For the first 25 or so years of the expanded era of NCAA Tournament bracket, when the field expanded to 64 teams for the 1985 tournament, the idea of picking a 15 seed to defeat a 2 seed was pretty crazy. . It happened, from time to time.
Now though? Choosing a 15 out of 2 is still bold, but not crazy. More on that in a moment.
You will probably be tempted to make one of those choices this year. After all, a 16 seed finally beat the No. 1 seed (sorry to mention that, Virginia fans), so anything is possible. And in the comeback of the NCAA Tournament, after a year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t we all really expect crazy things to happen?
Here’s a full breakdown of the 15v2 upset story in the NCAA Tournament, including the runs of the most memorable losers and the important numbers to know when completing your March Madness draw.
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Record of 15 seeds vs. 2 losses in the NCAA tournament
Only eight No. 15 seeds have won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament, but four of those games – two in the same year! – have occurred in the last decade, and there is a key reason for that increase. Heading into the 1991 NCAA Tournament, a handful of No. 14 seeds had made a start, but No. 15 Richmond’s epic loss to No. 2 seed Syracuse in 1991 could be a truly surprising first. -A surprise just happened in the first round.
Steve Nash, future two-time NBA MVP, led Santa Clara to the second upset of 15 out of 2 two years later, and coach Fang Mitchell’s 15th-seeded Coppin State team defeated South Carolina in 1997. Hampton became the fourth 15th seed to win, in 2001, and then there was a gap of more than a decade.
On the same day of the 2012 tournament, two – TWO! – No. 15 seeds won first-round games. Norfolk State defeated Mizzou, and then a couple of hours later, Lehigh defeated Duke in Greensboro, North Carolina, just an hour from the Blue Devils campus. Then it happened again in 2013 (Florida Gulf Coast) and again in 2016 (Middle Tennessee). So what caused that change? Look at the first four.
The NCAA Tournament expanded from 64 teams to 68 teams for the 2011 tournament, adding four more teams overall and introducing the first four games. Under that new setup, there were suddenly SIX teams at the No. 16 seeded line: the teams with the 65, 66, 67 and 68 seeds playing for the right to face the No. 1 seed, which means two teams would have. In the pre-2011 tournament, 15 seeds suddenly became 16 seeds. And two teams that would have been 14 seeds became 15 seeds, and so on. Do you see how that raised the quality of the teams to the bottom of the seeded list?
This is how Lehigh, with future NBA star CJ McCollum, played 15th seed and shocked Duke in 2012. And this is how Middle Tennessee State, a very good and veteran team, was seeded 15th despite finishing second. at C-USA in the regular season. and win the auto auction with a tournament title for the conference ranked 20th out of 32 leagues in KenPom’s ratings. Before the expansion, by no means would teams of that caliber have ended up on the 15-seeded line.
|1997||Coppin State||South Carolina||78-65|
|2001||Hampton||State of Iowa||58-57|
|2013||Florida Gulf Coast||Georgetown||78-68|
|2016||Middle Tennessee||Michigan state||90-81|
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15 seeds vs 2 seeds in numbers
- 8-132: Record of 15 seeds vs No. 2 seeds
- 5.7 percent: Overall winning percentage of 15 seeds since 1985
- 3.8 percent: Winning percentage of 15 seeds in the 64-team era (1985-2010)
- 11.1 percent: Winning percentage for 15 seeds since expansion to 68 teams in 2011
- 13: Greater margin of victory for a 15 seed; Coppin State over South Carolina (78-65)
- 1: Smallest margin of victory for a 15 seed; Hampton on the state of Iowa (58-57)
- 0: Buzzer-beater wins by 15 seeds
- 1: 15 seeds to win at least two games
Has a 15th seed ever won March Madness?
You already know the answer to this one. No, a 15 seed has never won the NCAA Tournament. And we’ll take a chance here and say it will never happen. But that doesn’t mean 15 seeds didn’t hit March Madnesst. Who can forget the magical Florida Dunk Coast run – err, Florida Gulf Coast – on the second weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament?
The high-flying Eagles destroyed Georgetown in the first round, led by 19 points midway through the second half, and then beat sixth seed San Diego State in the second round by 10 points. That victory made FGCU the first 15th seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet 16; Coppin State narrowly missed out in 1993, losing its second-round game to Texas, 82-81.
The other six 15 seeds to advance? They lost their second-round matches by an average of 19.3 points.
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Lowest seeded to win the NCAA Tournament
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, we’ve seen five double-digit seeds reach the Final Four:
- 11 LSU seed in 1986
- 11th seed George Mason in 2006
- 11 VCU seed in 2011
- 10 Syracuse seed in 2016
- 11 Loyola Chicago seed in 2018
All four lost before reaching the title game. Only four teams seeded below the No. 3 line have won the national title: a 4 seed (Arizona in 1997), a 6 seed (Kansas in 1988), a seven seed (UConn in 2014) and an 8 seed (Villanova in 1985). No fifth seed has ever won. The history of Villanova is the stuff of legend; a courageous and methodical eighth seed who reached the title game by scoring a series of narrow victories (three by three points or less) and facing the mighty Georgetown Hoyas in the championship game.
Some consider it the biggest surprise in NCAA tournament history. But here’s the thing: it’s a great David and Goliath story, but Villanova was pretty good. In the 1985 and 1986 NBA Drafts, three starters from that 1985 team made the top 30 picks (Ed Pinckney with 10 and Dwayne McClain with 27 in 1985 and Harold Pressley with 17 in 1986; Gary McLain entered the seventh. round in 1985). . Note that Villanova had already played Georgetown HARD TWICE that year (losses by just two points and seven points) and, sorry, it’s no surprise in the top five of all time.
However, it is quite an interesting championship story.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.