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Daniel Wilco | | December 18, 2017

March Madness: Getting to know the No. 8 seed

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

In 1985, the Villanova Wildcats shocked the college basketball world with their 69-64 upset over Georgetown in the title game. The team not only won the first tournament that expanded to 64 teams, but nearly 33 years later, Villanova remains the lowest seed to ever capture the national championship.

But the Wildcats almost didn’t make it out of the first round as they barely escaped No. 9 seed Dayton with a 51-49 win. Sometimes for the eight seeds, the opening round can be just as challenging as any other part of the tournament.

No. 8 seeds have the most difficult match ups (as "favorites") in the first round since they are usually so evenly matched with their No. 9 seed counterparts. Since the tournament expanded to 64, teams in the eight slot have won 67 of the 132 first-round matchups -- just one above exactly half.

Another Wildcats team in the No. 8 seed almost didn’t make it out of the opening round. The 2014 Kentucky Wildcats barely survived No. 9 Kansas State but eventually advanced to the national championship against seventh-seeded Connecticut. Kentucky is tied with BYU for the most appearances as an eighth-seed and has a 3-1 record compared to the Cougars' 0-4 record.

More than 60 percent of the 8-9 games have been decided by single digits. 

It is also rare for all four eight seeds to sweep the nine seeds and it has occurred only three times since 1985, including 2015’s tournament field of North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Oregon and San Diego State.

Last year saw a nearly perfect year for the No. 8 seeds go to waste when Michigan State took out Miami (FL) with a colossal 20-point win. No. 8 seed Northwestern, meanwhile, beat No. 9 seed Vanderbilt by just two points for its first tournament win in program history.