Tuesday, May 24

11 seeds in the Final Four: how UCLA’s March Madness race compares to previous teams

UCLA has made Final Four history once again, which doesn’t seem particularly fair, considering how often the Bruins have enjoyed reaching the national semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

This time, however, UCLA is not playing the role of an unstoppable giant. Mick Cronin’s 2020-21 team is playing the role of Cinderella. The Bruins are only the second First Four team to reach the Final Four, and only the fifth 11th seed to accomplish the feat.

Like we said, it doesn’t seem fair; But the Bruins struggled to get to this stage of the NCAA Tournament.

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How did Cronin and company get here? Through the East Region of the NCAA Tournament to begin with. First, they overcame a 14-point deficit to their First Four opponent, Michigan State, and beat them 86-80 in overtime. After that, the Bruins managed to secure an 11-point victory over 6-seeded BYU, the same team that led the undefeated Gonzaga, whom the Bruins will play next, on the brink of the West Coast Conference final. .

Following that, UCLA posted a 67-47 win over 14-seeded Abilene Christian before battling for an 88-78 overtime win against SEC regular season and tournament champion Alabama (the second seeded). Ultimately, the Bruins secured their ticket to the Final Four with another brave defensive performance: this time against Sporting News Coach of the Year Juwan Howard and the Big Ten regular-season champion Wolverines. The Bruins won 51-49.

It really has been an incredible race for UCLA, and it is not over yet. But it raises the question of how their current streak compares to that of other teams that have overcome similar difficulties. Well, ask no more.

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Sporting News is here to show you exactly how Cronin’s Bruins stack up against 11 other previous seeds who have reached the Final Four:

The last time an 11 seed made the Final Four

The last time an 11 seed made the Final Four was in 2018 when Loyola Chicago and sister Jean took March Madness by storm. It was so recent that a freshman on that team, one Cameron Krutwig, was able to become an NCAA Tournament standout once again in 2021. Before that, the next most recent 11th seed to reach the Final Four was VCU in 2011. The Rams’ run in the Final Four was special, as they were the first team to do so as a First Four team.

How many 11 seeds have made the Final Four?

Including UCLA in 2021, five 11-seeded players have made the Final Four, starting with LSU in 1986. The second such team didn’t appear until 20 years later, in 2006, when George Mason replicated the feat. It took considerably less time for the next 11 seeds to reach the Final Four: VCU in 2011 was next. Loyola Chicago and UCLA made it in 2018 and 21, respectively.

Below is a summary of the careers of each of the previous four teams, including opponents, margin of victory, and key players:

Stats reflect NCAA tournament numbers

LSU (1986)


  • 84-87 20T defeats Purdue (seeded Southeast 6)
  • 83-81 win over Memphis State (seeded Southeast 3)
  • 70-64 wins Georgia Tech (Southeast 2 seeded)
  • 59-57 Kentucky wins (Southeast 1 seed)
  • 88-77 loss to Louisville (seeded West 2)
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Margin of Victory: 4.3 points per game

Key players. Main players

  • Derrick Taylor (16.2 points per game, 3.8 points per game, 3.2 points per game)
  • Anthony Wilson (13.2 points per game, 4.8 points per game, 1.4 points per game)
  • Don Redden (21.6 dpi, 6.2 rpg, 51.9 field goal percentage)
  • Ricky Blanton (9.2 dpi, 9.2 rpg, 70.4 field goal percentage)
  • John Williams (14 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 4.0 apg)

George Mason (2006)


  • 75-65 win over Michigan State (seeded DC 6)
  • 65-60 win over North Carolina (seeded DC 3)
  • 63-55 win over Wichita State (seeded by DC 7)
  • 86-84 OT wins over UConn (DC 1 seeded)
  • 73-58 loss to Florida (seeded Minneapolis 3)

Margin of Victory: 6.3 points per game

Key players. Main players

  • Jai Lewis (11.8 points per game, 7.2 points per game, 1.8 points per game)
  • Lamar Butler (14.4 points per game, 55.8 field goal percentage)
  • Will Thomas (13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
  • Tony Skinn (11.3 points per game)
  • Folarin Campbell (15.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 gp, 62.5 field goal percentage)

MORE: What is the lowest seed to reach the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament?

VCU (2011)


  • 59-46 win over USC (seeded Southwest 11)
  • 74-56 win over Georgetown (seeded Southwest 6)
  • 94-76 win over Purdue (seeded Southwest 3)
  • 72-71 overtime win over Florida State (10th seed in the Southwest)
  • 71-61 win over Kansas (Southwest 1 seed)
  • 70-62 loss to Butler (seeded Southeast 8)

Margin of Victory: 12 points per game

Key players. Main players

  • Jamie Skeen (17.5 dpi, 6.7 rpg, 47.8 field goal percentage)
  • Bradford Burgess (15.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.7 bpg)
  • Joey Rodríguez (9.0 ppg, 7.7 apg)
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Loyola Chicago (2018)


  • 64-62 win over Miami (seeded South 6)
  • 63-62 win over Tennessee (3rd seeded South)
  • 68-68 win over Nevada (seeded 7 South)
  • 78-62 win over Kansas State (seeded South 9)
  • 68-57 loss to Michigan (seeded West 3)

Margin of Victory: 4.8 points per game

Key players. Main players

  • Clayton Custer (12.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg)
  • Donte Ingram (7.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
  • Cameron Krutwig (10.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg)
  • Aundre Jackson (11.8 points per game, 57.5 field goal percentage)

15 against 2 | 14 against 3 | 13 against 4 | 12 against 5

How UCLA Compares


  • 86-80 overtime win over Michigan State (seeded East 11)
  • 73-62 win over BYU (seeded 6 East)
  • 67-47 win over Abilene Christian (14th seed from the East)
  • 88-78 overtime win over Alabama (seeded 2 from the East)
  • 51-49 win over Michigan (east seeded 1)

Margin of Victory: 9.8 points per game

Key players. Main players

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. (14.2 points per game, 6.6 points per game, 1.6 points per game)
  • Johnny Juzang (21.6 dpi, 3.6 rpg, 47.7 field goal percentage)
  • Tyger Campbell (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
  • Jules Bernard (10.8 points per game, 7.4 points per game)
  • Cody Riley (8.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg)


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