Syracuse basketball: 25 years of NCAA Tournament 2-15 seed upsets

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Syracuse made history this season, in a good way

Lost in the glory of Syracuse’s unexpected run to the Final Four this season was that this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Syracuse being the first 2-seed to lose to a 15-seed. Yeah, I know, way to deflate a room. My apologies if you just pushed the bowl of Corn Flakes away from you but I digress.

No matter where you turned the next day, there was no escaping such a crushing, embarrassing loss. Mercifully the internet and social media wasn’t what it is today. *Exhales* Since the Orange lost to Richmond back in 1991, seven other 2-seeds have fallen by the wayside.

1993: Santa Clara over Arizona, 64-61: NBA great Steve Nash helped pull the upset over a Wildcats team that had Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves and Chris Mills.

1997: Coppin State over South Carolina, 78-65: The Eagles picked a great time to notch the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win against B.J. McKie and the Gamecocks.

2001: Hampton over Iowa State, 58-57: Former SU hoopster Lasean Howard helped lead the Pirates to the nail-biter over Jamaal Tinsley and the Cyclones. Lasean Howard. Really??? Ten years later there had to be some type of Orange juju working in that one.

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2012: Norfolk State over Missouri, 86-84: The Spartans got 26 points from current Knick (who knew?) Kyle O’Quinn in nipping Phil Pressey and Kim English. But who cares? That was the undercard for 2012 upsets.

2012: Lehigh over Duke, 75-70: To borrow a quote from Johanna when Katniss said she was going to kill President Snow, “now you’re talkin’!” Welcome to the club, Duke!!! If there is one team college hoops fans can universally rejoice in making this list, it’s the Blue Devils. For all the success Coach K and Duke have had, even they aren’t immune from the wrong side of history.

2013: Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown, 78-68: As if the Duke loss in 2012 wasn’t enjoyable enough, one year later provided the ultimate sports hate for Orange fans. The team known as Dunk City ran up a 19-point lead as they ran the Hoyas off the court. But Otto Porter, Jr., was used to that.

2016: Middle Tennessee State over Michigan State, 90-81: Not only did MTSU open up a path for Syracuse to advance, but it also ensured fans wouldn’t be subjected to camera shot after camera shot of Magic Johnson as the Spartans advanced. Magic only shows up at games when MSU is making a deep tourney run. Let’s see the faux fan show up to East Lansing for a late January game against Northwestern when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and it’s brutally cold out. Like that will happen.

So how ironic is it that Syracuse, of all teams, benefited from mighty Michigan State punching its time card into the dreaded “vanquished 2-seed” club? The Orange summarily drubbed Middle Tennessee State’s feel-good story 48 hours after MTSU sized itself up for Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Much to the chagrin of those who thought the Orange shouldn’t even have made the tournament (cough…Doug Gottlieb…cough), those who dismissed MTSU as a nobody after losing to Syracuse (*glares at Pat Forde*), and those who relish in making dopey picks about Syracuse being bounced early (*rolls eyes at Seth Davis*), Syracuse was (finally) on the beneficial end of a 2-15 seed upset.

As the old adage goes, fame is fleeting while infamy is forever. And while Syracuse will always be infamous for being the first Goliath ever to succumb to David on the 2-15 bracket line, at least it now has some blue-blooded company.

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About Steve Auger

Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.
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