One of things that makes the NCAA Basketball Tournament so special, is the unpredictability of it. You just never know when a a Cinderella story will unfold. It’s why so many can’t wait to fill out their tournament bracket each year.
Most of the big upsets come in the early stages of March Madness. These teams catch our attention, but rarely are they able to make a deep run into the tournament. This article takes a look at the teams who make it to the Final Four and play for a national championship.
March Madness Basketball: Highest vs Lowest Seeds Confusion
Before we go any further, I want to straighten up something that a lot of you get confused on. When someone is referring to the lowest ranked seed(s), it’s not the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. It’s the other way around. The worst seeds are actually considered to be lowest in terms of how they are ranked.
The highest ranked seeds are the No. 1 seeds. What makes this confusing to a lot of people is they actually have the smaller number associated with their seed. So whenever you are talking about upsets, you are referring to the “lower seeds.” Now that we got that straightened out, lets look at the true giant killers.
Lowest Seed to Make National Championship Game of NCAA Tournament
The worst seed to ever play for a national championship is a No. 8 seed. It’s occurred three times in the modern era. For those that don’t know the modern era is considered everything after 1985. That’s when the field expanded to a 64-team bracket.
It just so happens the year the bracket increased to 64 teams, the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats reached the title game. Not only did Villanova make it to the final game, they went on to defeat No. 1 seeded Georgetown.
From 1993 to 2010 the worst seed to make the title game was a No. 5 seed. Then came the 2011 Butler Bulldogs, who were a No. 8 seed. Butler had just played and lost in the previous title game against Duke the year before. Unfortunately for Brad Steven’s Bulldogs, they came up short again, losing 41-53 to UConn.
The most recent time a No. 8 seed played for all the marbles was 2014. That year we had No. 8 seed Kentucky up against No. 7 seed Connecticut. Once again the Huskies played spoiler, taking down the Wildcats 60-54.
What is the Lowest Team to Make Elite 8 & Final Four?
I’m sure there’s a few of you wondering about the worst seed to play in the Elite 8 and Final 4. If you have been following the NCAA Tournament closely, you likely know the answers.
The lowest seeded team to make the Elite 8 is a No. 12 seed. Despite all the big upsets the No. 12 pulls over the No. 5 in the first round, it’s only happened twice. No. 12 Missouri pulled off 3 straight wins, before eventually losing to No. 2 seed Oklahoma in 2002. In 2021, 12 seed Oregon State rattled off wins over No. 5 Tennessee, No. 4 Oklahoma State, and No. 8 Loyola-Chicago, but lost to 2 seed Houston in the Elite 8.
For those that don’t know, the No. 11 seed is the worst to make the Final 4. It’s happened five times. The most recent to do so was UCLA in 2021. The other four teams to accomplish this feat were Loyola-Chicago (2018), VCU (2011), George Mason (2006) and LSU (1986).
Teams Ranked Worst than No. 3 Seed to Ever Play for National Title
Here is a complete list of teams seeded higher than No. 3 to appear in the title game, along with their results.