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10 Biggest March Madness Betting Upsets Ever

The UMBC Retrievers celebrate in their locker room after defeating the Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

March Madness is made for spectacular upsets. It seems that at least once per year we witness some unheralded program nobody has ever heard of knock off a perennial powerhouse.

Whether it’s Northwestern State coming back from a 17-point deficit to beat Iowa in 2006, VCU cruising past top-ranked Kansas in 2011 or Lehigh beating Duke in what was basically a road game in 2012, nothing is more exciting and profitable than the underdog story.

That got us to thinking, what were the biggest upsets in March Madness history according to the listed spreads? Our database goes back until the 1996 season, a tournament that featured such legendary players as Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan and Marcus Camby. We dug through the hundreds of games and found the biggest betting upsets in the past 22 years of the NCAA Tournament.

The biggest upset belongs to the 2012 Norfolk State Spartans. The 2012 MEAC champions toppled the Mizzou Tigers, who owned the sixth-ranked scoring offense in the nation, 86-84 despite closing as 21-point dogs. As Norfolk State’s star player, Kyle O’Quinn, said after the game, “We messed up some brackets!”

The most recent upset to make the list came when the UMBC Retrievers defeated Virginia in 2018 – accomplishing the impossible and becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Nobody outside the parents of UMBC players thought the Retrievers could pull off the upset but the team rolled over Virginia 74-54 in one of the biggest shocks in sports history. 

Biggest March Madness Spread Upsets Since 1996
DateUnderdogFavoriteClosing SpreadFinal Score
March 16, 2012Norfolk StMizzou-/+ 21.086-84 Norfolk St
March 16, 2018UMBCVirginia-/+ 20.574-54 UMBC
March 14, 1997Coppin StSouth Carolina-/+ 19.078-65 Coppin St
March 15, 2001HamptonIowa State-/+ 17.558-57 Hampton
March 18, 2016Middle TennesseeMichigan St-/+ 16.590-81 Middle Tennessee
March 11, 1999Weber StUNC-/+ 15.076-74 Weber St
March 18, 2010OhioGeorgetown-/+ 14.097-83 Ohio
March 19, 2015UABIowa State-/+ 14.060-59 UAB
March 18, 2005BucknellKansas-/+ 13.564-63 Bucknell
March 21, 2002IndianaDuke-/+ 13.574-73 Indiana