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Daniel Wilco | | March 12, 2019

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 5 seed

  Michigan State and Tom Izzo made its second semifinals appearance as No. 5 seed in the 2010 Final Four.

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

Out of the top eight seeds in the tournament, No. 5 seeds are the only ones to have never captured a national championship. To add insult to injury for those teams, upsets by their No. 12 seed counterparts have occurred almost every year.

In fact, the 2018 tournament was just the fifth time the No. 5 seeds completely avoided a loss. The other four happened in 1988, 2000, 2007 and 2015. The 2018 NCAA Tournament was a solid year for No. 5 seeds as three — Kentucky, West Virginia and Clemson — all made the Sweet 16.

No program has seen greater success as a No. 5 seed than Michigan State. The Spartans have never lost to a No. 12 seed in the opening round and have advanced to a pair of Sweet 16s and Final Fours in six appearances as the No. 5 seed.

Year Winner Loser Score
1986 Michigan State Washington 72-70
1991 Michigan State Green Bay 60-58
1992 Michigan State Missouri State 61-54
2005 Michigan State Old Dominion 89-81
2008 Michigan State Temple 71-62
2010 Michigan State New Mexico State 70-67

Michigan State's most memorable run occurred during the 2010 tournament. The Spartans squeaked past No. 12 New Mexico State before needing a buzzer-beater to defeat No. 4 Maryland in the second round. Eventually, the run concluded with a two-point loss to Butler in the Final Four.

Conversely, Virginia hasn't had a ton of luck with its 2-3 record against No. 12 seeds. Two of those losses came in back-to-back tournaments, in 1986 and 1987. The Cavaliers however did advance to the Elite Eight as the No. 5 seed after escaping Providence in the first round.

The No. 5 seeds still win over 60 percent of the time with an 89-47 record versus 12 seeds, but the margin of victory is minimal at about five points.

However, if the No. 5 seed can get past the first round, they've been able to advance as far as the tournament final, where three teams have reached the championship but failed to win.

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