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Daniel Wilco | | February 12, 2021

How No. 5 seeds do in March Madness

Watch the ending of New Mexico State vs Auburn

*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 2019 NCAA Tournament, however, was a difficult year for No. 5 seeds as three — Mississippi State, Wisconsin and Marquette — all were eliminated in the Round of 64.

But Auburn — after winning its opening round game over No. 12 seed New Mexico State by a point — knocked off No. 4 seed Kansas, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky by an average of 12.3 points to reach the Final Four.

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 they have advanced to a pair of Sweet 16s and Final Fours in six appearances as the No. 5 seed.

Here's a look at Michigan State's first-round results as a No. 5 seed.

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

Michigan State's most memorable run occurred during the 2010 tournament. The Spartans squeaked past No. 12 seed New Mexico State before needing a buzzer-beater to defeat No. 4 seed 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, have advance to the Elite Eight as a No. 5 seed after escaping Providence in the first round.

The No. 5 seeds still win over 60 percent of the time with an 90-50 record versus No. 12 seeds, but the margin of victory is minimal at about five points.

However, if No. 5 seeds 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.

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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