What is the biggest upset in March Madness history?


Strap on your seatbelts – the excitement of March Madness is here.

Selection Sunday revealed the seeds of the NCAA Tournament, pitting the top seeds against the bottom seeds.

While the best-ranked teams typically come out on top, there have been numerous instances where the underdog pulled out the upset. On the opening day of the 2023 men's tournament, several top seeds went down -- including No. 2 Arizona and No. 4 Virginia in the South Region. Just over 24 hours later, Fairleigh Dickinson became just the second No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament to pick up a win by beat No. 1 Purdue.

Let's take a look at some of the biggest upsets March Madness has seen over the years:

How many times has a No. 16 beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?

Until six years ago, a win for a 16-seed over a No. 1 seed in the men's touranment seemed virtually impossible. Now it's happened twice.

In 2018, UMBC defeated No. 1 Virginia 74-54, marking the biggest upset in March Madness history. They were joined by Fairleigh Dickinson -- a play-in team -- this year when they held off Purdue 63-58 to hand the Boilermakers their third-straight elimination by a double-digit seed.

How many times has a No. 15 seed beaten a No. 2 seed?

There have been 11 instances where a No. 15 defeated a No. 2 seed at the NCAA Tournament:

  • 1991 - Richmond def. Syracuse 73-69
  • 1993 - Santa Clara def. Arizona 64-61
  • 1997 - Coppin State def. South Carolina 78-65
  • 2001 - Hampton def. Iowa State 58-57
  • 2012 - Lehigh def. Duke 75-70
  • 2012 - Norfolk State def. Missouri 86-84
  • 2013 - Florida Gulf Coast def. Georgetown 78-68
  • 2016 - Middle Tennessee def. Michigan State 90-81
  • 2021 - Oral Roberts def. Ohio State 75-72
  • 2022 - Saint Peter's def. Kentucky 85-79
  • 2023 - Princeton def. Arizona 59-55

Was there ever a perfect bracket?

The NCAA reports that the longest verifiable streak of the NCAA Tournament is 49 games, set in 2019. A man from Ohio was able to perfectly predict the 2019 NCAA Tournament all the way to the Sweet 16.

What is the farthest a 15 seed has ever made it?

There is some history of a No. 15 seed having success at the NCAA Tournament.

In 2022, Saint Peter's, led by then-head coach Shaheen Holloway, became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight before falling to eighth-seeded North Carolina.

Before that historic run, Florida Gulf Coast and Oral Roberts reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 and 2021, respectively. 

Has there been an Elite 8 without a No. 1 seed?

Since the seeding process began in 1979, there has never been an NCAA Tournament without a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight.

What is the farthest a No. 16 seed has gone?

Even though UMBC upset Virginia by 20 points in the 2018 tournament, the Retrievers fell in the next round to No. 9 Kansas State by a score of 50-43. 

A No. 16 seed has never made it past the second round. All eyes will turn to Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday as they seek to go where no No. 16 seed has gone before -- the Sweet 16.

What is the lowest seeded team to win NCAA?

In the 1985 NCAA Tournament, No. 8 seed Villanova defeated Georgetown 66-64.

Villanova remains the lowest-seeded team to win the national tournament.

What is the closest No. 1 vs No. 16 seed game?

In addition to the two times a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed, there have been several times the final score has come down to single digits between the two seeds, most recently in 2014 when Arizona defeated Weber State 68-59.

Additionally, in 1989, East Tennessee State had a 17-point lead over Oklahoma, but the Sooners came back to win 72-71. That same year, Georgetown took down Princeton 50-49.

There has been once instance a No. 1 seed has gone to overtime with a No. 16 seed, and it was in 1990. Murray State lost to Michigan State 75-71 in that contest.

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