Underdogs have their day / First round is prime time for giant killers, making for sometimes-fuzzy memories

Those shocking first-round upsets, when a relatively unknown team knocks off a high-ranking powerhouse, have become the essence of the NCAA Tournament, moments that are unforgettable -- except, perhaps, for those who made them.

Hampton coach Steve Merfeld has no recollection of being hoisted into the air by forward David Johnson, causing Merfeld's legs to shoot skyward as he celebrated Hampton's upset Iowa State three years ago. He knows it happened only because it's been replayed countless times on television.

"I just remember, David saying, "I got you, Coach. I got you, Coach,' " Merfeld said.

Gabe Lewullis doesn't recall exclaiming, "Oh my god," moments after his backdoor layup provided Princeton with a stunning win over defending champion UCLA in 1996. Tapes prove he did. What he remembers is coach Pete Carril's unprecedented strategy calling for the Tigers not to try for offensive rebounds, demanding instead that his players sprint back on defense whenever Princeton launched a shot, thus minimizing the Bruins' fast break.

After Santa Clara stunned fifth-ranked Arizona in 1993, Broncos forward Kevin Dunne recalls little except that, seconds after the final buzzer, coach Dick Davey got in his face for missing two free throws in the closing seconds.

What sticks in the mind of Ron Abegglen, after his Weber State team ousted North Carolina in 1999, is that his players got phone calls at 3 a.m. from Duke and Clemson fans congratulating them for knocking out their ACC rival.

For Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell, the lasting memory came early in his team's shocking 78-65 victory over Southern Conference champ South Carolina in 1997. "I remember during the game the center from South Carolina complaining about someone elbowing him in the jaw," Mitchell said. "Well, that was a statement that we were here to play."

The most amazing upset finish may have been Valparaiso's 70-69 victory over Mississippi in 1998, when the Crusaders, with 2.5 seconds left, threw a long pass to Jamie Sykes, who redirected the ball to Bryce Drew, who sank the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer and went into a sliding swan dive.

It's not all happy memories, though. Mike Montgomery was never more devastated than when his Cardinal, ranked 13th and seeded third, lost in its 1989 opener to Siena.

"He comes into the locker room after the game and doesn't know what to say," Eric Reveno, now a Stanford assistant then Stanford's starting center, said at the time, "and as a player you don't know what you want to hear."

It was Stanford's first NCAA berth since 1942 and, based on Stanford's basketball history and the fact that four of his starters were seniors, Montgomery probably figured it was his one and only shot to do something in the postseason.

Upsets like those are a big part of the NCAA Tournament's appeal, and there's a good chance of another today or Friday. In 17 of the 19 seasons since the field was expanded to 64 teams at least one team seeded 13th or worse has won an NCAA Tournament game.


Favorite upsets

Notable first-round bracket busters.

2001 -- No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57 -- Big 12 champ Iowa State was outscored 14-2 over the final eight minutes; Jamaal Tinsley missed a driving layup at the buzzer.

1999 -- No. 14 Weber State 76, No. 3 North Carolina 74 -- Ray Arceneaux scored 36 points and hit two free throws with 13 seconds left; the Tar Heels had reached the Final Four in 1998.

1997 -- No. 15 Coppin State 78, No. 2 South Carolina 65 -- Coppin State, a 30-point underdog, became the first MEAC school to win a tournament game; South Carolina had gone 17-1 in the SEC.

1997 -- No. 14 Tennessee-Chattanooga 73, No. 3 Georgia 70 -- Now just called Chattanooga, the Moccasins scored the game's first 15 points

1995 -- No. 14 Old Dominion 89, No. 3 Villanova 81, 3 OTs -- ODU had lost to James Madison by 16 points during the season; Petey Sessons scored 35 points to outduel Kerry Kittles, who played 55 minutes and scored 22 points.

1995 -- No. 14 Weber State 79, No. 3 Michigan State 72 -- Michigan State's Shawn Respert and guard Eric Snow wept after the Spartans lost in Jud Heathcote's final game as a college coach.

1993 -- No. 15 Santa Clara 64, No. 2 Arizona 61 -- A Santa Clara team that had lost to a 7-23 Stanford team by 31 points switched to a spread offense to beat Arizona, which was ranked No. 5 and had Damon Stoudamire and Chris Mills. The hotel where Santa Clara was staying tried to give the Broncos' rooms away afterward, because they were not expected to need them.

1993 -- No. 13 Princeton 43, No. 4 UCLA 41 -- UCLA had several players back from the '95 national championship team, but was done in by Princeton's signature play, the backdoor, performed not once, but twice, by Gabe Lewullis on the final possession for the winning score. It was coach Pete Carril's final victory.

1992 -- No. 14 East Tennessee State 87, No. 3 Arizona 80 -- ETSU hit 13 of 25 treys.

1991 -- No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69 -- The Colonial League champ became the first No. 15 seed to win a game since the field expanded to 64; Syracuse, featuring Billy Owens, had won the Big East regular-season title.

1990 -- No. 14 Northern Iowa 74, No. 3 Missouri 71 -- Maurice Newby hit a 3-pointer with one second left.

1989 -- No. 14 Siena 80, Stanford 78 -- Siena had played its previous nine games in an empty gym because of a measles epidemic, and they had the one weapon that had bothered Stanford all season, a quick point guard. Marc Brown scored 36 points and hit the winning free throws with three seconds left after the Cardinal had rallied from 16-point deficit with 12 minutes left.

1988 -- No. 14 Murray State 78, No. 3 North Carolina State 75 -- Jim Valvano's Wolfpack had finished second in the ACC.

1987 -- No. 14 Austin Peay 68, No. 3 Illinois 67 -- Tony Raye hit two free throws with two seconds left to lift the Ohio Valley champs over an Illini team led by Ken Norman.

1986 -- No. 14 Cleveland State 83, Indiana 79 -- The 14th-ranked Hoosiers and Steve Alford would win the national title the next season, but a team led by Mouse McFadden did them in this time.

1986 -- No. 14 Arkansas-Little Rock 90, No. 3 Notre Dame 83 -- The Trans America Athletic Conference champions took down Digger Phelps' Irish, including guard David Rivers.