Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | | February 14, 2018

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 15 seed

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

After the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, it took six more years before a No. 15 seed knocked off a No. 2 seed, when Richmond beat Syracuse in 1991, 73-69. And every couple of years, a No. 15 seed shocks the college basketball world with a crazy upset. After a 10-year drought without an opening-round win by a No. 15 seed, they have won four first-round games in the last six years.

But don't let that trick you into thinking the 15 seed has a good chance — they're 8-124 all time in the first round.

The most recent shocker was when No. 15 Middle Tennessee never trailed in its opening-round matchup in 2016 on the way to upsetting No. 2 Michigan State 90-81.

The 2012 NCAA tournament was particularly volatile for the No. 15 vs. No. 2 match-ups, as lower-seeded Norfolk State and Lehigh grabbed impressive wins in the first round on the same day. After a decade of smooth sailing for second-seeded teams, Norfolk State eked out a win over Missouri and Lehigh built up enough momentum to beat Duke by five.

While the No. 15 seed sports a lowly winning percentage of 6.06, roughly 25 percent of the matchups have come to within single digits for the lower-seeded team, almost double the amount for No. 16 seeds.

Only one No. 15 seed has advanced past the second round, when Florida Gulf Coast made it to the Sweet 16 in 2013. In only its second year of full NCAA eligibility and first in the NCAA tournament, the Eagles shocked the college basketball world by not only beating second-seeded Georgetown by 10 points in the first round, but also beating seventh-seeded San Diego State to advance to the Sweet 16.

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 32 years of the expanded tournament.

Year Winner Loser Score
1991 Richmond Syracuse 73-68
1993 Santa Clara Arizona 64-61
1997 Coppin State South Carolina 78-65
2001 Hampton Iowa State 58-57
2012 Norfolk State Missouri 86-84
2012 Lehigh Duke 75-70
2013 Florida Gulf Coast Georgetown 78-68
2016 Middle Tennessee Michigan State 80-61