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Most Common March Madness First-Round Upsets

Updated March 24th, 2021
Published June 4, 2020
  • Learn the all-time record of every seed in the first round of March Madness.
  • Is the #12 over #5 upset as frequent as the media makes it out to be?
  • Have #8 vs #9 matchups really been a toss-up since the field expanded in 1985? 

Everyone loves March Madness for the upsets. Which seeds have caused the most chaos over the history of the NCAA Tournament, which expanded to 64 teams in 1985? Find out below, as we detail the all-time record of every seed in the first round, their winning percentage, and their performance over the last five years.

#1 Seeds vs #16 Seeds

#1 Seeds vs #16 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 143-1
Winning Percentage 99.31%
Last 5 Years 19-1
Last Season 4-0

You know the story. A #16 seed had not beaten a #1 seed in the 33-year history of the tournament until 2018, when the #16 UMBC Retrievers stunned #1 Virginia.

Will we have to wait another 33 years before another #16 seeds can do the previously unthinkable? Not likely.

#2 Seeds vs #15 Seeds

#2 Seeds vs #15 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 135-9
Winning Percentage 93.75%
Last 5 Years 18-2
Last Season 3-1

Richmond was the first #15 to upset a #2 all the way back in 1991 when the Spiders shocked Syracuse. From 2001-2011, the #2 seeds went undefeated, but five #15s have won games since 2012, including Florida Gulf Coast (aka Dunk City) in 2013 and Oral Roberts in 2021.

#3 Seeds vs #14 Seeds

#3 Seeds vs #14 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 122-22
Winning Percentage 84.72%
Last 5 Years 18-2
Last Season 3-1

Once yet get to the #3 vs #14 matchups, upsets start to be pretty frequent. That said, #3 seeds are 11-1 over the last three years.

Abilene Christian was the last #14 to advance, as the Wildcats brushed aside the #3 Texas Longhorns in 2021.

#4 Seeds vs #13 Seeds

#4 Seeds vs #13 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 113-31
Winning Percentage 78.47%
Last 5 Years 14-6
Last Season 2-2

The #13 seeds haven’t made many deep runs in the tournament, but they have won at least one game in 12 of the last 16 tournaments, including two in 2021: Ohio over Virginia (62-58) and North Texas over Purdue (78-69).

 

#5 Seeds vs #12 Seeds

#5 Seeds vs #12 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 93-51
Winning Percentage 64.58%
Last 5 Years 13-7
Last Season 3-1

The #12s get a lot of pub for pulling more upsets than they should, and they are batting 35% in the first round.  They’re an impressive 4-4 in the last two NCAA tournaments (2019 and 2021).

Oregon State was the most recent #12 to advance, beating #5 Tennessee in 2021.

#6 Seeds vs #11 Seeds

#6 Seeds vs #11 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 90-54
Winning Percentage 58.44%
Last 5 Years 9-11
Last Season 2-2

The #11 seeds should be getting more attention after their sterling 11-9 performance over the last five years. They are now firmly ahead of the #12s when it comes to upsets after trailing for many years.

The last time an #11 seed didn’t advance was all the way back in 2004. Three #11’s advanced in both 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, Loyola-Chicago’s historic run to the Final Four started on the #11 line.

#7 Seeds vs #10 Seeds

#7 Seeds vs #10 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 87-57
Winning Percentage 60.42%
Last 5 Years 11-9
Last Season 2-2

The #7 vs #10 matchup should be relatively even, but #10 seeds actually have a winning record (5-3) over the past two years.

#8 Seeds vs #9 Seeds

#8 Seeds vs #9 Seeds Outcome
All-Time March Madness Record 71-73
Winning Percentage 49.31%
Last 5 Years 8-12
Last Season 3-1

The Selection Committee has long said that there is no difference between the #8 and #9 seeds. The eight teams right in the middle of their rankings are all grouped into one big pot and treated the same.

You would expect that to lead to an even W/L record and it pretty much has, with the #9 seeds holding just a two-game edge up to this point.

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