Top 20 Biggest Fails in March Madness History

Each year, March Madness brings a brand new opportunity for someone to win millions of dollars off name brand websites like ESPN. Everyone participating individually picks the result of every single game. It's a time for college basketball teams to get a chance to beat the best teams in the nation.

March Madness or "The NCAA Tournament" is well known for it's wide variety of upsets each year. Top seeded teams come up short, while often, the teams people didn't predict to win shock the world.

Sometimes, it doesn't happen like this. Some years, the best team takes care of business and takes home a national championship for their college. Historically, March is when fans of all sports, even not of college basketball, enjoy watching the tournament unfold in its unpredictable ways.

This article outlines the Top 20 Biggest Fails in March Madness History, the teams that choked under pressure, usually beginning with major expectations, in terms of how far they will go in the bracket.

By the first day of the tournament, the majority of America has already picked the incorrect teams. But the few that predicted these victories are pure genius, or at least in the eyes of sports fans. Here are the Biggest Fails, period.

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20 Arizona vs. Santa Clara - 1993 First Round

via bleacherreport.com

In the 1993 first round, #15 seeded Santa Clara took down #2 seeded Arizona 64-61. Santa Clara was losing by 13 in the second half, and Arizona managed to still lose the game. Arizona was favored to go to the Final Four, and maybe even win a national championship too.

Arizona shot an absurd 25% from the field in the second half of the game. Arizona was winning 46-33 in with around 15 minutes remaining. The Wildcats went nearly 13 minutes without scoring a basket, and eventually lost by three points.

This was the second case in history of a #15 seed beating a #2 seed, and it only makes sense Steve Nash helped Santa Clara to do so over an exaggerated Arizona team.

19 Memphis vs. Kansas - 2008 National Championship 

via ellingtoncms.com

Memphis was a favorite to win the national championship with an outstanding team led by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas Roberts. Roberts was averaging 23.6 PPG going into the game, and Drose was already favored to be the #1 pick in the NBA draft.

Both of these players failed to make vital free throws in this particular game, the biggest game of their lives to date. Memphis was leading by 9 points with only 2:12 remaining in the game. Roberts missed three free throws with around a minute remaining, and Rose was 1 for 2 with 10 seconds remaining. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers hit a three pointer to send the game to overtime, and Kansas went on to win the game and become national champions.

I guess John Calipari didn't teach his two star players how to shoot a proper free throw. This cost them a national championship..

18 North Carolina vs. Utah - 1998 Final Four

via pinterest.com

In the 1998 Final Four, UNC was highly confident that they would win it all. They completely overlooked an athletic Utah team in the final four.

With Andre Miller at point guard, Utah beat the Antawn Jamison led team 65-59. North Carolina struggled to defend Miller who scored 16 points and 14 rebounds. The UNC players were trashing the Utes team before the game, calling their defense "junk".

It was so "junk" that Utah stunned UNC, and everyone watching the game by playing smart, and athletic basketball.

17 No.1 Seeded Kentucky Leaves Tournament - 1954

via kentucky.com

It appears not much has changed for the Kentucky basketball program. In 1954, coach Adolph Rupp pulled his entire team from the tournament, before it began.


After a successful 25-0 undefeated season it was discovered Kentucky's roster was majorly guys who already graduated, and had a diploma already. Half of their team wasn't even illegible to play college basketball. Maybe that's why they didn't lose a game in the regular season.

Maybe the current Kentucky team is doing this.. who knows what John Calipari is up to.

16 Indiana State vs. Michigan State - 1979 National Championship

Bob Heaton made a bold move in trying to block Magic Johnson. Instead, he got toppled to the ground, as Magic dunked it. Heaton was probably trying to steal some of Larry Bird's shine, but instead he looked really dumb, and just got pummeled by one of the league's greats. We all know where Magic Johnson would go from here. As for the game, Johnson would go on to lead the Spartans to victory.

15 Gonzaga vs. UCLA: Adam Morrison Cry Baby - 2006

via vancouverbasketball.ca

Gonzaga was leading with 10 seconds left. Before this, they blew a 13 point lead, so they deserved to lose.

As Gonzaga inbounded the ball, a UCLA player steals it and scores. UCLA takes the lead, and wins. All of the sudden on the camera is Adam Morrison, crying loudly on the court. Morrison looks pathetic as he looks like a youth basketball player after losing the recreational league championship. You gotta feel for the guy too though, right?

