Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | February 11, 2022

How No. 16 seeds do in March Madness

Is this the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history?

*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.

Year Winner Loser Score
1985 Michigan Fairleigh Dickinson 59-55
1989 Oklahoma East Tennessee State 72-71
1989 Georgetown Princeton 72-71
1990 Michigan State Murray State 75-71
1996 Purdue Western Michigan 73-71

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.

March Madness brackets: How do seeds perform in the Final Four?

When thinking about Final Four picks, what should you look for?
READ MORE

How much experience coaches have when they reach their first Final Four

A look at the years of experience (as a head coach) it took each NCAA coach to reach the Final Four in March Madness.
READ MORE

How First Four teams do in the NCAA tournament

Here is how at-large participants in the First Four have done since 2011 and why you should consider picking one in your NCAA bracket.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners