Three teams this century have lost their opening game to an unranked opponent and gone on to win the NCAA men’s basketball national championship.

Kind of surprising, isn’t it? Before we get into how each national champion got past the sting of that early loss, here are three things each had in common:

  • The loss was on a neutral court. Losing at home to start the year would be a much worse omen.
  • Each team followed up its opening loss with at least eight straight wins. You need to bounce back fast to erase the sour taste of an 0-1 record.
  • No team would lose more than five games on the season. By the end of the year, it doesn’t matter too much where your losses came from, as long as they were few and far between.

Now, let’s take a trip back to the aughts.

North Carolina, 2005

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