Gimme five: Stunners

North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles completes the game-winning dunk against Houston. (Photo by Rich Clarkson of Sports Illustrated)

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North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles completes the game-winning dunk against Houston. (Photo by Rich Clarkson of Sports Illustrated)

Sports columnist Mark Bradley gives his list of five biggest Final Four upsets.

North Carolina State over Houston

1983 championship game

This wasn’t the utter mismatch it was cracked up to be. The Wolfpack, after all, had won the ACC tournament and had beaten No. 2 Virginia and Ralph Sampson in the West Regional final. But the Phi Slama Jama of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and Larry Micheaux was so breathtaking in its Final Four dunk-a-thon victory over Louisville that it was impossible to imagine it tripping at the last hurdle. But State slowed the pace and outdunked Houston 2-1, the final jam being rather memorable.

Villanova over Georgetown

1985 championship game

The teams met twice in the regular season, and both times Georgetown won, if narrowly. The Wildcats had lost 10 games — one to Georgia in the old Omni before New Year’s — and the top-ranked Hoyas had Patrick Ewing and were reigning NCAA champs. Georgetown could scarcely have played better in the title tilt: It made 54.7 percent of its shots and committed only 11 turnovers. Villanova trumped that by shooting 78.6 percent. It won 66-64 on, appropriately enough, April Fools’ Day.

Duke over UNLV

1991 Final Four

Rarely in history has Duke been positioned to register a seismic upset, but this was the moment. The Devils lost to Vegas by 30 points in the 1990 NCAA final, but the Runnin’ Rebels hadn’t lost since. UNLV led by five points with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, but point guard Greg Anthony fouled out. Without him, a great team crumbled. Two Christian Laettner free throws put Duke ahead with 12 seconds remaining, and UNLV’s Larry Johnson passed up a final shot, deferring to Anderson Hunt, who missed.

Princeton over UCLA

1996 Round 1

There have been bigger seeding upsets — five No. 15 seeds have toppled a No. 2, most recently Norfolk State over Missouri last year — but no early-round shocker has carried such resonance. Princeton, a No. 13 seed, hailed from the Ivy League, which doesn’t award athletic scholarships; UCLA was defending its 11th NCAA title. But the Tigers, who as a No. 16 seed in 1989 came close to felling No. 1 Georgetown, finally had their moment. The winning basket, naturally, came on a backdoor layup.

VCU over Kansas

2010 Southwest Region final

The Rams’ mere presence in the 68-team had been derided by ESPN voices, and Virginia Commonwealth wasn’t expected to last even beyond the first night. But it defeated USC in the First Four in Dayton, and then took down Georgetown, Purdue and Ohio State. Top-seeded Kansas seemed, however, a cut above. Wrong again. The Rams not only won, but won big. Final score: VCU 71, KU 61. Thus did the Rams become the first team ever to advance to a Final Four having lost to Georgia State in the regular season.