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Daniel Wilco | | February 5, 2020

How No. 12 seeds do in March Madness

Kyle Terada | USA TODAY Sports Images Payton Pritchard reacts to a call against Wisconsin. Payton Pritchard led Oregon to a 12-5 upset over Wisconsin in 2019.

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

Probably the most volatile seed in all of college basketball, the No. 12 seed, has wreaked havoc on No. 5 seeds and brackets alike for years.

In 30 of the last 35 years, No. 12 seeds have won at least one first round game for a total record of 50-90 (35.7 percent) against No. 5 seeds. The only exceptions were in 1988, 2000, 2007, 2015 and 2018.

The 2019 NCAA Tournament belonged to the No. 12 seeds. No. 12 seed Liberty upset Mississippi State 80-76 while No. 12 seeds Oregon and Murray State respectively rolled against No. 5 seeds Wisconsin and Marquette.

Some other recent close victories include No. 12 seed Little Rock's 85-83 upset of No. 5 seed Purdue in 2016 and No. 12 seed Yale's 79-74 win against No. 5 seed Baylor the same year.

While more than 50 percent of the No. 12 seeds that won in the first round fail to advance past the second round (including those Little Rock and Yale teams), 21 teams have made it to the Sweet 16.

DePaul got the ball rolling in 1986 after beating Virginia by four in the opening round, and Oregon was the last No. 12 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in 2019. Eastern Michigan’s 20-point win over Mississippi State in 1991 still stands as the largest victory by a No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed, though Oregon and Murray State challenged that record in 2019 with wins by 18 and 19 points in the opening round.

MORE: Why we need to pick more 12-5 upsets

Missouri is the only program to make it to the Elite Eight as a 12 seed. In 2002, the Tigers’ run through the West regional bracket began with a 93-80 win against fifth-seeded Miami (Fla.). That game featured a ferocious Tiger squad where six players – including the entire starting lineup – eclipsed double-digits in points. Led by senior guard Clarence Gilbert, Missouri raced out to an eight-point halftime lead and tacked on a few more for the 13-point upset victory.

The Tigers went on to upset fourth-seeded Ohio State and eighth-seeded UCLA before they lost in the Elite Eight to second-seeded Oklahoma.

Utah State, which has been the No. 12 seed five times, is 1-4 against No. 5 seeds. Its lone win came in 2001 against Ohio State.

Year Winner Loser Score
2000 Connecticut Utah State 75-67
2001 Utah State Ohio State 77-68
2006 Washington Utah State 75-61
2010 Texas A&M Utah State 69-53
2011 Kansas State Utah State 73-68

Eastern Michigan offered the biggest surprise in the first round on March 15, 1991, as the Eagles beat Mississippi State, 76-56.

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