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Daniel Wilco | | February 28, 2021

How No. 10 seeds do in March Madness

Watch Steph Curry's greatest highlights from Davidson's 2008 NCAA tournament run

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

It had never happened before, but that didn’t stop Syracuse. In 2016, the Orange became the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams with its 68-62 victory against Virginia. Syracuse fell to eventual national runner-up North Carolina, 83-66, in the Final Four, but history had already been made.

The Orange’s magical run added to what is an impressive resume for No. 10 seeds. Twenty-three teams seeded 10th have reached the Sweet 16 and eight of those teams have advanced to the Elite Eight. 

LSU began the No. 10 seed hot streak in 1987, when the Tigers made a run through the Midwest bracket. LSU lost by only one point to top-seeded Indiana in the Elite Eight.

Here are how those eight No. 10 seeds have performed in the Elite Eight over the years:

Year Winner Loser Score
1987 No. 1 Indiana No. 10 LSU 77-76
1990 No. 4 Arkansas No. 10 Texas 88-85
1991 No. 1 North Carolina No. 10 Temple 75-72
1997 No. 4 Arizona No. 10 Providence 96-92
1999 No. 1 UConn No. 10 Gonzaga 67-62
2002 No. 5 Indiana No. 10 Kent State 81-69
2008 No. 1 Kansas No. 10 Davidson 59-57
2016 No. 10 Syracuse No. 1 Virginia 68-62

The run that Steph Curry's Davidson Wildcats made in 2008 started with a six-point win against Gonzaga and developed into one of the best Cinderella stories in college basketball history. On March 21, 2008, Curry scored 40 points in the 82-76 win against the Bulldogs and the Wildcats rode his hot hand until they lost against Kansas.

RELATED: Read an oral history of Curry's time at Davidson and 2008 tournament run

No. 10 seeds are 55-85 against No. 7 seeds to date in the NCAA tournament, including a 3-1 mark in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, and 11-15 in games decided by three points or less. While large 10-7 upsets aren't unusual, blowouts are. West Virginia had the widest margin of victory for a No. 10 seed when it beat Temple, 82-52, in 1998. West Virginia used that momentum to beat second-seeded Cincinnati in the second round on a banked-in, game-winning shot before it lost against Utah by three points in the Sweet 16.

In 2019, three No. 10 seeds – Florida, Minnesota and Iowa – advanced to the second round. Those three teams won by an average of 8.7 points in the first round but each one of them lost to a No. 2 seed in the Round of 32. Iowa, however, took Tennessee to overtime before losing 83-77. No. 10 seed Minnesota lost to No. 2 seed Michigan State by 20 points and No. 10 seed Florida lost to No. 2 seed Michigan by 15.

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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