Has a 16 seed ever won an NCAA tournament game? What about a No. 15 seed?

Norfolk State guard Joe Bryant Jr. (4) and forward Dana Tate (21) celebrate after Bryant.
Norfolk State guard Joe Bryant Jr. (4) and forward Dana Tate (21) celebrate during a game.
(Mike Caudill / Associated Press)
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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.