In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The ultimate tournament upset happens in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament as #16 seed Harvard beats #1 Stanford 71-67 in the West Regional. Making the upset more shocking is the game was played on the Cardinal’s home floor. While upsets are more common in the Men’s Tournament a #16 seed has never beaten a number one. Contrast that with the women where in 24 years the top three seeds are a combined 263-1 in the first round.
Cinderella stories are what give us the madness of March; it is what makes the NCAA Tournament so special. Since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament field expanded in 1985 there have been eight times that a #15 seed has beaten a #2 seed, while #14 seed has taken down a #3 seed 21 times. The Women’s Tournament expanded 64 teams in 1994, and for the most part has always been chalk city, as the higher seeds get games on their home floor in the first two rounds. The top three seeds are as much of a lock as anything in sports is, with a record of 263-1.
The one upset came with Stanford who was at the time one of the premier programs in Women’s Basketball under coach Tara VanDerveer seeking a third straight trip to the Final Four. The Cardinal were given the #1 seed in the West despite a terrible setback at the end of the season, as their top player Vanessa Nygaard to a partially torn ACL suffered in the Pac-10 Championship Game against Oregon State. Harvard, the champions of the Ivy League were not given the respect they deserved by the selection committee. The Crimson had one of the best players in the country in Allison Feaster who led the nation in scoring with 28.5 points per game and was ranked 14th in rebounding, with 10.8 boards per game.
Due to their low seeding, Harvard after posting a record of 22-4 came in with a chip on their shoulder, as Stanford with a record of 21-5 after spending all season at the top of the rankings had a 59-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion. Harvard got off to a terrific start, jumping out to an 18-7 lead thanks to the hot shooting of Allison Feaster. The Crimson maintained their edge throughout the first half, holding a 43-34 lead at the break. Feaster continued to torment the Cardinal, scoring a game high 35 points with 13 rebounds, playing 39 minutes. However, Stanford chipped away and eventually took a 65-62 lead with just under four minutes left. Harvard though did not roll over and continued to bring it to the Cardinal. With 46 seconds left in the game, Allison Feaster made a big steal to set up Suzie Miller who hit a three pointer from the corner to give Harvard the lead for good. Harvard’s stunning 71-67 upset over Stanford marked the first time ever that a team from the Ivy League won a game in the Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Following their win over Stanford, the Crimson took the floor again at Maples Pavilion, but midnight would strike as they were beaten by #9 Arkansas 82-64. The Razorbacks themselves would go on a Cinderella run, reaching the Final Four in Kansas City where they were beaten by eventual champion Tennessee in the semifinals.