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It could be argued that the most predictable part of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is its unpredictability.
True, a No. 16 seed losing to a No. 1 seed is a sure bet, but every March it seems like an unknown “Cinderella” team stuns experts and fans alike with a win that merits a whole lot of exclamation points. As this year’s tournament kicks off, let’s take a look back at some of those out-of-nowhere spoilers:
A first round matchup between 15th seeded Lehigh and perennial power Duke in the first round of the 2012 tournament was almost an after-thought – Duke would roll, while little-known Lehigh would go home quietly.
That’s not how it turned out, however.
Lehigh’s Mountain Hawks defied the experts with a 75-70 win and became only the sixth No. 15 seed to win a game in tournament history. Future NBA star C.J. McCollum led Lehigh with 30 points.
“I’ve been in (coaching) for 37 years, and sometimes it takes you to incredible highs,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski afterward. “And it also takes you to incredible lows.”
The Butler did it, alright.
It’s not that the 2010 Butler Bulldogs were a team to be taken lightly. After all, they’d lost only four games during the regular season and were unbeaten in the Horizon League. But few expected that they would advance to the national title game before losing a down-to-the-wire decision against Duke.
In hindsight, however, Butler’s incredible tourney run – in which it defeated powerhouses Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State – shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise considering that their roster included a future NBA star in Gordon Hayward and that they were coached by Brad Stevens, the current coach of the Boston Celtics.
It only seemed fitting that on April Fool’s Night, 1985, Villanova’s unheralded basketball team would win a national championship.
The Wildcats were only a No. 8 seed and had stumbled into the tournament by losing five of their previous nine games. But they advanced to finals against heavily-favored Georgetown thanks to five narrow victories, then defeated the Hoyas 66-64 to win the title matchup in Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.