Last weekend, the college basketball world was stunned when the No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans were upset by the No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State. It’s not the first time a significantly lower seed has beaten a higher one, but given the Spartans’ chances as a heavy favorite to win the entire Division I tournament, the results of their game certainly came as a huge surprise. And I’m not just saying this because I was one of those suckers that picked Michigan State to win a national title.
The result got me thinking though: what have been the biggest sports upsets of the decade (2010 onward)? Let’s take a look at the most shocking ones in each of the chosen sports.
College Basketball: No. 15 seed Norfolk State Spartans beat No. 2 seed Missouri Tigers in 2012
According to a list compiled by ESPN’s Rob Nelson and MacKenzie Kraemer, this is actually the greatest college basketball upset of the last 20 years - and on the surface, it seems obvious as to why. In the article, Nelson and Kraemer write that the closing line actually had Missouri favored by 21.5 points. Can you imagine the world’s surprise when the Spartans won by two points.
Look into the numbers further and there is even more reason to be surprised. The final score of the game was 86-84 - and on paper, Missouri was more than prepared for a shootout, with the top ranked offense in the entire NCAA, per their points scored per 100 possessions. The equivalent would be the 2007 Patriots losing to the 2007 Giants, but in a 34-32 shootout.
NFL: The 2010 Jets shock the 2010 Patriots on the road in the AFC Divisional Playoffs (2011)
When people think of great Patriots teams, they think of any of their four Super Bowl winning teams, or they think about the 2007 18-1 team that failed to complete a perfect season and was argued as the greatest team ever. Little do they remember the 2010 team, which went on a second half season tear and actually had a higher defense adjusted value over average, per Football Outsiders, than any other team of the decade.
If you remember the kind of talent that was on New England that year, you’d realize how colossal this upset was. Not only were the Patriots ranked as the best offense in the NFL by a ridiculous margin, but it was spearheaded by Tom Brady in one of the finest seasons ever by a quarterback, finishing as the league’s MVP and with 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions for the year.
How did a team like the Jets, which got embarrassed nationally 45-3 earlier that season by the same Patriots team, manage to pull off a 28-21 upset in the playoffs? For reference, the Jets were 8.9 points worse according to SRS: approximately the difference between a team like the 10-6 Jets from last season and the 3-13 Cleveland Browns.
To this day, I have to give it to NFL defensive legend and at the time New York head coach Rex Ryan for executing a strong defensive game plan built around pressuring Brady with few rushers and dictating the tempo of the playoff game.
NBA: 2016 Los Angeles Lakers beat 2016 Golden State Warriors in a regular season game
Okay - I know this game was fairly recent. I also know it was also only a regular season game. But let’s not talk about how infallible the Warriors are. I do that enough. Let’s talk about how horrendous the Lakers are.
The only team worse in terms of SRS this year is the Philadelphia 76ers. The difference between the Lakers and Warriors for this stat is over 18 points - almost twice the difference that exists between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings. This is not David v. Goliath: it’s more like an old man with a cane beating a prime Mike Tyson in a fight. In fact, per points per 100 possessions, the Lakers and Warriors’ matchup was actually a matchup between the league’s best offense and worst defense.
Pro Eating: Matt Stonie defeats Joey Chestnut in 2015 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
Yes - pro eating is a sport. And if you’ve ever followed it, you’d know that Joey Chestnut’s eight-year reign of terror over the hot dog eating contest basically put him on a pantheon of individuals who dominated their sport.
This is the same guy that once downed 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes for the 2013 contest. In case you don’t think that’s impressive: have you ever tried to eat three hot dogs in a minute, let alone six or seven? Stonie that year had only 51 hot dogs that year.
It’s not even as if Stonie shattered Chestnut’s record. Last year, he finished with 62 hot dogs, while Chestnut had 60.
I could make the list much longer for each sport, but if there’s any you’d like to talk about, feel free to tweet at me or send me an email for your pick! I’d be happy to do a mini-mailbag next week.