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Daniel Wilco | | March 13, 2022

How men's basketball teams that are No. 11 seeds do in March Madness

Which of the 11th seeded Cinderellas have delivered the most magical runs?

The 1989 NCAA Tournament was a special one for No. 11 seeds. That year, they swept their No. 6-seeded opponents.

Minnesota got the ball rolling on March 16, beating Kansas State, 86-75, behind 29 points from Willie Burton. One day later, Evansville, South Alabama and Texas all beat their respective opponents.

South Alabama had the toughest time with its upset bid, beating in-state rival Alabama, 86-84, on a shot by Jeff Hodge with two seconds left in the game.

The 2017 NCAA Tournament came close to matching the historic 1989 run by No. 11 seeds, as three of the four No. 11 seeds pulled out wins. And the same thing happened in 2016, when No. 11 seed Michigan couldn’t beat No. 6 seed Notre Dame and just narrowly missed contributing to a four-for-four sweep by No. 11 seeds.

In 2018, just two No. 11 seeds won, but Syracuse advanced to the Sweet 16 and Loyola Chicago reached the Final Four. Similarly, in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, No. 11 seed Syracuse made the Sweet 16 while another No. 11 seed, UCLA, made the Final Four.

In total, No. 11 seeds have won 54 out of 144 opening round match-ups, or 37.5 percent of the time.

They went 2-2 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with No. 11 seed UCLA defeating West Coast foe BYU, 73-62, and No. 11 seed Syracuse knocking off No. 6 seed San Diego State 78-62. Fellow No. 11 seeds Drake and Utah State each lost their first-round games by double digits.

Twenty-four No. 11 seeds have made it to the Sweet 16 and five have advanced to the Final Four. More No. 11 seeds have made the Final Four than No. 10 seeds or No. 9 seeds. 

LSU, George Mason, VCU, Loyola Chicago and UCLA have all made history as the worst-seeded teams to ever make the Final Four, and outside of Loyola Chicago's two-point win, the others won by considerable margins against their first-round opponents.

Year Winner Loser Score
1986 LSU Purdue 94-87
2006 George Mason Michigan State 75-65
2011 VCU Georgetown 74-56
2018 Loyola Chicago Miami 64-62
2021 UCLA BYU 73-62

While those teams had success throughout the tournament, it was Pepperdine in the 2000 NCAA Tournament that gave us the largest first-round upset by a No. 11 seed over a No. 6 seed. The Waves beat Indiana in a 20-point blowout, 77-57, in Bob Knight’s last game as the Hoosiers’ coach.

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

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