Chaminade’s 77-72 victory against Virginia on Dec. 23, 1982 remains the greatest upset in college basketball history, given that the NAIA school upset Ralph Sampson and the No. 1-ranked Cavaliers in Chaminade’s holiday tournament in Hawaii.
The second greatest?
Alaska Anchorage’s 70-66 victory over No. 2-ranked Michigan on Dec. 28, 1988, at the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. The Division II Seawolves knocking off the eventual NCAA champion Wolverines is also judged the school’s greatest moment in sports.
“We wanted to keep the basketball as long as we could and nullify their tremendous rebounding,” UAA coach Ron Abegglen told the Associated Press after the game. “If we play them normal, they outrebound us by 20 and beat us.”
Michael Johnson, a first-team Division II All-American that season, scored 20 points and Todd Fisher added 18 as UAA improved to 11-2. The Seawolves took control with a 20-4 run during an eight-minute span of the second half as Michigan — led by Glen Rice, Terry Mills, Loy Vaught, Mark Hughes and Rumeal Robinson — dropped to 11-1.
“You could see it coming,” Michigan coach Bill Frieder told the Associated Press after the game. “I didn’t believe it would happen, but it happened.”
It happened, but you rarely hear about it.
“Every time I see Michigan playing, I think of that game,” Fisher told Basketball Times in 2014. “I never understood why it didn’t get more attention. I saw a list of the top 10 upsets and we weren’t even on it. Are you kidding me?”
Mills said winning the NCAA championship, especially after Steve Fisher replaced Frieder on the eve of the NCAA Tournament, helped Michigan erase the stigma of losing to a Division II school three months earlier. Virginia earned no such reprieve after losing to Chaminade.
“We had no business losing to them, but in all fairness Alaska was a very good team that year,” Mills added. “If we played them 10 times we would win nine, but in their book it only counts one time.”
And it’s the only one that does count.
Above: The scoreboard tells the story of Alaska Anchorage’s upset of Michigan in 1988. (Courtesy Alaska Sports Hall of Fame via YouTube)