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. In 2023, FDU became just the second 16 seed to knock off a No. 1, shocking Purdue.
Here's everything you need to know about 16 seeds vs. 1 seeds in March Madness.
MORE: Andy Katz's March Madness predictions
History of 16 vs. 1 seeds in March Madness
- Top seeds own a 150-2 all-time record against 16 seeds. FDU vs. Purdue was the last 16-1 game that was played, and it's only the second time the upset has happened. That means 16-seeds have a 1.32 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 times it actually happened
In 2023, the matchup between 1-seed Purdue and 16-seed FDU looked like all but a certainty. Over 97% of brackets picked the Boilermakers to advance. After all, it was a matchup of the tallest team in the tournament — with Purdue led by the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey — and the shortest team in the field in FDU.
The Knights held their own, nursing a narrow lead for much of the game. The plan was not to stop the towering Edey as much as it was to nullify the rest of the Purdue offense. FDU did just that, forcing several errant shots and limiting the Boilermakers to just 36% shooting from the field in the 63-58 win.
(16) FDU UPSETS (1) PURDUE 😱😱😱— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 18, 2023
MARCH. KEEPS. ON. GIVING. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/4T0K3n13Er
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 first 16-over-1 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.
MORE: NCAA.com college hoops home
How much more likely is a 15-2 upset than a 16-1 upset?
Five and a half times more likely. 15 seeds have upset 2 seeds 11 times. 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|
|2021||Oral Roberts def. Ohio State||75-72|
|2022||Saint Peter's def. Kentucky||85-79|
|2023||Princeton def. Arizona||59-55|
There have been 22 14-seed over 3-seed upsets, too. Clearly, the 16-1 is the most scarce, and by a significant amount.