The most thrilling parts about the NCAA women's basketball tournament is often the upsets. Sure, they might bust brackets, but the thrill of a Cinderella is always memorable.
Looking back at the tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1994, you'll see that when Cinderella does happen, it gets going with the No. 12 seeds. Teams seeded 13 through 16 have combined for 11 total tournament victories — and seeds 14 and 15 have yet to win a single game. But 12 seeds have 29 wins all-time in tournament history.
First, here's a look at every seed's record since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994, plus their best finish.
|Seed||Overall record||Best finish|
|No. 1||432-90||Champions (22 times)|
|No. 2||299-108||Champions (four times)|
|No. 3||237-110||Champions (twice)|
|No. 4||200-112||Runner-up (once, 1994 Louisiana Tech)|
|No. 5||131-112||Runner-up (once, 2013 Louisville)|
|No. 6||116-112||Final Four (once, 1997 Notre Dame)|
|No. 7||96-112||Final Four (twice)|
|No. 8||56-112||Sweet 16 (once, 2006 Boston College)|
|No. 9||62-112||Final Four (once, 1998 Arkansas)|
|No. 10||46-112||Elite Eight (once, 2017 Oregon)|
|No. 11||49-112||Elite Eight (once, 2011 Gonzaga)|
|No. 12||29-112||Sweet 16 (twice)|
|No. 13||10-112||Sweet 16 (three times)|
|No. 14||0-112||First round|
|No. 15||0-112||First round|
|No. 16||1-112||Second round (once, 1998 Harvard)|
As you'll see, the top seeds have — by far — the most wins and best win percentage. Those 432 wins in 28 years averages out to 15.43 per year. That means a No. 1 seed averages 3.86 wins, or a run to the Elite Eight. For comparison, the No. 2 seeds' 299 wins average out to 10.68 per year, or 2.70 for each No. 2 seed per year, on average. That's an entire extra win for top seeds — once again proving that while seeding may not be the only thing that matters, it does help.
And of the 16 seeds, only six have a winning record — Nos. 1 through 6. Though No. 7 seeds are a higher seed in their first game, 7s drop below .500 because they lose to No. 10s in the first round at a higher rate than beating No. 2 seeds in the second round. Same with No. 8 seeds. They lose to No. 9 seeds in the first round more often than they beat No. 1 seeds in the second round.
The most wins by a seed in a single tournament is 19, when all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four and combined to go 19-3. That also means the three losses those years (2012, 2015, 2018) came to other top seeds.