Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed 46 times — a winning percentage of .359.
It’s no wonder Cal coach Todd Bozeman worried when he found out his No. 5-seeded Bears, led by future NBA players Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray, were playing No. 12-seeded Green Bay in the first round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
“The minute I found out we were seeded against Wisconsin Green Bay, every person I called said the same thing,” Bozeman told The Los Angeles Times. “They said, ‘Oh man . . . ‘ ”
But, oh man, what an upset the Phoenix pulled off against the Bears on March 18, 1994, the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
It was only the 10th time a 12 seed had beaten a 5 seed. In 1991, their first tournament appearance, the Phoenix lost as a 12 seed, 60-58 to Michigan State on a buzzer-beater.
This time they triumphed as sophomore guard Gary Grzesk, the team’s defensive stopper, held Kidd to 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Kidd, who went on to become one of the best point guards in NBA history, also committed six turnovers.
“I’m taking the blame for this,” he said after the game. “It was really my fault.”
Murray, who played 11 seasons in the NBA, didn’t fare much better. He scored 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.
Meanwhile, 6-6 center Jeff Nordgaard led all scorers with 24 points and Green Bay senior John Martinez recorded a career-high six steals with seven assists and three 6-pointers in the 61-57 victory.
Grzesk, the defensive hero play 37 minutes.
“It’s a lifelong memory of mine that will never go away,” he said this year. “Sometimes I wish people would remember the game itself then just the matchup. I think the matchup got a lot of attention, but the team was always the most important thing. The win in that game was our entire focus going into it.”
Two days later, the Phoenix nearly knocked off No. 4 seed Syracuse, losing 64-59. Green Bay returned to the tournament in 1995 and 1996, losing in the first round both years. The Phoenix returned this year, again losing in the first round.
So the 1994 victory remains the men’s only victory in the NCAA Tournament. And in 2015, they became the first Phoenix team to be inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It was right there,” Nordgaard said this year. “Where we had the possibility of being a Sweet 16 team.”
It was sweet enough to beat Jason Kidd in his final game at Cal, a victory that helped put Green Bay basketball on the map.
On the cover: Green Bay’s basketball team made headlines with an upset against Cal in the first round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament. (Courtesy UW Green Bay Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Coastal Carolina (update) and Florida International
• Tuesday: Fordham and Furman
• Wednesday: Gardner-Webb and George Mason
• Thursday: George Washington and Grand Canyon
• Friday: Green Bay and Harvard