No. 1 seeds have historically dominated No. 16 seeds since the NCAA tournament expanded its field in 1985. UMBC became the first 16 seed ever to upset a No. 1 seed in 2018, when the Retrievers defeated Virginia and became an overnight sensation.
Here's everything you need to know about 16 seeds vs. 1 seeds in March Madness.
History of 16 vs. 1 seeds in March Madness
- Top seeds own a 135-1 all-time record against 16 seeds. UMBC vs. Virginia was the last 16-1 game that was played, and it's the only time the upset has happened. That means 16-seeds have a 0.74 winning percentage against 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
- No game had been decided by one possession since 1996 (Purdue beat Western Carolina, 73-71). That’s longer than most current college basketball players have been alive.
- The highest scoring matchup took place in 1987, UNC’s 113-82 win over Penn.
- The lowest score in a 1 vs. 16 game is 99 points, which has happened twice — Georgetown’s 50-49 win over Princeton in 1989, and UCLA’s 70-29 win over Mississippi Valley State in 2008.
- The biggest blowout in the matchup's history was in 1998, when Kansas bullied Prairie View A&M for a 110-52 win.
The times a 16 almost beat a 1
A 16-seed has come within one point of a 1-seed twice. They were both in the 1989 NCAA tournament. Georgetown beat Princeton by a score of 50-49:
The second time was when Oklahoma outlasted ETSU, 72-71. ETSU led by 17 at one point, but OU stormed back:
That must have been a wake up call for the Sooners, because they beat No. 9 seed Louisiana Tech by 43 points in the next round.
The next year, Murray State took Michigan State to overtime, but ultimately lost 75-71. The last time a 16 seed lost to a 1 seed by single digits was in 2014, when Arizona defeated Weber State 68-59.
The time it actually happened
It always felt like the first 16-1 upset would be close. Well, that wasn't the case. UMBC beat Virginia 74-54 and was in control for most of the game.
Here's some of the best content to come from the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history:
UMBC would go on to lose to Kansas State by a score of 50-43 in the next round. Regardless, that Retrievers team will be remembered forever.
How much more likely is a 15-2 upset than a 16-1 upset?
Eight times more likely. That is how many times a 15 seed has upset a 2 seed. Here are all of the times it's happened:
|1991||Richmond def. Syracuse||73-69|
|1993||Santa Clara def. Arizona||64-61|
|1997||Coppin State def. South Carolina||78-65|
|2001||Hampton def. Iowa State||58-57|
|2012||Lehigh def. Duke||75-70|
|2012||Norfolk State def. Missouri||86-84|
|2013||Florida Gulf Coast def. Georgetown||78-68|
|2016||Middle Tennessee def. Michigan State||90-81|
There have been 21 14-seed over 3-seed upsets, too. Clearly, the 16-1 is the most scarce, and by a significant amount.