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Daniel Wilco | | March 11, 2021

How No. 3 seeds do in March Madness

Carmelo Anthony highlights: Top 2003 March Madness plays

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 NCAA Tournament — for the first time since 1986 —  when Baylor fell to Georgia State and UAB knocked off Iowa State.

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

West Virginia’s stunning upset at the hands of Stephen F. Austin in the 2016 NCAA Tournament marked the fourth consecutive tournament where at least one No. 3 seed suffered a first-round 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 game, 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 national 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 NCAA 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.

College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
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