Has a 16 seed ever won an NCAA tournament game? What about a No. 15 seed?
Wednesday, March 16 marks the fourth anniversary of the only victory by a men’s 16 seed in a non-play-in NCAA tournament game.
University of Maryland Baltimore County not only upset top-seeded Virginia, it disposed of the Cavs in a fashion that most of the previous 132 top seeds had eliminated 16 seeds. The game was tied 21-21 at halftime, but UMBC — behind 23 second-half points by Jairus Lyles — dominated the final 20 minutes in a 74-54 rout, Virginia’s most lopsided loss of the season.
The Retrievers nearly didn’t reach the tournament at all, needing a last-second three-pointer by Lyles to defeat Vermont in the America East championship game. UMBC would fall to Kansas State in the second round of the Dance 50-43. The Retrievers remain the only 16 seed to win a non-play-in tournament game.
There have been a handful of near-upsets of top seeds in the opening round, most notably in 1989, when Princeton and East Tennessee State both lost by a point in the opening round, to Georgetown and Oklahoma, respectively. A year later, Murray State pushed Michigan State to overtime, ultimately losing 75-71.
The 15 seed has enjoyed slightly more luck in the opening round since the tournament went to a 64-team field in 1985, winning nine times, most recently last year, when Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State 75-72 in overtime.
UMBC wasn’t the first 16 seed to win an NCAA tournament game. In 1998, the Harvard women’s basketball team shocked Stanford 71-67 in the opening round. The Crimson remain the only women’s team to have pulled off the 16-1 upset.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.