Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | | December 18, 2017

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 10 seed

  Last year, Syracuse became the first ever 10 seed to reach the Final Four.

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

In 31 years, it had never happened once. But that didn’t stop Syracuse. In 2016, the Orange became the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams with its 68-62 victory over Virginia. Cuse fell to eventual runner-up North Carolina 83-66 in the semifinal game, but history had already been made.

Before the Orange’s magical run, the 10 seed still boasted a pretty impressive resume. More 10 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 (20 teams) and Elite Eight (eight teams) than 9 seeds (only five teams in the Sweet 16, two teams in the Elite Eight).

LSU began the 10 seed hot streak in 1987, when the Tigers beat Georgia Tech in the opening round 85-79, to ignite a great run through the Midwest bracket. LSU lost by only one point to top-seeded Indiana in the Elite Eight. Since then, six other 10 seeds have reached the Elite Eight, mostly thanks to double-digit, first-round victories.

Year Winner Loser Score
1991 Temple Purdue 80-63
1997 Providence Marquette 81-59
1999 Gonzaga Minnesota 75-63
2002 Kent State Oklahoma State 68-61
2008 Davidson Gonzaga 82-76
2016 Syracuse Dayton 70-51

Before Syracuse, the last time a 10 seed reached the Elite Eight, Steph Curry's Davidson Wildcats pulled out a six-point win over Gonzaga to start one of the best Cinderella stories in college basketball history. On March 21, 2008, Curry scored 40 points in the 82-76 win over the Bulldogs and the Wildcats rode his hot hand to the region finals before falling to top-seeded Kansas 59-57. (Read an oral history of Curry's time at Davidson and 2008 tournament run)

But back to the first round. In those opening matches, the 10 seed is 51-81 against the 7 seed. In those games with a three-point margin, the lower-seeded team is 11-15. Creighton (who has the most appearances as a 10 seed with five) is winless as the lower seed, but 1-0 as a 7 seed.

And while large 10-7 upsets aren't unusual, blowouts are, and West Virginia had the widest margin of victory for a 10 seed when it beat Temple, 82-52, in 1998. West Virginia used that momentum to beat second-seeded Cincinnati in the second round on a banked-in game-winning shot before falling to Utah by three points in the Sweet 16. Last year, No. 7 seed South Carolina blew Marquette out of the water, 93-73, and rode that all the way to the Final 4. So if a 7 seed has a big first round... look out, world.