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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | February 15, 2021

Teams with the worst records to make the NCAA tournament

Watch the full game: Villanova completes 1985 Cinderella run with national title over Georgetown

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, three teams have entered March Madness with a perfect record. We’re not here to talk about them. We’re here for their antitheses: the teams with the worst records to make an NCAA tournament.

Here’s every team that entered the tournament with a losing or .500 record

Year Team W L % Seed Conference Tournament result
1995 Florida International 11 18 37.93% 16 A-Sun First Round loss
1996 UCF 11 18 37.93% 16 A-Sun First Round loss
1997 Fairfield 11 18 37.93% 16 MAAC First Round loss
1985 Lehigh 12 18 40.00% 16 ECC First Round loss
1999 Florida A&M 12 18 40.00% 16 MEAC First Round loss
2005 Oakland 13 18 41.94% 16 Mid-Cont First Round loss
2014 Cal Poly 14 19 42.42% 16 Big West First Round loss
2016 Holy Cross 15 19 44.12% 16 Patriot First Round loss
2018 Texas Southern 15 19 44.12% 16 SWAC First Round loss
1993 East Carolina 13 16 44.83% 16 CAA First Round loss
1996 San Jose State 13 16 44.83% 16 Big West First Round loss
1998 Prairie View 13 16 44.83% 16 SWAC First Round loss
1986 Montana State 14 16 46.67% 16 Big Sky First Round loss
2012 Western Kentucky 16 18 47.06% 16 Sun Belt First Round loss
1997 Jackson State 14 15 48.28% 16 SWAC First Round loss
2003 UNC-Asheville 15 16 48.39% 16 Big South First Round loss
2004 Florida A&M 15 16 48.39% 16 MEAC First Round loss
2002 Siena 17 18 48.57% 16 MAAC First Round loss
1985 Penn 13 13 50.00% 15 Ivy First Round loss
1987 Penn 13 13 50.00% 16 Ivy First Round loss
1987 Idaho State 15 15 50.00% 16 Big Sky First Round loss
1987 Fairfield 15 15 50.00% 16 MAAC First Round loss
2000 Lamar 15 15 50.00% 16 Southland First Round loss
2015 Hampton 17 17 50.00% 16 MEAC First Round loss

Eighteen teams have finished the regular season with a losing record and still secured a bid to the tournament. Six more have gone dancing at an even .500. All but one received a No. 16 seed. None made it past the first round, losing by an average margin of 25 points.

For reference, the average regular-season winning percentage of an NCAA tournament team is 73.5 percent. Over the average of 31 games in a season, that’s a record of 23-8.

But there are plenty of teams that are far from average. The absolute worst record is a three-way tie at 11-18 (37.93 percent). Those would be 1995 FIU, 1996 UCF, and 1997 Fairfield.

Two of those — FIU and UCF — came out of the Atlantic Sun Conference. In 1995, the Panthers went 6-12 in regular-season conference play before winning three in a row to take the conference crown. UCF was 6-10 before they won the title.

Fairfield was even more impressive in 1997 — posting a 2-12 record in the MAAC — good for last place by two games. But the Stags shocked 1-seed Iona (22-8, 11-3 MAAC) in the first round of the tournament, and beat 2-seed Canisius (17-12, 10-4 MAAC) to win the title and secure the auto-bid. They were rewarded with a first-round matchup against 1-seed UNC, which they lost 82-74.

RELATED: 29 things that have never happened in March Madness

The worst record ever for a team that won an NCAA tournament game belongs to Villanova in 1991. The Wildcats entered the tournament at 16-14, having lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament semifinal. But they did own five wins against ranked teams on the year, including three top-10 opponents. That was enough to land them a No. 9 seed after earning an at-large bid. They took down Princeton 50-48, but lost to No. 1 seed UNC 84-69 in the second round.

Not surprisingly, 1985 Villanova — the ultimate Cinderella — owns the distinction of the worst record among championship teams. After winning eight straight to start the season, the Wildcats lost six of their last 11. On Selection Sunday, they sat at 19-10 (65.5 percent) and found themselves as a No. 8 seed.