14 Kentucky vs. North Carolina - 1995 Southeast Regional Final

via SI.com

In the 1995 tournament, things got a little out of hand with Rasheed Wallace and Kentucky's Andre Riddick. Riddick violently grabs Wallace's throat, and Sheed, along with the entire UNC team retaliated by pulling the wildcats jerseys. A fight broke out, and referees and coaches were forced to hold back players.

Both coaches, and the refs were speaking for at least 10 minutes, while both teams cursed at each other.

An awful sportsmanship model by both teams.

13 Butler vs. Connecticut - 2011 National Championship

via usaftw.com

Butler was the Cinderella team of the tournament, making their way to the finals to face a good UConn team. They played horrid, and shot nearly 19% from the field.

They basically made everyone forget about their success, with the crappiest performance some people have ever seen. The game was boring, and UConn easily took home a national championship.

For a national championship game, this was a fail, because Butler played horrible, and UConn got lucky because they didn't have to face a powerhouse team. This reminds me nothing of when Gordon Hayward almost took Butler to win against Duke with his "almost half court shot".

12 South Carolina vs. Coppin State - 1997 First Round

via sportsmajors.com

First of all, what kind of name for a school is "coppin state"? It sounds like this team somehow made the tournament then changed their name to something cool.

In 1997, South Carolina was favored by 30 points over State. Coppin was a #15 seed, and took down SC in the first round. They were up by nine with less than two minutes to go, and just rode it through and won.

South Carolina was favored by one of the biggest numbers in history, and failed. To make it even worse, Coppin State was without their best player, so they expected to get destroyed.

11 Kentucky vs. Duke - The Shot 

via firstandmonday.com

Probably the most overplayed clip in sports history, and we all have seen it hundreds of times. Grant Hill passes the ball to Laettner, and Laettner makes a shot to win against UK.

What isn't looked at is that when Grant Hill throws the ball, Kentucky is no where near in his face defending. Grant Hill easily throws the ball to Laettner, and then Christian makes a tough shot under pressure.

Kentucky defense, or probably Pitino's, left Hill wide open, and he threw a bullet across the court to his teammate. This cost them a chance to win a national championship.

This amazing shot wouldn't have occurred if Kentucky just played a little defense on Hill. It was a ridiculous shot, but every time it appears on ESPN, I'm like "enough already"!

10 Arizona vs. Illinois - 2005 Elite Eight

Jay Drowns/The Sporting News

In 2005, Arizona was leading Illinois by 15 points with nearly 4 minutes remaining. The Fighting Illini hit a handful of threes, notably by Luther Head and Deron Williams. Somehow Illinois cut the lead to five points with under a minute to go in the contest.

The score was 80-77, and Deron Williams made a three point shot to tie the game. The Fighting Illini won the game in overtime. What is most recalled by people, is the sluggish Arizona team, who allowed a major comeback. Although this is true, I applaud Illinois for a crazy comeback against an athletic Arizona team in the elite eight.

9 Kansas vs. Syracuse - 2003 National Championship

via lightgalleries.net

The Jayhawks shot horrendously from the free throw line, making only 12 of 30 attempts.

12 of 30 attempts.

Played in Louisiana, #3 seeded Syracuse beat #2 seeded Kansas to win it all. Cuse was dominant in the first half, leading by 11 points. If Kansas connected on their free throws, they would have won the game. No doubt. The game ended 80-78, and people still wonder if the Jayhawks had only made a couple more free throws, if they would have taken the national championship. This was the year Carmelo Anthony won, and he was named MVP of the finals.

Regardless, Kansas could have won this one, it's atrocious that they couldn't make more than 12 free throw attempts out of 30.

8 Syracuse vs. Indiana - 1987 National Championship

via bballchannel.fr

Syracuse player Derrick Coleman choked, big time. Coleman had a chance to put Syracuse up three points, and he missed free throws. Shortly after this, Syracuse was down by one point with little time remaining. Coleman waited three extra seconds, then called a timeout.

Similar to Chris Webber, Coleman failed miserably, but so did the Syracuse coaching staff who should have known better than to let time tick off the clock before burning a timeout.

This was Indiana's Bobby Knight's 16th season coaching. Here's what he said:

"The greatness in this team, may be the greatness no other team here has had, to the degree that this one did - almost a total resolve not to recognize or be a part of defeat. This team played the last five minutes of critical games as well as I've ever seen a team play."

