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Daniel Wilco | | February 12, 2021

How No. 9 seeds do in March Madness

Fred VanVleet highlights: NCAA tournament top plays

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

The 8 vs. 9 seed game is a literal a toss-up. In the last 35 years, 9 seeds have won 72 of 140 games — so, just over half. About 60 percent of those games played have been decided by fewer than 10 points.

And while 9 seeds haven’t fared well in the second round — where they’ve almost always faced a number one seed and lost 66 of 73 games — five teams have reached the Sweet 16, four made it to the Elite Eight and one, Wichita State in 2013, even advanced to the Final Four.

Thanks to that lopsided second-round matchup, the No. 9 seeds don’t have the same success lower seed teams have, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t make a splash in the tournament.

Wichita State came into the 2013 tournament with an at-large bid from the Missouri Valley conference and breezed past eighth-seeded Pittsburgh, 73-55, in the first round.

Second Round: Wichita St. grinds past Pitt

The Shockers then upset No. 1 Gonzaga, beat No. 13 La Salle and No. 2 Ohio State to make their second Final Four in school history.

One year after being knocked out by a No. 9 seed, Pitt stormed back in 2014 as a No. 9 seed of its own to hand No. 8 Colorado the biggest upset between 9s and 8s. The Panthers only allowed 18 points in the first half, and Talib Zanna scored 16 of Pittsburgh’s 46 first half points before beating the Buffaloes, 77-48.

2019 was one of the rare occasions all No. 9 seeds advanced to the Round of 32, winning by an average of 16 points. It was only the fifth time the lower seed won all four games and last since 2001. The other three times this happened was in 1989,1994 and 1999. In the next round, UCF came within literal inches of upsetting top overall seed Duke while Oklahoma, Baylor and Washington lost by a margin of 15. 3 points against the other No. 1 seeds.

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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