game was definitely not Duke’s best; the team only hit six of 26 shots from a three-point range. Although the Hawks only shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, they were able to muster enough force to obliterate Duke in the first round.
The fact that Duke, a team renowned for a brilliant basketball team, lost in the first round of the tournament for the second time in the past sixteen years puts this matchup as one of the major upsets not just for the 2012 tournament, but probably for the entire NCAA tournament history.
2. Norfolk State (15) beats Missouri (2)
On the same day, Norfolk State, a 15 seed team, took down Missouri, a 2nd seed team, 86-84. This upset was astonishing, especially given the fact that Norfolk has only played at the Division I level since 1997 and that this was its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Norfolk State Spartans’ success was mainly due to Kyle O’ Quinn, who scored 26 points while grabbing 14 rebounds. Pedarvis Williams and Chris McEachin also contributed twenty points each for the Spartans. Michael Dixon lead the Missouri Tigers with 22 points while Marcus Denmon finished with 20 points. Unfortunately, these efforts weren’t enough to prevent a crushing defeat at the hands of the Spartans.
After success in previous tournaments, the Tigers were initially considered a popular choice for the Final Four.
“I’m very disappointed, as everyone in that locker room was,” Coach Frank Haith said in an interview with ESPN. “I hurt for those seniors because they put so much into this. They had high expectations.”
3. Colorado beats UNLV
Although far less dramatic than Duke’s and Missouri’s losses, UNLV (No. 6) lost to Colorado (No. 11) 64-68. Although VCU beating Wichita State may have been a bigger upset, Colorado’s game was far more unpredictable. The Colorado Buffs haven’t been to the March Madness NCAA Tournament for nine years; the buffs were only able to make the tournament this year because of their victory in the Pac-12 tournament.
Colorado came out strong against UNLV, striking early to take a commanding lead. In the second half, Austin Dufault scored back-to-back three pointers while Carlon Brown pushed the score to 49-29. A couple of minutes later, the score was 53-33, the Buffs in the lead. UNLV was able to catch up with just thirteen minutes left in the game, but wasn’t able to surpass the Buffs, who were out of reach after their substantial early lead.