March Madness: The History Of 1 Vs. 16 Seeds In The NCAA Tournament

[Editorial Note (March 13, 2017): 2013 wasn’t the year, in fact it still hasn’t happened. The top-seeded teams are now 128-0 against the lowly 16-seeds. With this update, however, we were able to replace three close calls on the list.]

With all the parity that has happened in college basketball this season, the argument has been brought up if this could finally be the year a 16-seed beats a one seed. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, sixteen seeds have a combined record of 0-112 in the first round.

Here are the 16 of the closest calls a top seed has ever had against a 16-seed. (And one honorable mention.)

  • 1985: Michigan beat Fairleigh Dickinson, 59-55
  • 1986: Duke beat Mississippi Valley State, 85-78
  • 1986: St. Johns beat Montana State, 83-74
  • 1989: Georgetown beat Princeton, 50-49
  • 1989: Oklahoma beat East Tennessee State , 72-71
  • 1989: Illinois beat McNeese State, 77-71
  • 1990: Michigan State beat Murray State, 71-51 in overtime [Honorable Mention]
  • 1990: Oklahoma beat Towson, 77-68
  • 1991: Ohio State beat Towson, 97-86
  • 1996: Purdue beat Western Carolina, 73-71
  • 1996: UConn beat Colgate, 68-59
  • 1997: North Carolina beat Fairfield, 82-74
  • 2009: Pittsburgh beat East Tennessee State, 72-62
  • 2012: Syracuse beat UNC-Asheville, 72-65
  • 2013: Gonzaga beat Southern, 64-58
  • 2013: Kansas beat Western Kentucky, 64-57
  • 2014: Arizona beat Weber State, 68-59

*A 16-seed has never won a game in the men’s tournament, but 16-seeded Harvard beat top-seeded Stanford in the 1998 women’s tournament.

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