Last year’s NCAA Tournament field didn’t feature a single top seeded mid-major team. It was the first time since 2012. The only mid-major with a high-seed in 2017 is Gonzaga, who is the No. 1 overall seed in the West Region.

I wanted to know: How have these kinds of teams fared in the past?  Do they make good sleeper teams?

I went back over every tournament since 1985. The focus is on 1-4 seeds from non-power conferences. Some teams that used to be considered mid-majors have since joined power conferences. We use the conference the teams was in for the season listed. Here are the results.

Look at How High-Seeded Mid-Majors Perform in March Madness

Round of 64

Record: 72-4 (94.74%)

Mid-major teams seeded 1-4 are excellent when it comes to the first round of the tournament. These are teams that had a special season to gain the recognition of the selection committee.

They also play low-seeded teams that just made the tournament or received an automatic bid.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20152Gonzaga8615North Dakota State76Win
20144San Diego State7313New Mexico State69Win
20141Wichita State6416Cal-Poly37Win
20144Louisville7113Manhattan64Win
20134St. Louis6413New Mexico State44Win
20131Gonzaga6416Southern58Win
20133New Mexico6214Harvard68Loss
20112San Diego State6815Northern Colorado50Win
20113Brigham Young7414Wofford66Win
20103New Mexico6214Montana57Win
20094Xavier7713Portland State59Win
20094Gonzaga7713Akron64Win
20092Memphis8115Cal State Northridge70Win
20081Memphis8716Texas-Arlington63Win
20083Xavier7314Georgia61Win
20072Memphis7315North Texas58Win
20074Southern Illinois6113Holy Cross51Win
20061Memphis9416Oral Roberts78Win
20063Gonzaga7914Xavier75Win
20054Louisville6813Louisiana-Lafayette62Win
20053Gonzaga7414Winthrop64Win
20044Cincinnati8013East Tennessee State77Win
20041St. Joseph’s8216Liberty63Win
20042Gonzaga7615Valparaiso49Win
20033Xavier7114Troy59Win
20034Louisville8613Austin Peay64Win
20034Dayton7113Tulsa84Loss
20033Marquette7214Holy Cross68Win
20021Cincinnati9016Boston University52Win
20002Temple7315Lafayette47Win
20002Cincinnati6415UNC Wilmington47Win
19993Cincinnati7214George Mason48Win
19992Utah8015Arkansas State58Win
19984New Mexico7913Butler62Win
19982Cincinnati6515Northern Arizona62Win
19983Utah8514San Francisco68Win
19973New Mexico5914Old Dominion55Win
19972Utah7515Navy61Win
19974St. Joseph’s7513Pacific65Win
19973Cincinnati8614Butler69Win
19962Cincinnati6615UNC Greensboro61Win
19964Marquette6813Monmouth44Win
19964Utah7213Canisius43Win
19961Massachusetts9216Central Florida70Win
19954Utah7613Long Beach State64Win
19952Massachusetts6815St. Peter’s51Win
19944Temple6113Drexel39Win
19943Louisville6714Boise State58Win
19942Massachusetts7815Texas State60Win
19933Massachusetts5414Penn50Win
19934Louisville7613Delaware70Win
19932Cincinnati9315Coppin State66Win
19923Massachusetts8514Fordham58Win
19924Cincinnati8513Delaware47Win
19914Utah8213South Alabama72Win
19911UNLV9916Montana65Win
19904Louisville7813Idaho59Win
19904La Salle7913Southern Mississippi63Win
19901UNLV10216Arkansas-Little Rock72Win
19894UNLV6813Idaho56Win
19894Florida State8313Middle Tennessee State97Loss
19894Louisville7613Arkansas-Little Rock71Win
19884UNLV5413Missouri State50Win
19881Temple8716Lehigh73Win
19884Brigham Young9813Charlotte92Win
19873DePaul7614Louisiana Tech62Win
19872Temple7515Southern56Win
19871UNLV9516Idaho State70Win
19864UNLV7413Louisiana-Monroe51Win
19863Notre Dame8314Arkansas-Little Rock90Loss
19862Louisville9315Drexel73Win
19863Memphis9514Ball State63Win
19852Virginia Commonwealth8115Marshall65Win
19852Memphis6715Penn55Win
19854Loyola (Ill.)5913Iona58Win
19854UNLV8513San Diego State80Win

Round of 32

Record: 41-31 (56.94%)

Once we get to the second official round of the tournament, things start to come apart. These teams still have a winning record, but it pales in comparison to the previous round.

