15. No. 13 Princeton over No. 4 UCLA – 1996
- Princeton wins 43-41
The theme of David versus Goliath is pervasive throughout this list of the NCAA Tournament’s greatest upsets, and Princeton over UCLA certainly applies. On one side you had the sport’s ultimate goliath in UCLA, the most decorated program in college basketball and the owner of 11 national championships.
The David in this matchup was Princeton, an Ivy League school that had gone to the NCAA Tournament 13 times under legendary coach Pete Carril but failed to record a win. The closest the Tigers had come was back in 1989 when the 16-seed Princeton took top-seed Georgetown to the wire in a 50-49 defeat.
The key to Princeton’s remarkable success was its trademark Princeton offense, which was an incredibly well-structured attack that relied on discipline, teamwork and motion. Even with that system in place, few gave the Tigers a chance against UCLA, which entered the tournament as the defending national champions.
Like most of Princeton’s previous NCAA Tournament games, the contest was low scoring, with UCLA building a 41-34 lead with just over six minutes remaining. The Tigers pulled off a remarkable feat, holding the Bruins scoreless the rest of the way and scoring the final nine points of the contest to score a 43-41 victory.
The win was the final one of Carril’s career, a fitting capper to a tremendously successful run with Princeton that dated back to 1967.