Top 5 Conference Championship Upsets In College Basketball

Conference Tournaments are the perfect prefix to March Madness. It gives us a little taste of what we can expect in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s the last hope for many teams to turn around a previously sub-par season. Time and time again, these tourneys have served as a platform for teams to do the unexpected by winning their conference and gaining a bid to the next level. Cinderella roles may peak in the big tourney, but it all starts at the conference level.

Check out our Top 5 list of Conference Champions who were truly unexpected and extraordinary.

5. 1994 Big East: Providence Over Georgetown

Providence College got off to a slow start in the 1993-94 season, starting 5-8 in conference play. But late in the season, the Friars got going. They entered the Big East tournament as the sixth seed, and in the semifinals, they shocked No. 3 Connecticut with a 69-67 win. The Friars followed that upset with a 74-64 win over Georgetown to clinch their first Big East title.

4. 2001 Big Ten: Iowa Over Indiana

Iowa came into the Big Ten tourney with a respectable 18-11 record. However, the last third of their regular season they finished 1-7, playing without their injured star Luke Recker. Things weren’t looking good for the Hawkeyes. But, their beat-up team went on to reel off four wins in four days, including a 63-61 squeaker over Indiana, to win a Big Ten conference championship.

3. 1993 Big Eight: Missouri Over Kansas State

The Tigers lost seven of their last eight pre-tournament games and entered the Big Eight tournament with a 16-13 record overall and 5-9 in conference play. But the team played its best game of the season in the first round to blow out No. 21 Oklahoma State, 81-62. The Tigers then downed Iowa State in the semifinals and followed the next day with a 68-56 win over Kansas State for a conference title.

2. 2000 Conference USA: Saint Louis Over DePaul

Saint Louis was 15-13 in the regular season and just 7-9 in their conference before heading into the Conference USA tournament. Their impressive run started by beating Southern Miss and a Kenyon Martin led Cincinnati team that had already crushed St. Louis twice in the regular season. The Billikens then won their next two, making it four wins in four days against higher seeds, to gain the conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

1. 1983 ACC: NC State Over Virginia

In 1983, Coach Jimmy Valvano and North Carolina State had a March to remember. Their historical underdog run started in the ACC Tourney. In the semis, they beat Michael Jordan and UNC in OT, and in the finals, they narrowly topped the heavily favorited Virginia to win their first Conference Championship in nine years.

The Wolfpack is the only team on this list to continue their magic into the NCAA tournament. Valvano’s squad would go on to win it all by beating top-seeded University of Houston; a team that was on a 26-game winning streak and led by future Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Wolfpack would then go on to win the NCAA Championship as well by beating top-seeded University of Houston; a team that was on a 26-game winning streak and led by future Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Jimmy V bring it home:

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