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Joe Boozell | | January 28, 2019

History of 1 seed vs. 16 seed in March Madness

UMBC upsets Virginia, 74-54

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.

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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 Sights and Sounds
UMBC upset: Retrievers take over social media
Studio crew talks historic upset

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.

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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:

15-2 upsets
Year Result Score
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.

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