It’s hard to fill an NCAA tournament bracket without picking at least an upset 13-over-4, right?
It’s just in the sweet spot of selecting parentheses. It’s always risky, sure, but these upheavals happen regularly enough that you don’t feel like you’re stepping out on the thinnest limbs in March. As you’ll see below, 13 Seed Upheavals are at the heart of our love for the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a comprehensive look at the history of the 13v4 upheavals in the NCAA tournament, including the most memorable underdog runs and important numbers to know while filling your March Madness bracket.
Story of 13 seeds vs. 4 header upsets in NCAA tournament
In the 40 years of expanded NCAA tournament support – the field grew to 64 teams for the 1985 edition – a 13-seeded has won at least one game in 26 different tournaments. In four years, several 13 seeds have won matches: 1987 (Xavier and Missouri State), 2001 (Indiana State and Kent State), 2008 (Siena and San Diego) and 2018 (Buffalo and Marshall).
The upheavals of 2008 were especially special, as both took place on the same ground in Tampa. Indeed, that was a site / day unlike any other in NCAA tournament history, because the other two winning teams that day in Tampa were also double-digit seeds: 12th-seeded Western Kentucky won on a buzzer-beater in overtime and 12th-seeded Villanova is came back from an 18-point deficit to overthrow Clemson.
The first 13 of 4 was also special. In that one – 1985, the first year of the Expanded Tournament – future NBA superstar David Robinson and his midshipmen beat LSU No.4, a 23-point victory that remains the biggest margin of victory for a header from series 13.
And we’ve seen 13 seeds win in all kinds of ways. In 1989, Middle Tennessee lost 97 points to Florida State, and UNC Wilmington posted 93 against USC in 2002, winning a track meet by four points. On the other hand, you have the Princeton slowdown that baffled a very athletic UCLA team in an upset 43-41 in 1996.
And is it really worth a mention? The buzzer batsman who is arguably the most famous first-round buzzer batsman in NCAA tournament history came from a 13-seeded. You know the one, the 3-pointer by Bryce Drew of Valpo who gave his crusaders a one point win over Ole Miss.
|1985||Navy def. LSU||78-55|
|1987||State of Missouri def. Clemson||65-60|
|1987||Xavier def. Missouri||70-69|
|1988||Richmond def. Indiana||72-69|
|1989||Middle Tennessee def. Florida State||97-83|
|1991||Penn State def. UCLA||74-69|
|1992||Southwest Louisiana def. Oklahoma||87-83|
|1993||Southern def. Georgia Tech||93-78|
|1995||Manhattan def. Oklahoma||77-67|
|1996||Princeton def. UCLA||43-41|
|1998||Valparaiso def. Be Miss||70-69|
|1999||Oklahoma def. Arizona||61-60|
|2001||State of Indiana def. Oklahoma||70-68|
|2001||Kent State def. Indiana||77-73|
|2002||UNC Wilmington won. USC||93-89|
|2003||Tulsa def. Dayton||84-71|
|2005||Vermont def. Syracuse||60-57|
|2006||Bradley won. Kansas||77-73|
|2008||Siena def. Vanderbilt||83-62|
|2008||San Diego won. UConn||70-69|
|2009||Cleveland State def. Wake forest||84-69|
|2010||Murray State def. Vanderbilt||66-65|
|2011||Morehead State def. Louisville||62-61|
|2012||Ohio def. Michigan||65-60|
|2013||La Salle def. Kansas State||63-61|
|2016||Hawaii def. California||77-66|
|2018||Buffalo def. Arizona||89-69|
|2018||Marshall def. Wichita State||81-75|
|2019||UC Irvine def. Kansas State||70-64|
13 seeds against 4 seeds in numbers
- 29-111: Record for 13 seeds against 4 seeds
- 20.7 percent: Overall winning percentage for 13 seeds since 1985
- 23: Greater margin of victory for a 13 seed; Marine on LSU (78-55)
- 1: Smaller margin of victory for a 13 seed; six times, first by Xavier on Missouri (70-69)
- 6-2: Record for No. 13 seeds in points-decided matches
- 2: Buzzer-beater wins for 13 seeds: Murray State on Vanderbilt (2010), Valparaiso on Ole Miss (1998)
- 6: 13 seeds to win at least two matches
Has a seed of 13 ever won the March Madness?
