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NCAA staff | April 17, 2021

History of 2 seeds vs. 15 seeds in March Madness

How to pick a 15 vs. 2 upset in the NCAA tournament — if you dare

Oral Roberts became the ninth No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed when it edged Ohio State, 75-72, in overtime in the first round of the 2021 NCAA tournament.

We hadn't seen a 15 seed upset a 2 seed in March Madness since Middle Tennessee shocked Denzel Valentine, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans in 2016. But it's happened enough since the NCAA tournament field expanded in 1985 to be on notice every year.

History of 15 seeds vs. 2 seeds in March Madness

Nine 15 seeds have upset 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, which means 15 seeds have an 9-135 all-time record against 2s, a 6.25 win percentage.

Here are all of the times it's ever happened.

 
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
2021 Oral Roberts def. Ohio State 75-72

A few more tidbits:

  • Roughly 25 percent of the matchups have been decided by single digits, almost double the amount of No. 16 seeds.
  • Louisiana Monroe and Belmont own the most No. 15 seed appearances, as both the Warhawks and the Bruins have four berths at that slot in the 35 years of the expanded tournament.
  • Only two No. 15 seeds have advanced past the second round. Florida Gulf Coast made it to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and Oral Roberts became the second to do so in 2021.

The most noteworthy times a 15 almost beat a 2

Winthrop vs. Tennessee, 2006

Winthrop, a 15-seed, nearly shocked No. 2 Tennessee in 2006. But then, Chris Lofton happened:

 

Lofton was only 5-of-14 for the game, but he hit the shot that mattered most. Gregg Marshall, now the coach at Wichita State, was the head man at Winthrop at the time.

Belmont vs. Duke, 2008

Belmont led Duke by one with two minutes to play, but the Blue Devils ultimately pulled out the win, 71-70. Gerald Henderson scored 21 points to lead Duke.

Robert Morris vs. Villanova, 2010

It took overtime for Villanova to defeat Robert Morris in 2010. The Wildcats prevailed by a score of 73-70:

Robert Morris led Villanova by six at halftime and held the Wildcats to 22 points in the opening 20 minutes. But Scottie Reynolds put 'Nova on his back, scoring 20 in the game.

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