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Daniel Wilco | | March 15, 2019

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 12 seed

  No. 12 Yale stunned No. 5 Baylor with a 79-75 win in the first round last year.

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

Probably the most volatile seed in all of college basketball, the No. 12 seed has wreaked havoc on No. 5 seeds and brackets alike for years.

In 29 of the last 34 years, 12 seeds have won at least one first round game for a total record of 47-89 (34.6 percent) against 5 seeds. The only exceptions were in 1988, 2000, 2007, 2015 and 2018.

Some recent close victories include No. 12 Little Rock's 85-83 upset of No. 5 Purdue in 2016 and No. 12 Yale's 79-74 win against No. 5 Baylor the same year. Two years ago No. 5 Notre Dame held off No. 12 Princeton, 60-58. And last year No. 5 Kentucky escaped with a 78-73 win against No. 12 Davidson.

While more than 50 percent of the 12-seeds who won in the first round fail to advance past the second round (including those Little Rock and Yale teams and 2017's lone victor, Middle Tennessee), 20 teams have made it it to Sweet 16.

DePaul got the ball rolling in 1986 after beating Virginia by four in the opening round, and North Dakota State was the last 12 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in 2014. Eastern Michigan’s 20-point win over Mississippi State in 1991 still stands as the largest victory by a 12 seed over a 5 seed.

Read: Why we need to pick more 12-5 upsets

Missouri is the only program to make it to the Elite Eight as a 12 seed. In 2002, the Tigers’ run through the West regional bracket began with a 93-80 win against fifth-seeded Miami (Fla.). That game featured a ferocious Tiger squad where six players -- including the entire starting lineup -- eclipsed double-digits in points. Led by senior guard Clarence Gilbert, Missouri raced out to an eight-point halftime lead and tacked on a few more for the 13-point upset victory.

The Tigers went on to upset fourth-seeded Ohio State and eighth-seeded UCLA before they lost in the Elite Eight to second-seeded Oklahoma.

Utah State, which has been the No. 12 seed five times, is 1-4 against No. 5 seeds. Its lone win came in 2001 against Ohio State.

Year Winner Loser Score
2000 Connecticut Utah State 75-67
2001 Utah State Ohio State 77-68
2006 Washington Utah State 75-61
2010 Texas A&M Utah State 69-53
2011 Kansas State Utah State 73-68

Eastern Michigan offered the biggest surprise in the first round on March 15, 1991, as the Eagles beat Mississippi State, 76-56.