A 13 seed has never won the NCAA tournament, and it likely never will. Six teams ranked No 13 qualified for the second weekend, but all six failed in the Sweet 16. Let’s take a look, okay?
1988, Richmond. NCAA tournament junkies know that a few years later, Richmond was the first No.15 seed to win a game, knocking out 2-seeded Syracuse. You won’t be surprised if it’s the same coach at the heart of both Richmond Cinderella teams, Dick Tarrant. In 1988, the Spiders eliminated Indiana – the Hoosiers won the 1987 national title – in the first round, then defeated fifth-seeded Georgia Tech in the second round. The magic ended against seeded Temple as the Owls won by 22.
1998, Valparaiso. Bryce Drew, all of you. The game that was arguably the most beautifully orchestrated buzzer-batsman in NCAA tournament history pushed Valpo past Ole Miss in Game 1, then the Crusaders defeated Florida State (a seeded 12) in Game 2. turn to move on to Sweet 16, where they fell in Rhode Island.
1999, Oklahoma. It’s incredibly rare to have a power conference school on the No.13 seed, but that’s where Oklahoma ended up as a 20-game winning team. The Sooners sent out Arizona and Charlotte before falling to the state of Michigan.
2006, Bradley. Imagine being a 13 seed making the Sweet 16 and not being the tournament sweetheart because an 11 seed (George Mason) makes the Final Four. Bradley toppled Kansas – a school that has been on the wrong side of upheaval from time to time – and Pittsburgh before being handled with relative ease by No.1 seed Memphis.
2012, Ohio. Michigan raced to the national title game behind Trey Burke in 2013, perhaps motivated by the memory of losing to Ohio in the first round in 2012. The Bobcats pushed their way past the Wolverines, then knocked down their distraught pal, the No. 12 seed from South Florida, in the second round. In the Sweet 16, Ohio nearly made history, pushing No. 1 seed North Carolina to extra time before faltering.
2013, LaSalle. The club explored brave new worlds, becoming the first 13 seed to win three games in the NCAA tournament. The first was a competition of the top four. LaSalle defeated Boise State for the right to play the fourth seed in Kansas State. The Explorers won this one by two points, then beat 12-seeded Mississippi by two points to advance to Sweet 16, where they lost to Wichita State, a No.9 seed who had just overturned. the No. 1 Gonzaga and would get all the way. at the Final Four.
The lowest seed to win the NCAA tournament
Since the tournament grew to 64 teams in 1985, we’ve seen five double-digit seeds reach the Final Four:
- 11 LSU seeds in 1986
- 11 George Mason seeds in 2006
- 11 VCU seeds in 2011
- 10 Syracuse seeds in 2016
- 11 seeded Loyola Chicago in 2018
All four lost before reaching the title match. Only four teams ranked below the No.3 bloodline won the national title: a seeded 4 (Arizona in 1997), seeded 6 (Kansas in 1988), seeded seven (UConn in 2014) and an 8 seed (Villanova in 1985). No seed of 5 has ever won. The story of Villanova is a story of legend; a courageous and methodical 8-seed who reached the title game by securing a narrow winning streak (three by three points or less) and facing the mighty Georgetown Hoyas in the championship game.
It’s considered by some to be the biggest upheaval in NCAA tournament history. But here’s the thing: It makes a great David and Goliath story, but Villanova was damn good. In the 1985 and 1986 NBA Drafts, three starters from that 1985 team made top 30 picks (Ed Pinckney at 10 and Dwayne McClain at 27 in 1985 and Harold Pressley at 17 in 1986; Gary McLain is went to the seventh round in 1985). From the fact that Villanova had already played Georgetown TWICE that year – losses of just two points and seven points – and, sorry, that doesn’t make for an all-time upset top-five.
It does, however, make for a pretty cool championship story.