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Daniel Wilco | | February 5, 2020

How No. 11 seeds do in March Madness

Which of the 11th seeded Cinderellas have delivered the most magical runs?

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

The 1989 NCAA tournament was a special one for No. 11 seeds. That year, they swept their No. 6-seed opponents.

Minnesota got the ball rolling on March 16, beating Kansas State, 86-75, behind 29 points from Willie Burton. One day later, Evansville, South Alabama and Texas all beat their opponents.

South Alabama had the toughest time with its upset bid, beating in-state rival Alabama, 86-84, on a shot by Jeff Hodge with two seconds left in the game.

The 2017 tournament came close to matching the historic 1989 run by No. 11 seeds, as three of the four No. 11 seeds pulled out wins. And the same thing happened in 2016, when No. 11 seed Michigan couldn’t beat No. 6 seed Notre Dame and just narrowly missed contributing to a four-for-four, No. 11-seed sweep. In 2018, just two No. 11 seeds won, but Syracuse advanced to the Sweet 16 and Loyola Chicago reached the Final Four.

In total, No. 11 seeds have won 52 out of 140 opening round match-ups, or 37.1 percent of the time.

They went 1-3 in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament with No. 11 seed Ohio State beating No. 6 seed Iowa State 62-59 before losing to No. 3 seed Houston 74-59 in the second round. Three of the four first-round games in the 2019 NCAA tournament between a No. 11 seed and No. 6 seed were decided by four points or less.

Twenty-two have made it to the Sweet 16 and four have advanced to the Final Four. More No. 11 seeds have made the Final Four than No. 10 seeds or No. 9 seeds. 

LSU, George Mason, VCU and Loyola Chicago all made history as the lowest seeds to ever make the Final Four, and outside of Loyola Chicago's two-point win, the others won by considerable margins against their first-round opponents.

Year Winner Loser Score
1986 LSU Purdue 94-87
2006 George Mason Michigan State 75-65
2011 VCU Georgetown 74-56
2018 Loyola Chicago Miami 64-62

While those teams had success throughout the tournament, it was Pepperdine in the 2000 tournament that gave us the biggest first round upset by a No. 11 seed over a No. 6 seed. The Waves beat Indiana in a 20-point blowout, 77-57, in Bobby Knight’s last game as the Hoosiers’ coach.


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