Looking back at the most memorable games from the first round of the NCAA Tournament

On the day that what would have been the beginning of the NCAA Tournament’s first round, CBS Sports is taking a look back at some of the most memorable games in first-round history. In choosing one game from each seeding matchup (No. 1 vs. No. 16,  No. 2 vs. No. 15) the goal was not to pick the definitive all-time “best” games from the first round, which would have been a nearly impossible exercise given the NCAA Tournament’s illustrious history and the subjectivity of the criteria for “best.”

Rather, with the input of CBS Sports basketball writers, games have been selected from the past 35 years for their historical significance, individual heroics, dramatic endings or any combination of the three. Some candidates were omitted because they are featured here in “The 10 biggest upsets ever in the opening weekend of the tournament.”

No. 1 vs. No. 16

No. 1 Georgetown 50, No. 16 Princeton 49 (1989)

At a time when the possibility of eliminating some automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Tournament was being discussed, Princeton made the case to the nation for why the lesser conferences should continue to have representation in the Big Dance. The Tigers led the No. 1 seed Hoyas 29-21 at halftime before coming up just short in their effort to be the first No. 16 seed to win a first-round game.  Alonzo Mourning blocked Bob Scrabis’ jumper with seven seconds left and another from Kit Mueller at the buzzer to preserve the Georgetown victory. It would be 29 more years before a No. 16 seed finally beat a No. 1 seed when UMBC beat Virginia in 2018.

Also considered: No. 1 Oklahoma 72, ETSU 71 (1989); No. 16 UMBC 74, No. 1 Virginia 54 (2018)

No. 8 vs. No. 9 

No. 9 Siena 74, No. 8 Ohio State 72 (2OT) (2009)

The last game of the first round in 2009 provided unrivaled drama as Siena roared back from a four-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. Then, trailing by three in the final seconds of overtime, Ronald Moore hit a 3-pointer for Siena to force double overtime. The Buckeyes took yet another lead in the second overtime before Moore hit another 3-pointer that sealed it for the Saints. It was their second straight season winning a game in the NCAA Tournament under Fran McCaffery, who accepted the Iowa job a year later after leading Siena to a third straight tournament appearance. 

Also considered: No. 9 UAB 102, No. 8 Washington 100 (2004)

No. 5 vs. No. 12 

No. 12 Creighton 83, No. 5 Florida 82 (2OT) (2002)

Terrell Taylor averaged 12.6 points as a junior for Creighton, but he scored 28 for the Blue Jays in their double-overtime win against Florida in the first-round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament. All of Taylor’s points came after halftime and none were bigger than the contested 3-pointer he hit with 0.2 seconds left to put the Blue Jays ahead. The loss was especially painful for Florida, which had the ball and a two-point lead with 30 seconds remaining.

Also considered: No. 5 Auburn 78, No. 12 New Mexico State 77 (2019); No. 12 Missouri 93, No. 5 Miami 80 (2002); No. 12 Gonzaga 86, No. 5 Virginia 85

No. 4 vs. No. 13 

No. 13 Vermont 70, No. 4 Syracuse 67 (OT) (2005)

T.J. Sorrentine sized up the patented Syracuse zone and scoffed. With his Vermont Catamounts leading by a point with 1:11 to in overtime, the 5-foot-11 senior guard unleashed a missile from five feet beyond the NBA 3-point line that landed him a place in NCAA Tournament lore as the shot hit nothing but net to help the Catamounts secure their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. UVM coach Tom Brennan shot his arms up in celebration and unleashed a yell as Syracuse called a timeout after Sorrentine’s shot. The Catamounts had endured five straight losing seasons before Brennan took the job. And they won just 14 games in his first three years. But as Brennan prepared to retire at the close of his 19th season, this upset victory ensured that he went out as a legend after leading Vermont to a third straight NCAA Tournament.

Also considered: No. 14 Morehead State 62, Louisville 61 (2011); Valparaiso 70, Ole Miss 69 (1998); Navy 78, LSU 55 (1985)

No. 6 vs. No. 11

No. 11 LSU 94, No. 6 Purdue 87 (2OT) (1986)

LSU went on to become the first No. 11 seed to make the Final Four. First, it had to endure a marathon to upset Purdue in the first round. All five LSU starters played 44 minutes or more, but the Tigers had enough energy to put forth a 21-point surge in the second overtime – without a 3-point line – to escape with the win. Anthony Wilson scored a career-high 25 points for LSU.

Also considered: No. 11 Dayton 70, No. 6 Ohio State 69 (2014)

No. 3 vs. No. 14

No. 14 Georgia State 57, No. 3 Baylor 56 (2015)

The image of Georgia State coach Ron Hunter falling off his sideline stool after his son, R.J. Hunter, hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final seconds against Baylor is one of NCAA Tournament lore. The elder Hunter had torn his left Achilles tendon the week before while celebrating the Panthers’ Sun Belt Tournament title. That victory snapped a 14-year NCAA Tournament drought for Georgia State and helped set up the memorable scene against Baylor. The Bears led by 12 with less than three minutes left before the younger Hunter exploded for nine straight points in one of the most improbable rallies of NCAA Tournament history.

Also considered: No. 14 Mercer 78, No. 3 Duke 71 (2014); No. 14 Bucknell 64, No. 3 Kansas 63 (2005); No. 14 Cleveland State 83, No. 3 Indiana 79 (1986)

No. 7 vs. No. 10 

No. 10 Davidson 82, No. 7 Gonzaga 76 (2008)

Stephen Curry had scored 30 points in Davidson’s 82-70 loss to No. 4 seed Maryland in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. But his true introduction to the nation came in 2008 when he dropped 40 – including 30 in the second half – to lead the No. 10 seed Wildcats back from an 11-point deficit in the second half for an 82-76 win over Gonzaga in the first round. It was just the beginning of Davidson’s run and of Curry’s rise into an international star.

Also considered: No. 10 Miami (Ohio) 59, No. 7 Washington 58 (2009); Loyola Marymount 119, Wyoming 115 (1988)

No. 2 vs. No. 15 

No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69 (1991)

The Spiders had already developed a reputation for being dangerous in March after knocking off No. 5 seed Auburn and Charles Barkley in the 1984 tournament and by defeating No. 4 seed Indiana, the defending national champion, in a 1988 first-round game. Still, the odds seemed especially long for Richmond as a No. 15 seed matched up against Syracuse in a first-round game in 1991. But in what ended up being legendary Richmond coach Dick Tarrant’s final NCAA Tournament win, the Spiders upset Syracuse 73-69 and became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed. Just seven others have done it in the 27 tournament since.

Also considered: No. 15 MTSU 90, Michigan State 81 (2016); Florida Gulf Coast 68, Georgetown 58 (2013); Arkansas 79, Texas Southern 78 (1995)

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