Seeding for the NCAA March Madness tournament has come to an end, and it’s time to find out how low a seed can go and still win the whole thing. Let’s take a closer look at history and see who the underdogs have been and whether they were able to take home the title.
The Lowest Seed to Win the NCAA Tournament Was An 8-Seed.
The lowest seed to win the NCAA tournament was an 8-seed, and it happened in 2006 when George Mason University won it all. The Patriots were coached by Jim Larrinaga, who has been the head coach of Miami (Fla.) since 2012.
George Mason’s run was extremely unlikely, as they were a double-digit underdog against North Carolina in their first game and played Michigan State tough in their second. However, they pulled off two of the biggest upsets in March Madness history over Connecticut and Florida, respectively.
The Patriots made it all the way to the Final Four before losing to Illinois.
- The lowest seed to win it all since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 is No. 8 Villanova in 1985. The next-lowest is No. 7 George Mason in 2006.
- 9 Butler took down No. 1 Kansas in 2010, but that team was led by Gordon Hayward, who would go on to become a top-10 pick in the NBA draft that year.
- In 2015, No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth knocked off No. 2 Duke before falling to No. 1 seeds Michigan State and Wisconsin in back-to-back games during March Madness’ round of 32 and Sweet 16 rounds, respectively
Villanova Wildcats (1985-86)
The 1985-86 Wildcats were the lowest seed (8) to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship. Villanova was seeded eighth in the West Region and defeated a 9th-seeded Providence team 68-64 in overtime on March 23, 1986, at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colo. The Wildcats then upset top-seeded Georgetown 74-60 on March 27, 1986, at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., before defeating second-seeded St. John’s 67-59 on March 29, 1986, at Kemper Arena to win their first NCAA title.
Villanova finished the regular season with an overall record of 24-3 and 16 wins against teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament (the first two rounds). The Wildcats were led by two seniors — guard Ed Pinckney and forward Harold Pressley — who combined to average 30 points per game during the season. Pinckney went on to be named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament after averaging 18 points per game during the postseason run.
The Villanova Wildcats (1985-86) were the lowest seed ever to win March Madness. They were a No. 8 seed, but they still won the national championship by beating the top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the final.
Some other notable teams that have won it all as a No. 8 seed include:
- Villanova Wildcats (2016-17)
- Kentucky Wildcats (2014-15)
- Gonzaga Bulldogs (1999-2000)
A 1-Seed Has Won Nine of The Last 12 Tournaments.
A 1-seed has won nine of the last 12 tournaments, including seven of the last eight. And since 1999, at least one No. 1 seed has been in the Final Four every year except for 2015.
The Blue Devils have made it to the Final Four in four straight years and have won three national titles in that time span — two with Coach K and one with Mike Krzyzewski’s brother, Bill.
That’s just one example of how dominant top seeds are at March Madness in recent years. But there are plenty more:
Since 2010, No. 1 seeds have gone 92-12 against all other seeds combined (including 3-15 against 2-seeds). That 88 percent winning percentage is by far the highest among any seed during this span (2nd place is 80 percent).
An 11-Seed Has Reached the Final Four Twice.
An 11-seed has reached the Final Four twice (UNLV in 1990 and George Mason in 2006). The lowest seed to win the national championship is an 8-seed (Villanova in 1985).
The lowest seed to reach a Final Four is an 8-seed (Villanova in 1985), but only two 8-seeds have ever made it that far. The lowest seed to win a title was Villanova in 1985 as an 8-seed, beating Georgetown by two points.
No team seeded lower than 9th has ever reached the Final Four, but there have been two 11th seeds to make it this far: UNLV in 1990 and George Mason in 2006.
The highest seed ever to lose before the Sweet 16 was North Carolina State in 1983 as a No. 1 seed, losing to LSU in overtime by one point. The most recent occurrence was Connecticut as a No. 1 seed losing to Stanford by three points in 2014’s round of 32.
No 16-Seed Has Ever Defeated A 1-Seed in The NCAA Tournament but It’s Getting Closer All The Time.
The highest a No. 1 seed has been upset in the NCAA Tournament is by a 16-seed.
No 16-seed has ever defeated a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament but it’s getting closer all the time. The best odds for an upset at this point would be Virginia, according to Vegas Insider.
The Cavaliers are currently listed at +900 to beat UMBC as a 2-seed in the first round on Friday night.
UMBC, who made history as the first 16-seed to win an NCAA basketball game when they defeated Virginia 74-54 on Monday night, is currently being given +3000 odds to win their second game against Virginia on Friday night.
Finally, a 5 or 6-seed has never won the NCAA Tournament. Their chances are slightly better this year due to their high level of play. However, if you must pick an underdog to win, choose a 4-seed. They have a 37% chance to win this year and are one of the teams who has the best shot at winning it all.