For many of these teams getting past the first round might be a relief. Nobody wants to be that mid-major team that loses as a top seed in the first round. Once that pressure is off about 43% of those teams falter.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20152Gonzaga877Iowa68Win
20144Louisville665St. Louis51Win
20144San Diego State6312North Dakota State44Win
20141Wichita State768Kentucky78Loss
20131Gonzaga709Wichita State76Loss
20134St. Louis5712Oregon74Loss
20112San Diego State717Temple64Win
20113Brigham Young8911Gonzaga67Win
20103New Mexico6411Washington82Loss
20094Xavier6012Wisconsin49Win
20094Gonzaga8312Western Kentucky81Win
20092Memphis8910Maryland70Win
20081Memphis778Mississippi State74Win
20083Xavier856Purdue78Win
20074Southern Illinois635Virginia Tech48Win
20072Memphis787Nevada62Win
20061Memphis729Bucknell56Win
20063Gonzaga906Indiana80Win
20054Louisville765Georgia Tech54Win
20053Gonzaga696Texas Tech71Loss
20044Cincinnati685Illinois92Loss
20042Gonzaga7210Nevada91Loss
20041St. Joseph’s708Texas Tech65Win
20034Louisville7112Butler79Loss
20033Xavier646Maryland77Loss
20033Marquette1016Missouri92Win
20021Cincinnati1018UCLA105Loss
20002Temple6510Seton Hall67Loss
20002Cincinnati617Tulsa69Loss
19993Cincinnati546Temple64Loss
19992Utah5810Miami (Ohio)66Loss
19984New Mexico465Syracuse56Loss
19983Utah756Arkansas69Win
19982Cincinnati7410West Virginia75Loss
19972Utah777Charlotte58Win
19973New Mexico636Louisville64Loss
19973Cincinnati666Iowa State67Loss
19974St. Joseph’s815Boston College77Win
19962Cincinnati787Temple65Win
19964Utah735Iowa State67Win
19961Massachusetts799Stanford74Win
19964Marquette5612Arkansas65Loss
19952Massachusetts7510Stanford53Win
19954Utah645Mississippi State78Loss
19943Louisville606Minnesota55Win
19944Temple585Indiana67Loss
19942Massachusetts8710Maryland95Loss
19934Louisville785Oklahoma State63Win
19932Cincinnati927New Mexico State55Win
19933Massachusetts566Virginia71Loss
19923Massachusetts776Syracuse71Win
19924Cincinnati775Michigan State65Win
19914Utah855Michigan State84Win
19911UNLV628Georgetown54Win
19901UNLV768Ohio State65Win
19904Louisville6012Ball State62Loss
19904La Salle755Clemson79Loss
19894UNLV8512DePaul70Win
19894Louisville935Arkansas84Win
19884UNLV865Iowa104Loss
19881Temple748Georgetown53Win
19884Brigham Young765Louisville97Loss
19873DePaul836St. John’s75Win
19872Temple6210LSU72Loss
19871UNLV809Kansas State61Win
19864UNLV705Maryland64Win
19863Memphis8111LSU83Loss
19862Louisville827Bradley68Win
19852Memphis677Alabama-Birmingham66Win
19852Virginia Commonwealth597Alabama63Loss
19854Loyola (Ill.)705Southern Methodist57Win
19854UNLV6112Kentucky64Loss

Sweet 16

Record: 22-19 (53.66%)

