Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | | March 19, 2019

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 2 seed

High Five: 15 over 2 Tournament Upsets

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

The 2018 NCAA tournament didn't do much to rid 2 seeds of the bad taste the 2017 tournament left. Just as two different 2 seeds were bounced in the Round of 32 two years ago, two were again last year. Just as a 2 seed lost in the Sweet 16 two years ago, one did again last year. And just as one reached the Elite Eight only to lose so too did a program last year.

Swap 2017's Duke and Louisville for 2018's Cincinnati and North Carolina, 2017's Arizona for 2018's Purdue and 2017's Kentucky for 2018's Duke and the story you read seems all too familiar.

Second Round: South Carolina defeats Duke

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 suffered a 73-69 loss to No. 15 Richmond, the first time ever a 15 seed sent a 2 seed home.

Before the Spiders’ upset, the second seeds didn’t have much trouble defeating the 15 seeds. From the expansion to 64 teams in 1985 until the Syracuse upset, only four games had been decided by eight points or fewer.

Year Winner Loser Score Margin
1985 Georgia
Mercer 65-58 7
1986 Michigan Akron 70-64 6
1987 Syracuse Georgia
79-73 6
1990 Kansas Robert
79-71 8

But the 1991 Orange showed that perhaps beating a No. 2 wasn't as far-fetched as first thought.

Three more upsets occurred in 1993, 1997 and 2001 before 2 seeds went undefeated against 15 seeds for the next 11 years.

All in all, 2 seeds have lost only eight games in the opening round, most recently Michigan State in 2016 when the Spartans lost to Middle Tennessee, 90-81. However, three of those losses happened in back-to-back years with Duke and Missouri in 2012 and Georgetown in 2013. 

The Blue Devils have the most appearances in the two spot with 10. 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 2 seeds have been knocked out in the Round of 32 — 43 of the 128 first-round winners — than any other round in the tournament, but five different 2 seeds have won a national championship: 1986 Louisville, 1991 Duke, 1998 Kentucky, 2004 Connecticut and 2016 Villanova.

What is March Madness: The NCAA tournament explained

Here is everything (really!) you might want to know about March Madness — one of the biggest, most exciting and most fun events sports. Also known as the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, it's been played annually since 1939.

Who the world picked to win in the Final Four

There are only three games left in the 2019 NCAA tournament, and most brackets are very, very busted by now. But we looked at all of them to see who they had winning in the Final Four and championship game.

Tracking the best (and not best) celebrity NCAA brackets

We tracked dozens of NCAA brackets filled out by celebrities this year, and — just like the rest of us — some of them nailed it and some of them didn't. But one did better than all the rest.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners