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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | February 5, 2020

How No. 3 seeds do in March Madness

  The 2003 Syracuse team is one of four No. 3 seeds to win the NCAA Tournament.

The only two Final Fours that haven't featured a No. 1 seed eventually crowned a No. 3 seed as the champion. The 2006 Florida Gators and the 2011 Connecticut Huskies hold that distinction and both won their opening round against the No. 14 seed by more than 25 points.

Year Winner Loser Score Margin
2006 Florida South Alabama 76-50 26
2011 Connecticut Bucknell 81-52 29

Overall, the No. 3 seed is 119-21 in the first round after all four No. 3 seeds won in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Only six No. 3 seeds in the past 12 years have failed to advance to the second round, with a pair losing in the same year in the 2015 tournament – for the first time since 1986 – when Baylor fell to Georgia State and UAB knocked off Iowa State.

West Virginia’s stunning upset at the hands of Stephen F. Austin in the 2016 tournament marked the fourth consecutive tournament where at least one No. 3 seed suffered an upset. All four No. 3 seeds won their opening game in 2019, and by an average margin of victory of 15.5 points. However, Houston's 29-point win over Georgia State skews that data some.

Four programs have been seeded third at least five times: Michigan, Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The Wolverines notched a No. 3 seed for the sixth time in 2018 and made a run to the National Championship, where they fell to Villanova. The Blue Devils are the only team of the group to lose an opening-round game in the three spot with their loss to Mercer in 2014.

Both Michigan and Syracuse have won national championships as the No. 3 seed, the Wolverines in 1989 and the Orange in 2003. In those years, Michigan escaped Xavier in the opening round by five points, while the Orange easily cruised to a 77-63 win over Manhattan.

Michigan needed extra time to defeat fellow No. 3 seed Seton Hall in the 1989 championship game. The Wolverines came away with a 80-79 victory thanks to clutch free throws made by Rumael Robinson in the final seconds. Syracuse defeated Kansas in the 2003 national championship behind the stellar 20-point, 10-rebound performance by some guy named Carmelo Anthony.

One of the lowest scoring first round games in tournament history occurred between No. 3 Kansas and No. 14 Ohio in the 1985 tournament. While the Jayhawks won by 11, the teams combined for only 87 points. Since that game, 1995 Purdue is the only other No. 3 seed that has failed to score at least 50 against a No. 14 seed.

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