March Madness: Getting to know the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament
*Note: All data is from the 1985 tournament to the present.
In 1985, the Villanova Wildcats shocked the college basketball world with their 69-64 upset over Georgetown in the title game. The team not only won the first tournament that expanded to 64 teams, but nearly 31 years later, Villanova remains the lowest seed to ever capture the national championship.
Know your seed
No. 8 seeds have the most difficult match ups (as "favorites") in the first round because they are usually so evenly matched with their No. 9 seed counterparts. Since the tournament expanded to 64, teams in the eight slot have won 64 of the 128 first-round matchups (exactly half), but it’s the No. 9 seeds who hold the scoring margin at just .09 points per game.
Another Wildcats team in the No. 8 seed almost didn’t make it out of the opening round. The 2014 Kentucky Wildcats barely survived No. 9 Kansas State but eventually advanced to the national championship against seventh-seeded Connecticut. Kentucky is tied with BYU for the most appearances as an eighth-seed and has a 3-1 record compared to the Cougars' 0-4 record.
More than 60 percent of the 8-9 games have been decided by single digits.
It is also rare for all four eight seeds to sweep the nine seeds and it has occurred only three times since 1985, including 2015’s tournament field of North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Oregon and San Diego State.
Last year almost saw the opposite happen as Saint Joseph’s was the only No. 8 seed to advance, only doing so after No. 9 Cincinnati’s last-second game-tying dunk was called off, giving the Hawks a 78-76 win, though they would fall to No. 1 seed Oregon in the next round.