Although this is true, Syracuse pulled a Chris Webber, big time.

7 Bo Schembechler vs. Bill Frieder

via cbssports.com

Prior to the 1989 NCAA tournament, Michigan coach Bill Frieder announced he was to leave Ann Arbor and coach at Arizona State. Bo Schembechler, the Michigan football coach and director of sports, was angry at Frieder, and fired him regardless, because of his rash decision.

Schembechler said this about Frieder: "A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man."

At Arizona State, Frieder wasn't successful, and only had 2 NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons.

6 Butler vs. Pittsburgh - 2011 Sweet Sixteen

via nytimes.com

In the 2011 Sweet Sixteen, Butler upset Pittsburgh, in the most ridiculous ending I have ever witnessed. With 2 seconds remaining, Butler made a layup. While inbounding the ball, Butler guard Shelvin Mack hit a Pitt player, and sent him to the free throw line.

Gilbert Robinson made the first free throw, and missed the second. While the ball was coming down from the hoop, Pitt guard Nasir Robinson hit Matt Howard on the board. Butler went to the free throw line, and won with .2 seconds remaining.

One of the craziest endings I ever witnessed live, Pitt's Nasir Robinson choked like none other, but Shelvin Mack shouldn't have ever fouled a pitt player beforehand. This is one of those endings that you just scratch your head for a while, but will not get an answer. What a crazy ending...

5 Memphis vs. Louisville - 2005 C-USA Tournament Final

via ftw.com

In 2005, a freshman guard for Memphis was at the free throw line, shooting three shots. Darius Washington made the first shot. If he made both, Memphis was going to the NCAA tournament, if he missed the game would go to overtime. Washington did neither, and missing both free throws, and Memphis would lose.

He walked off the court crying in despair. If he just made ONE free throw, Memphis would at least have had a chance. He comes all this way, makes the first shot, then misses the next two. GAME OVER.

Darius can be seen not playing on any team nowadays, as he is a free agent.

4 Tennessee Tech vs. Loyola - 1963 First Round

via cbschicago.com

In 1963, both of these teams were actually good basketball teams. Now they can be seen in the Division III tournament losing in the first round.

To date, this game was the biggest blowout in NCAA tournament history.

69 points.

Did you read the number? Yes, 69 points. Loyola destroyed Tech 111-42. Tech shot 18 of 82 from the field. Let me repeat that in bolder words.

18 of 82 from the field.

I guess now we know why Tennessee Tech doesn't have an average basketball program. That's horrendous, basically no words can describe that deficit. At the college level, to lose by that much, you have to wonder who were the players on the court..

This is a historic game in March Madness history, a first round abomination.

3 Kentucky vs. Texas Western - 1966 NCAA Championship: Racism in the South

via bigbluehistory.net

Texas Western played five black starters for the only time in Championship history. Kentucky had yet to have an integrated program, in fact their whole team was white. The whole week leading up to the game, Kentucky was ready for a win, supposing they would be national champions, primarily because the program and the school was racist.

Texas Western won the game 72-65 and shut up a racist Kentucky program.

Kentucky eventually had an integrated program in 1970, which was six years after the civil rights act.

2 North Carolina vs. Georgetown - 1982 National Championship

via thesportsfanjournal.com

We all remember this as the year MJ hit a three pointer, to beat Georgetown. The Hoyas Fred Brown passed the ball to opposing North Carolina player James Worthy, which would cost them a championship. Brown messed up on one of the biggest stages in all of north american sports.

UNC would win the game, and take home the national championship. Two years later, Fred Brown helped Georgetown win a championship, which was his redemption.

Regardless of the "next championship" Brown ruined his teams chance at success, by giving the ball away to the other team. There's no worse way to lose a game, then literally giving the other team the game.

1 Chris Webber's Timeout - 1993 NCAA Championship

via telegram.com

Next to the Christian Laettner shot, everyone reading this article either recalls this play, or has read about it numerous times.

With nearly 11 seconds on the clock, Michigan player Chris Webber had the ball in his hands, and signaled for a timeout. Not knowing that the Wolverines actually didn't have a timeout, the refs called traveling. UNC won the game.

There is much debate as to if one of Webber's teammates encouraged him to call the timeout, but there's no definitive answer.

To this day, Chris Webber has not talked about this play, nor does he want to. It was the most embarrassing moment of his career.

The Fab Five will still go down as one of the greatest groups to ever play together. The group consisted of Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson.


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