In only a handful of cases, it’s proven possible for the lowest seed to win March Madness, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. In this event, all teams can make a run to the championship regardless of their placement. Over the years, a number of teams have defied the odds and won the tournament. But what was the lowest seed to ever win March Madness? Read on to find out!
What Does Lowest Seed Mean?
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the term “lowest seed” is used to describe a team that is the lowest-ranked in their region and bracket. In other words, these teams are considered the underdogs and least likely to win the tournament. The NCAA seeds each team based on their performance in the regular season, with the top four teams in each conference earning a higher seed than the remaining teams.
The seedings are based on a combination of factors including regular season record, strength of schedule, RPI rankings, and quality wins. Each team is assigned a number that corresponds to their seed – for example, a #1 seed is considered the top-ranked team in their region and is given the best chance of making it to the Final Four.
The term “lowest seed” typically applies to the 16th-seeded teams, which are considered to be among the most unlikely teams to win the tournament. Historically, it’s rare for any team ranked lower than #12 to make it out of the first round. Even more rarely, they make it all the way to the championship game. So, when people talk about “the lowest seed to win March Madness,” they’re usually referring to a team that has defied all odds and gone against conventional wisdom to become champions.
One such example of this happened in 2018 when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history. UMBC was the #16 seed going up against the #1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers, who had lost just three games during the entire season leading up to that matchup. But despite being huge underdogs, UMBC went on to defeat Virginia 74–54, becoming the first ever #16 seed to defeat a #1 seed in tournament history.
Lowest Seeds in NCAA Tournament History
When it comes to March Madness, the lowest seed to ever win was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. That year, they entered the tournament as a No. 8 seed and came out on top of the competition. The Wildcats started out their tournament run with a victory over Dayton, then defeated No. 1 seed Michigan, No. 5 seed Maryland and finally, No. 2 seed North Carolina to win the National Championship.
This feat is more impressive when considering that no other No. 8 seed had ever even made it to the Final Four before, let alone become national champions. The next lowest seed to make it to the Final Four was in 2006 when George Mason, another No. 8 seed, achieved the same feat (NCAA).
The Cinderella story of the 2006 George Mason team inspired many others to believe that lower seeds could indeed make it far in the tournament. The following year, an 11th-seeded team, the VCU Rams, made it all the way to the Final Four. Even though they did not become national champions like Villanova, they still showed that lower seeds can compete with higher seeds (NCAA).
In recent years, several other lower seeds have made it further in the tournament than anyone would have expected. For example, in 2011, Butler University became the lowest seed (No. 8) to ever make it to a championship game, where they ultimately lost to the UCONN Huskies (NCAA). More recently, in 2016, Syracuse made it to the Final Four as a No. 10 seed and proved that these unexpected teams can indeed make deep runs in March Madness (NCAA).
Overall, while it is rare for a team to be able to pull off the same incredible feat as Villanova did in 1985, it is clear that the odds are not impossible. Through hard work and determination, any team can have a chance at becoming a Cinderella story during the NCAA Tournament.
Why Do The Lowest Seeds Rarely Win?
As with most sports tournaments, the higher-seeded teams tend to win more often than lower-seeded teams. This is because teams with higher seeds have typically won more games throughout the regular season. Even teams with seeds of four or lower are still considered longshots to win the tournament.
The reason why lower seeds struggle to make it to the end of the tournament comes down to two main factors: talent and experience. The teams at the top of the rankings usually feature a combination of experienced players, high-level athletes, and talented coaches. On the other hand, the lower-seeded teams are usually filled with younger players who may lack the experience and physical attributes to compete against the best teams in college basketball.
As a result, the lower seeds typically face an uphill battle against the higher-seeded teams. It is not uncommon for a top seed to beat a sixteen seed by thirty points or more. This means that in order for a lower seed to win, they must rely on overperforming their opponents and playing a perfect game. This can be difficult to do in such a short amount of time and across multiple games.
To further illustrate why the lowest seeds rarely win, we can look at the NCAA Tournament odds for each seed. According to FiveThirtyEight, teams with a four seed or lower have only a 7 percent chance of winning March Madness (FiveThirtyEight). Comparatively, teams with one or two seeds have a 33 percent chance of winning. This shows that while anything is possible, low seeds face an uphill battle when it comes to winning the tournament.
In conclusion, it is very rare for a low seed to win March Madness due to the talent and experience gap between them and the top teams. Despite this, there are cases where lower seeds have managed to defy all odds and take home the title.
Strengths That Lower-Seeded Teams Display
Low-seeded teams have a few key strengths that help them in March Madness. The most important of these is having a sense of underdog mentality. Lower seeds are often underestimated and may find themselves more motivated to prove their opponents wrong.
Additionally, lower seeds may benefit from having fewer expectations placed on them. This can take pressure off the team and allow players to be more relaxed and creative on the court.
Another strength of lower-seeded teams is their ability to surprise opponents. Low-seeded teams often have less exposure than higher-seeded teams, so they may be able to take advantage of opponents who aren’t familiar with their style of play. Furthermore, low-seeded teams may have an easier time finding an identity for themselves, since they don’t have to worry about living up to high expectations.
Lastly, lower-seeded teams may have more roster flexibility. With fewer expectations to live up to, coaches may be able to experiment with different lineups or strategies in order to maximize the team’s chances of winning. This allows lower-seeded teams to make the most out of their rosters and take advantage of any weaknesses in their opponent’s lineup.
When all is said and done, lower-seeded teams have the potential to pull off upsets and make deep tournament runs. While this isn’t always the case, the right combination of strengths and luck can propel a low-seeded team all the way to the championship game. For example, when the 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) won the 2011 National Championship game, their players cited a sense of “togetherness and connectedness” as the key to their success. VCU also credited their team chemistry and their relentless defensive play as the main ingredients to their tournament victory.
Additionally, the team’s star player and eventual tournament MVP, Joe Wieskamp, highlighted the importance of staying focused on the goal and playing with energy and passion in order to succeed. By following the lead of Wieskamp and his teammates, VCU were able to prove that anything is possible, even for lower-seeded teams.
Low seeds have been making waves in recent years, with Virginia being the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed in 2018 and then with UMBC (No. 16) becoming the first low seed to ever win a game as a No. 16 seed against a No. 1 seed in 2018 as well. Low-seeded teams have proved that they can make a run, but it’s still quite rare for one to win the entire tournament.
That said, there is an opportunity for a low-seeded team to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. The committee for March Madness 2023 has already done a great job of seeding teams fairly, giving each team an equal chance of winning the tournament. With this in mind, it is certainly possible for a low-seeded team to make a deep run in this year’s tournament.
Low-seeded teams have several strengths that could give them an edge in this year’s tournament. Teams with lower seeds often have more depth than higher-seeded teams, allowing them to play more players which can lead to fresher legs late in games. They also tend to be hungrier, as low seeds often come from smaller programs or less competitive conferences that haven’t experienced much success at the NCAA level. These teams are often looking to prove themselves and can often pull off upsets if they have the right combination of talent and motivation.
Ultimately, the chances of a low-seeded team winning March Madness 2023 depend on who they draw in the tournament and how they match up against those teams. That said, with the current seeding, there are plenty of opportunities for a low-seeded team to make a deep run in this year’s tournament and potentially bring home the championship trophy.
College Football Playoff History
by Alex Valdes
Power Shift: The Most Important Conference Title Games in College Football History
by Dale Weber
A Guide To NBA Prop Bets
MLB Free Agency Preview: Ohtani Leads the Pack
by Sasha Yodashkin
How to Bet on Hockey: Insider’s Guide