*Note: All data is from the 1985 tournament to the present.
The conversation surrounding No. 16 seeds will forever be different because of UMBC's upset of Virginia during the 2018 NCAA tournament. That's what happens when a team becomes the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in men's tournament history.
But don't think just because No. 16 seeds are 1-143 against No. 1 seeds in NCAA tournament history that UMBC is the first to give a team like Virginia a tough matchup in the first round.Fifteen games have been decided by fewer than 10 points. And in 1989, two No. 16 seeds took their opponents to the brink of defeat, as East Tennessee State and Princeton both led their opponents at halftime. However, ETSU failed to put away Oklahoma, which came back from 17 points down to win, 72-71, and Princeton narrowly lost to Georgetown, 50-49.
Oklahoma trimmed ETSU’s double-digit lead in the first half to six at halftime, and a go-ahead score by Mookie Blaylock with 1:21 left in the game pushed the Sooners past the Buccaneers on March 16, 1989. One day later, history was almost made again, as Princeton had two chances to win its opening round game over Georgetown before center Alonzo Mourning blocked last-second shots by Bob Scrabis and Kit Mueller to preserve the victory for the Hoyas.
One year later, a No. 16 seed took a No. 1 seed to overtime for the first time in tournament history. Murray State’s Greg Coble hit a 3-pointer late in the game to tie Michigan State at 65 before the Spartans eventually won in overtime.
Below is a list of five No. 16 seeds that lost to No. 1 seeds by five points or less.
|1989||Oklahoma||East Tennessee State||72-71|
|1990||Michigan State||Murray State||75-71|
In the 2019 NCAA tournament, every No. 1 seed won by at least 15 points against the No. 16 seeds they faced. No. 1 seeds North Carolina and Virginia defeated No. 16 seeds Iona and Gardner-Webb by 15, respectively.
Last year in 2021, the top seeds had easy wins. Then-undefeated Gonzaga beat Norfolk State by 43, Michigan topped Texas Southern by 16, Baylor beat Hartford by 24 and Illinois set aside Drexel by 29.