Highest Seed to Make the Final Four & Win the NCAA Tournament

Nothing beats the excitement and unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament. Each year, even the most casual fans become interested in the big dance. That’s because there are so many office pools and friendly bracket contests out there to enter. Plus, these pools take little talent considering they are so unpredictable every year. Even the most novice of college basketball experts can get beaten by someone who hasn’t even heard of half the teams in the field.

Millions of you will be filling out your brackets for bragging rights. It could be with your family, your co-workers, your friends, and even a group of strangers in some online pool. There’s certainly no right way to fill out a bracket, but it can help to have plenty of information in front of you before attempting to tame the beast.

The NCAA Tournament committee began giving each team a number back in 1979. This has made it as fair as it could possibly be, trying to give the No. 1 seeds the easiest route to the Final Four and reward them for the work they did during the regular season. While absolutely no path is easy, it’s worth noting that a No. 1 has made the Final Four in all but three years (1980, 2006, 2011) since seeding began.

I’m going to go through and list how far each seed has advanced in the NCAA Tournament since 1985, the year they expanded the field go 64 teams. This will help you make your bracket picks to give you a feel for how far you should take a certain seed to go. You definitely don’t want to be having a No. 15 or a No. 16 in championship game.

Bracket History: Worst-Seeded Team to Reach the Final Four

No team seeded worse than 11 has advanced to the Final Four since the tournament expanded in 1985.  Amazingly, a number 11 seed has advanced five times:

  1. LSU (1986)
  2. George Mason (2006)
  3. VCU (2011)
  4. Loyola-Chicago (2018)
  5. UCLA (2020)

Furthest Each Seed Has Advanced in March Madness

No. 1 – A No. 1 has reached the Championship Game in 29 of the past 37 seasons.  A whopping 24 of them have gone on to win the title, which is better than a 60% rate that a No. 1 seed wins it all.  Kansas became the latest No. 1 to win in 2022.

No. 2 – No. 2 seeds have reached the Championship Game a total of 13 times since 1985.  They have only won five of them.  Villanova took home the championship trophy as a #2 in 2016.

No. 3 – A No. 3 has made the finale ten times, sporting a 4-6 record overall.  In 2019, Texas Tech reached the title game, losing to Virginia. The last #3 to win it all was Connecticut in 2011.

No. 4 – Only three times has a No. 4 advanced to the title game.  Only one of those three won it all, which was Arizona in 1997.

No. 5 – A No. 5 has finished as runner-up three times.  It’s hard to believe that a No. 5 has never won it, considering at least one team from the other seven top seeds have a victory.

No. 6 – A No. 6 has gone on to play in the NCAA Championship twice.  Kansas (1988) is the only team to win as a No. 6.

No. 7 – In 2014, UConn became the first No. 7 to appear in the Championship Game.  It took advantage and beat No. 8 Kentucky.

No. 8 – A No. 8 has actually appeared in the National Championship four times, with the latest being North Carolina in 2022.  Only Villanova (1985) managed to win it all.

No. 9 – A No. 9 has only made it as far as the Final Four, and it has only happened once: Wichita State (2013).

No. 10 – In 2016, Syracuse became the first 10 seed to ever reach the Final Four.  A No. 10 seed has advanced to the Elite 8 eight times with the latest being Syracuse in 2016.

No. 11 – Impressively, five No. 11 seeds have made it all the way to the Final Four: UCLA (2021), Loyola-Chicago (2018), VCU (2011), George Mason (2006) and LSU (1986).

No. 12 – The 2002 Missouri Tigers are the only No. 12 to make it to the Elite 8.

No. 13 – Six No. 13 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16, with the latest being LaSalle (2013).

No. 14 – Chattanooga (1997) and Cleveland St. (1986) are the only No. 14 seeds to ever reach to the Sweet 16.

No. 15 – In 2022, Saint Peter’s became the first and only No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite 8.

No. 16 – In 2018, the University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC Retrievers) became the first No. 16 seed in history to upset a No. 1 seed (Virginia). UMBC then lost to No. 9 Kansas State in the second round, and they are the only #16 to advance that far.

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