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Daniel Wilco | | March 12, 2019

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 1 seed

UMBC upsets Virginia, 74-54

*Note: All data is from the 1985 tournament to the present.

The streak is over now. This is a new era.

UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed when during the 2018 NCAA Tournament the Retrievers upset the top overall seed Virginia Cavaliers. It wasn't even close. UMBC won by 20, 74-54, and delivered a result no other bottom seed had since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. No. 1 seeds are now 135-1. 

Xavier became the 19th No. 1 seed to exit the tournament in the Round of 32.

The two losses, far different from the Final Four trips by the other two No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Kansas, proved stark reminders of the scares top seeds have experienced in the past. 

Take the 1989 tournament for instance when not one but two No. 1 seeds — Georgetown and Oklahoma — barely escaped the opening round. The Hoyas and Sooners defeated Princeton and East Tennessee State, respectively, by a single point. A year later, Michigan State found itself in a similar position before eventually defeating Murray State, 75-71, in overtime.

Purdue survived a scare in 1996 from the Western Carolina Catamounts, winning 73-71.

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While no other teams have come down to a single possession, there have been some memorable games in the past that have been decided by single digits. Both Syracuse in 2012 and Kansas in 2013 survived tough contests from No. 16 seeds, defeating UNC-Asheville and Western Kentucky, respectively, by seven points.

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Now, No. 1 seeds may often appear to have it easy in the opening round, but the rest of the tournament could go either way. Despite the dominating numbers, 2008 remains the only year the Final Four has been comprised of all No. 1 seeds. Last season, Villanova and Kansas faced off in the Final Four and Villanova won the national championship. Only seven title games since expansion have been a 1-v-1.

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