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    March Madness is known as the ‘roulette’ of sporting events, but why? Despite teams earning seeds within the tournament to vie for better matchups, upsets are quite common in March Madness. It’s a single-elimination style event for a sport that usually plays a ‘best of series’ to determine its professional winner. 

    Small schools such as Abilene Christian, Wofford and Norfolk State have all seen upset wins in March Madness – including the only No. 16 win over a No. 1 seed when UMBC beat Virginia. Let’s go through the lowest seeded teams to not only advance in March Madness brackets, but win the whole thing!

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    Worst Seed to Win March Madness Titles

    The lowest-seeded team to win March Madness was a few decades ago in the mid-80’s. The Villanova Wildcats, a prestigious basketball program in itself, won March Madness in 1985 as the lowest-seeded team ever – winning at No. 8. 

    Only two other No. 8 seeds have even reached the National Championship game. Both came recently however, and both are ‘blue-blood’ programs much like Villanova. UNC reached the National Championship in 2022 but fell short to No. 1 Kansas, while Kentucky lost to No. 7 UConn as the No. 8 seed in 2014.

    Lowest March Madness Winner: 8 seed

    Villanova Wildcats (1985)

    The Wildcats were in the Southeast region during the 1985 tournament, with Michigan, UNC and Kansas as the top three seeds. Villanova defeated No. 9 Dayton before upsetting No. 1 Michigan by four points. 

    The Wildcats went on to beat No. 5 Maryland before beating No. 2 UNC by 12 points in the Elite Eight. After beating Memphis State, Villanova took care of Big East rival Georgetown with a thrilling 66-64 win over the No. 1 Hoyas. 

    Lowest Final Four: 11 seed

    LSU Tigers (1986)

    In 1986, the LSU Tigers went on a frenzy in the Southeast Region. After defeating No. 6 Purdue in double overtime, the Tigers went on the beat the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. 

    During LSU’s run in the Southeast Region, they came across the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who were playing in Atlanta, Georgia. Also, the Tigers won each of their three games against the region’s top seeds by six points or less. LSU eventually fell short to eventual champion the Louisville Cardinals. 

    George Mason Patriots (2006)

    The George Mason Patriots are one of the most well-known Cinderella runs in March Madness history, reaching the Final Four in 2006 after beating No. 1 UConn in the Elite Eight. The Patriots’ run began with a 10-point win over No. 6 Michigan State, as Jim Larranaga’s club didn’t stop there. 

    They then beat another top program in No. 3 UNC before handling No. 7 Wichita State in the Sweet 16. Eventual champion Florida would end the fairy tale in the Final Four, beating them 73-58 which was actually better than UCLA’s 57-73 loss in the National Championship.

    VCU Rams (2011)

    Another very popular March Madness fairy tale story belongs to the VCU Rams, as Shaka Smart is now one of the most reputable coaches in the NCAA. What made the VCU run impressive is that the Rams also had to beat USC in the First Four game, a round for eight schools to compete in before reaching the First Round.

    After beating USC, VCU would go on to defeat No. 6 Georgetown, No. 3 Purdue, No. 10 FSU and eventually No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight (by 10 points!). A Shelvin Mack-led Butler Bulldogs team would end VCU’s run in the Final Four, as Butler would then lose to UConn in the National Championship.

    Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (2018)

    The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are one of the more iconic March Madness runs in history, led by their real life mascot Sister Jean. In 2018, the Ramblers put themselves on the map with a Moses Porter-led Cinderella run. 

    The Ramblers started their March Madness run with a two-point win over Miami-Florida, who was coached by former GMU coach Larranaga. After the narrow win, Loyola-Chicago would beat No. 3 Tennessee by one point and No. 7 by one point before throttling No. 9 Kansas State by 16 points. The Ramblers would lose in the Final Four to eventual runner up Michigan.

    UCLA Bruins (2021)

    UCLA is another No. 11 seed who had to play a First Four game to reach the Final Four. Despite the low seed, UCLA was riddled with top class talent and an eager coach in Mick Cronin. After winning its First Four game, UCLA would win its next three games by double-digit points.

    The Bruins found themselves tested in the Elite Eight, but were able to defeat No. 1 Michigan by two points before bowing out by three-points to an elite Gonzaga team. Gonzaga was the heavy favorite throughout the season, but fell short to Davion Mitchell and the No. 1 Baylor Bears. 

    Lowest Elite Eight: 15 seed

    Saint Peter’s Peacocks (2022)

    Perhaps one of the most surprising recent March Madness runs has come from New Jersey and the Saint Peter’s Peacocks. 15 seeds almost never win, but Saint Peter’s shocked the college basketball world with a First Round upset over John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats.

    Saint Peter’s would go on to beat Murray State by 10-points and Purdue by three, before falling to eventual runner up No. 8 UNC. Despite the program history difference, UNC was also going on an underdog run in the tournament. Armando Bacot dominated the Peacocks with a 20 and 22 game. 

    Lowest Sweet Sixteen: 15 seed

    Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (2013)

    Tied with Saint Peter’s in 2022 is the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast for lowest Sweet Sixteen seed. Dunk City became a national highlight with FGCU running through the March Madness field, led by now USC coach Andy Enfield. 

    The Eagles beat an Otto Porter-led Georgetown team in the First Round, before knocking off San Diego State in the Second Round. The Eagles’ high-flying tactics eventually fizzled in the Sweet 16 to state-school Florida, who then lost by 20 points to Michigan in the Elite Eight. 

    March Madness Seeding and Cinderella Stories

    Why is it called a ‘Cinderella’ run in March Madness? Well, Cinderella was an underdog in her story – as are the lower-seeded schools in this event. Also, March Madness is referred to as the ‘Big Dance’ and in Cinderella she attended a ‘ball’. 

    So because the lower-seeded schools are not expected to win, as Cinderella wasn’t expected to either, they are termed after Disney’s favorite underdog. It’s hard to argue that the No. 8 seed schools present the best chance for Cinderella’s to win this event. 

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