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Daniel Wilco | | April 3, 2023

How men's basketball teams that earn a No. 5 seed do in March Madness

Watch the ending of New Mexico State vs Auburn

Out of the top eight seeds in the NCAA tournament, No. 5 seeds are the only one to have never captured a national championship. To add insult to injury for those teams, upsets by their No. 12 seed counterparts have occurred almost every year.

In fact, the 2023 tournament was just the sixth time the No. 5 seeds completely avoided a loss. The other four happened in 1988, 2000, 2007, 2015 and 2018. After the 2019 NCAA Tournament was a difficult year for No. 5 seeds as three — Mississippi State, Wisconsin and Marquette — were eliminated in the Round of 64, No. 5 seeds went 3-1 in the first round in 2021 with Villanova and Creighton advancing to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 seeds and the eventual national finalists Baylor and Gonzaga, respectively.

In 2019, No. 5 seed Auburn — after winning its opening-round game over No. 12 seed New Mexico State by one point — knocked off No. 4 seed Kansas, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kentucky by an average of 12.3 points to reach the Final Four.

No program has seen greater success as a No. 5 seed than Michigan State. The Spartans have never lost to a No. 12 seed in the opening round and they have advanced to a pair of Sweet 16s and Final Fours in six appearances as a No. 5 seed.

Here's a look at Michigan State's first-round results as a No. 5 seed.

Year Winner Loser Score
1986 Michigan State Washington W, 72-70
1991 Michigan State Green Bay W, 60-58
1992 Michigan State Missouri State W, 61-54
2005 Michigan State Old Dominion W, 89-81
2008 Michigan State Temple W, 71-62
2010 Michigan State New Mexico State W, 70-67

Michigan State's most memorable run occurred during the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Spartans squeaked past No. 12 seed New Mexico State before needing a buzzer-beater to defeat No. 4 seed Maryland in the second round. Eventually, the run concluded with a two-point loss to Butler in the Final Four.

Conversely, Virginia hasn't had a ton of luck as a No. 5 seed with its 2-3 record against No. 12 seeds. Two of those losses came in back-to-back tournaments, in 1986 and 1987. The Cavaliers, however, have advance to the Elite Eight in 1989 as a No. 5 seed after escaping Providence in the first round.

No. 5 seeds still win over 65 percent of the time with an 97-51 record versus No. 12 seeds, but the margin of victory is minimal at about five points.

However, if No. 5 seeds can get past the first round, they've been able to advance as far as the tournament final, where four teams have reached the championship game but failed to win.

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

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