GAME TV TIME (ET) SITE
National championship — Monday, April 5      
(1) Baylor 86, (1) Gonzaga 70 CBS 9:20 p.m. Lucas Oil Stadium Unity
Final Four — Saturday, April 3      
(1) Baylor 78, (2) Houston 59 CBS 5:14 p.m. Lucas Oil Stadium Unity
(1) Gonzaga 93, (11) UCLA 90 (OT)  CBS 8:34 p.m. Lucas Oil Stadium Unity
2021 NCAA TOURNAMENT RESULTS LOCATION
First Four — Thursday, March 18  
(16) Texas Southern 60, (16) Mount St. Mary's 52 Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(11) Drake 53, (11) Wichita State 52 Mackey Arena
(16) Norfolk State 54, (16) Appalachian State 53  Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(11) UCLA 86, (11) Michigan State 80 Mackey Arena
First Round — Friday, March 19  
(7) Florida 75, (10) Virginia Tech 70 (OT) Hinkle Fieldhouse
(3) Arkansas 85, (14) Colgate 68 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(1) Illinois 78, (16) Drexel 49 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(6) Texas Tech 65, (11) Utah State 53 Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(15) Oral Roberts 75, (2) Ohio State 72 (OT) Mackey Arena
(1) Baylor 79, (16) Hartford 55 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(8) Loyola Chicago 71, (9) Georgia Tech 60 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(12) Oregon State 70, (5) Tennessee 56 Bankers Life Fiieldhouse
(4) Oklahoma State 69, (13) Liberty 60 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(9) Wisconsin 85, No. 8 North Carolina 62 Mackey Arena
(2) Houston 87, (15) Cleveland State 56 Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(13) North Texas 78, (4) Purdue 69 (OT) Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (North)
(10) Rutgers 60, (7) Clemson 56 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(11) Syracuse 78, (6) San Diego State 62 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(3) West Virginia 84, (14) Morehead State 67 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(5) Villanova 73, (12) Winthrop 63 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
First Round — Saturday, March 20  
(5) Colorado 96, (12) Georgetown 73 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(4) Florida State 64, (13) UNC Greensboro 54 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(3) Kansas 93, (14) Eastern Washington 84 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(8) LSU 76, (9) St. Bonaventure 61 Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(1) Michigan 82, (16) Texas Southern 66 Mackey Arena
(5) Creighton 63, (12) UC Santa Barbara 62 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(2) Alabama 68, (15) Iona 55 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(6) USC 72, (11) Drake 56 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(2) Iowa 86, (15) Grand Canyon 74 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(10) Maryland 63, (7) UConn 54 Mackey Arena
(13) Ohio 62, (4) Virginia 58 Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
(8) Oklahoma 72, (9) Missouri 68 Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (North)
(1) Gonzaga 98, (16) Norfolk State 55 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(11) UCLA 73, (6) BYU 62 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(14) Abilene Christian 53, (3) Texas 52 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(7) Oregon vs. (10) VCU — NO-CONTEST DUE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS --
Second Round — Sunday, March 21  
(8) Loyola Chicago 71, (1) Illinois 58 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(1) Baylor 76, (9) Wisconsin 63 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(11) Syracuse 75, (3) West Virginia 72 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(3) Arkansas 68, (6) Texas Tech 66 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(2) Houston 63, (10) Rutgers 60 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(15) Oral Roberts 81, (7) Florida 78 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(5) Villanova 84, (13) North Texas 61 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(12) Oregon State 80, (4) Oklahoma State 70 Hinkle Fieldhouse
Second Round — Monday, March 22  
(7) Oregon 95, (2) Iowa 80 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(1) Gonzaga 87, (8) Oklahoma 71 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(11) UCLA 67, (14) Abilene Christian 47 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(5) Creighton 72, (13) Ohio 58 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(1) Michigan 86, (8) LSU 78 Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South)
(4) Florida State 71, (5) Colorado 53 Indiana Farmers Coliseum
(2) Alabama 96, (10) Maryland 77 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(6) USC 85, No. 3 Kansas 51 Hinkle Fieldhouse
Sweet 16 — Saturday, March 27  
(12) Oregon State 65, No. 8 Loyola Chicago 58 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(1) Baylor 62, (5) Villanova 51 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(3) Arkansas 72, (15) Oral Roberts 70 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(2) Houston 62, (11) Syracuse 46 Hinkle Fieldhouse
Sweet 16 — Sunday, March 28  
(1) Gonzaga 83, (5) Creighton 65 Hinkle Fieldhouse
(1) Michigan 76, (4) Florida State 58 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
(11) UCLA 88, (2) Alabama 78 (OT) Hinkle Fieldhouse
(6) USC 82, (7) Oregon 68 Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Elite Eight — Monday, March 29  
(2) Houston 67, (12) Oregon State 61 Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (North)
(1) Baylor 81, (3) Arkansas 72 Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (South)
Elite Eight — Tuesday, March 30
(1) Gonzaga 85, (6) USC 66 Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (North)
(11) UCLA 51, (1) Michigan 49 Lucas Oil Stadium Equality (South)

Then they won six games in a row, by a tight margin of five points per game, en route to knocking off the Goliath to their David in Patrick Ewing and No. 1 seed Georgetown. That Villanova team remains the highest-seeded team ever to win the title.

So, is a below-average winning percentage recommended in March? Not exactly. But it’s not a guaranteed early exit either. If anything, it’s the first ingredient in the recipe for a great Cinderella story.

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