March Madness: Getting to know the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament
*Note: All data is from the 1985 tournament to the present.
The No. 2 seeds in last season’s tournament saw about as wide a spread as you can get in March Madness. Villanova started the tournament in the No. 2 spot of the South regional before winning its next six games by an average margin of 20.7 points en route to a national title victory.
On the other hand, Michigan State, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, found themselves on the wrong side of history, getting knocked off by the first true Cinderella of the 2016 tournament: Middle Tennessee. It was only the eighth time in history a No. 15 has beaten a No. 2.
Of the other two No. 2 seeds, Oklahoma steamrolled into the Final Four before being manhandled in a 95-51 loss to Villanova, while Xavier was knocked out of the tournament in the second round thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Wisconsin.
All this goes to show you: there’s no certainty when it comes to the No. 2 seed.
The 1991 Syracuse team learned that lesson quickly. The Orange dropped a 73-69 loss to No. 15 seed Richmond, the first time ever a No. 2 seed was sent home in the opening round
Before the Spiders’ upset, the second seeds didn’t have much trouble defeating the No. 15. From the expansion to 64 teams in 1985 until the Syracuse upset, only four games had been decided by eight points or fewer.
But the 1991 Orange showed that perhaps beating a No. 2 wasn't nearly improbable as the 1 versus 16 games. Still, the 2 seed holds a margin of 16.3 points per game over its opening round rivals.
|Know your seed|
|No. 1||No. 9|
|No. 2||No. 10|
|No. 3||No. 11|
|No. 4||No. 12|
|No. 5||No. 13|
|No. 6||No. 14|
|No. 7||No. 15|
|No. 8||No. 16|
The Blue Devils have the most appearances in the two spot with nine. The 2012 loss to Lehigh has been the only setback, although in 1997 and 2008, Duke survived Murray State and Belmont respectively by a combined four points.
More two seeds have been knocked out in the second round (39 of the 120 first-round winners) than any other round in the tournament, but five No. 2 seeds have won a national championship: 1986 Louisville, 1991 Duke, 1998 Kentucky, 2004 Connecticut, and 2016 Villanova.