I expected to see a bigger drop-off than this in the Sweet 16. Mid-major teams who make it this far into the tournament must be the real-deal. They play much better opponents at this point.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20152Gonzaga7411UCLA62Win
20144Louisville698Kentucky74Loss
20144San Diego State641Arizona70Loss
20113Brigham Young742Florida83Loss
20112San Diego State673Connecticut74Loss
20094Gonzaga771North Carolina98Loss
20092Memphis913Missouri102Loss
20094Xavier551Pittsburgh60Loss
20081Memphis925Michigan State74Win
20083Xavier797West Virginia75Win
20074Southern Illinois581Kansas61Loss
20072Memphis653Texas A&M64Win
20063Gonzaga712UCLA73Loss
20061Memphis8013Bradley64Win
20054Louisville931Washington79Win
20041St. Joseph’s844Wake Forest80Win
20033Marquette772Pittsburgh74Win
19983Utah6510West Virginia62Win
19974St. Joseph’s681Kentucky83Loss
19972Utah826Stanford77Win
19962Cincinnati873Georgia Tech70Win
19964Utah701Kentucky101Loss
19961Massachusetts7912Arkansas63Win
19952Massachusetts766Tulsa51Win
19943Louisville702Arizona82Loss
19932Cincinnati716Virginia54Win
19934Louisville691Indiana82Loss
19924Cincinnati699UTEP67Win
19923Massachusetts772Kentucky87Loss
19911UNLV834Utah66Win
19914Utah661UNLV83Loss
19901UNLV6912Ball State67Win
19894Louisville691Illinois83Loss
19894UNLV681Arizona67Win
19881Temple6913Richmond47Win
19873DePaul5810LSU63Loss
19871UNLV9212Wyoming78Win
19862Louisville943North Carolina79Win
19864UNLV638Auburn70Loss
19852Memphis5911Boston College57Win
19854Loyola (Ill.)531Georgetown65Loss

Elite Eight

Record: 11-11 (50%)

Again, I was a little bit surprised at how well mid-major teams performed at this level. Opponents here are usually 1 and 2 seeds. It is no small feat for them to win as much as they lose.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20152Gonzaga521Duke66Loss
20081Memphis852Texas67Win
20083Xavier571UCLA76Loss
20072Memphis761Ohio State92Loss
20061Memphis452UCLA50Loss
20054Louisville937West Virginia85Win
20041St. Joseph’s622Oklahoma State64Loss
20033Marquette831Kentucky69Win
19983Utah761Arizona51Win
19972Utah591Kentucky72Loss
19962Cincinnati635Mississippi State73Loss
19961Massachusetts862Georgetown62Win
19952Massachusetts544Oklahoma State68Loss
19932Cincinnati681North Carolina75Loss
19924Cincinnati886Memphis57Win
19911UNLV773Seton Hall65Win
19901UNLV13111Loyola Marymount101Win
19894UNLV613Seton Hall84Loss
19881Temple532Duke63Loss
19871UNLV842Iowa81Win
19862Louisville848Auburn76Win
19852Memphis631Oklahoma61Win

Final Four

Record: 4-7 (36.36%)

The buck stops here. Just four of the eleven schools that have gone to the Final Four have made it to the championship game.

The only teams that have won in this situation are: Memphis, Utah, UNLV and Louisville. These aren’t teams from power conferences, but they aren’t exactly pushovers either.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20081Memphis781UCLA63Win
20054Louisville581Illinois75Loss
20033Marquette612Kansas94Loss
19983Utah651North Carolina59Win
19961Massachusetts741Kentucky81Loss
19924Cincinnati726Michigan76Loss
19911UNLV772Duke79Loss
19901UNLV904Georgia Tech81Win
19871UNLV931Indiana97Loss
19862Louisville8811LSU77Win
19852Memphis458Villanova52Loss

Championship Game

Record: 2-2 (50%)

Louisville (1986) and UNLV (1990) are the only mid-major teams to win a National Championship.

SeasonSeedTeamScoreOpp. SeedOpponentOpp. ScoreResult
20081Memphis681Kansas75Loss
19983Utah692Kentucky78Loss
19901UNLV1033Duke73Win
19862Louisville721Duke69Win

Conclusion

Mid-major teams perform well in the first round of the tournament. After the first round, it is a coin flip until the Final Four. Once these teams reach this level they tend to collapse.

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