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How far can each seed go in the NCAA Tournament?

With time running out to fill out your bracket, we look at the history of success, or the lack thereof, for each seed
Credit: AP
Bruno Fernando celebrates with Mark Turgeon after Maryland beat Iowa.

WASHINGTON — Time’s running out for you to fill out your brackets.

If you’re still uncertain about a couple match ups, or every game, here’s how each seed has fared since the field expanded to 64 in 1985.

No. 1 seeds – Historically, the top seeds in the regions do well. Only one has lost in the first round, but that was Virginia last year. While picking the No. 1 seeds is usually smart, don’t have all four advancing to the Final Four. Only once has there been four No. 1 seeds in the final weekend. In fact, you’re better off having just one or two of the top seeds in the Final Four. There has been either one or two No. 1 seeds in the Final Four 79.41% of the time since the field expanded to 64.

No. 2 seeds – It’s a safe bet the No. 2 seeds will escape the first round. Only 8 times has a No. 2 seed lost, including twice in 2012. No. 2 seeds have the second most appearances in the Final Four with 28 since the field expanded to 64. But don’t bet on the No. 2 seed getting much further. A No. 2 seed has reached the title game just 13 times since 1985, and only five of those teams won it all.

No. 3 seeds – The No. 3 seeds have 16 of the 136 Final Four appearances since the field expanded to 64. Of those 16 teams, 9 have made it to the National Championship game, and those 9 have a 4-5 record in the title game. The No. 3 seed has been upset 21 times in the first round, but we haven’t had a No. 14 seed upset a No. 3 seed since 2016. From 2013-2016 there were five such upsets.

No. 4 seeds - Only one No. 4 seed has won a National Championship, and that happened 22 years ago. 13 No. 4 seeds have made it to the Final Four in the last 34 seasons. Twice last year, No. 13 seeds upset No. 4 seeds, including Buffalo which is a No. 6 seed this season.

After the top four seeds, don’t go crazy putting teams from the remaining seeds in the Final Four. 83.1% of the Final Four participants have been from the top four seeds since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. But don’t lose hope in the lower seeds.

No. 5 seeds – This is where the first-round games get hard to pick. There have been 47 times that a 12-5 upset has happened. In nine of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments, there has been at least one 12-5 upset. So, pick at least one of the No. 5 seeds to lose. The popular pick is Marquette losing to Murray State. The Golden Eagles limp into the tournament losing five of their last six games. The Racers won 18 of their 20 games since the calendar flipped to 2019. Also, of the top 8 seeds, no No. 5 seed has won the NCAA Championship, ever.

No. 6 seeds – The 6-11 match-up is another one that has become more and more of a tossup. 51 times a No. 11 seed has beaten a No. 6 seed. That’s 37.5% of the time. The odds are in favor of at least one No. 6 seed losing. In fact, at least on No. 6 seed has lost in each of the last 14 NCAA Tournaments. If you’re a Maryland fan, you might want to cover your eyes. The Terps are the trendy No. 6 seed picked to lose in the first round. Maryland hasn’t won a postseason game since the school made the Sweet 16 in 2016.

We’ve now hit the longest of the long shots to make the Final Four. Only 14 teams seeded No. 7 or worse have made the Final Four. The good news, it’s happened in each of the last five tournaments.

No. 7 seeds – A No. 7 seed has made just three Final Four appearances, and only one National Championship game. The good news, No. 7 UConn beat No. 8 Kentucky to win the 2014 National Championship.

No. 8 seeds – More No. 8 seeds have made the Final Four (5) than No. 7 seeds (3). Three of those five teams advanced to the National Championship game, but only one has won (Villanova in 1985). Villanova’s win marks the lowest seed to ever win the National Championship.

No. 9 seeds – Only one has made the Final Four, and that was Wichita State in 2013. If you have a No. 9 seed advancing this far, you might want to start over.

No. 10 seeds – Just like the No. 9 seeds, only one No. 10 seed has made it as far as the Final Four. The optimism for the No. 10 seeds, Syracuse’s trip to the Final Four as a No. 10 seed was just three years ago. 

No. 11 seeds – Not that there’s much hope for No. 11 seeds to go far, but four have made the Final Four. That’s twice as many as the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds combined. Everyone remembers Loyola-Chicago, and Sister Jean, making the run to the Final Four last year. And Virginia schools have had their share of magical runs. George Mason made it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in 2006, and VCU duplicated the feat in 2011.

No. 12 seeds – They’ve had their share of success in the early rounds, but don’t pick a No. 12 seed to make it to the second weekend. Only one No. 12 seed has made it to the Elite Eight, that was Missouri in 2002.

No. 13 seeds – Only six No. 13 seeds have advanced as far as the Sweet 16. If you’re looking for a 13-4 upset this year, your best bet might be Northeastern over Kansas. Kansas failed to win the Big 12 regular season title for the first time since 2003. They’re likely the weakest of the No. 4 seeds.

No. 14 seeds – We haven’t had a No. 14 seed make it to the second week of the tournament in over 20 years. We haven’t had a 14-3 upset in three years. Yale might be your best bet when they face LSU. The Tigers are without their suspended head coach Will Wade as LSU heads into their first-round match-up with Yale.

No. 15 seeds – A No. 15 seed upsetting a No. 2 seed used to be the biggest upset ever until UMBC knocked off Virginia last season. Picking a No. 15 seed to win a game would be a gutsy pick. Florida Gulf Coast is the only No. 15 seed to win multiple games in a single tournament.

No. 16 seeds – All you need to know is that just once a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in 136 tries. Don’t plan on it happening again this year.