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Daniel Wilco | | February 2, 2021

How No. 15 seeds do in March Madness

High Five: 15 over 2 Tournament Upsets

*Note: All data is from the 1985 tournament to the present.

After the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, it took six years before a No. 15 seed knocked off a No. 2 seed. Richmond beat Syracuse in 1991, 73-69. And every couple of years, a No. 15 seed shocks the college basketball world with a crazy upset. After a 10-year drought without an opening-round win by a No. 15 seed, they have won four first-round games in the last eight NCAA tournaments.

But don't let that trick you into thinking the No. 15 seed has a good chance — they're just 8-132 all time against No. 2 seeds.

The most recent shocker came when No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee never trailed in 2016 on the way to upsetting No. 2 seed Michigan State, 90-81. In the 2019 NCAA Tournament, No. 15 seed Colgate became the closest to reach the second round before falling to No. 2 seed Tennessee 77-70.

First Round: Middle Tennessee Stuns Michigan State

The 2012 NCAA Tournament was particularly volatile for the No. 15 seed vs. No. 2 seed matchups, as worse-seeded Norfolk State and Lehigh grabbed impressive wins in the first round on the same day. After a decade of smooth sailing for second-seeded teams, Norfolk State eked out a win over Missouri and Lehigh built up enough momentum to beat Duke by five.

While the No. 15 seed sports a winning percentage of 5.7 percent, roughly 25 percent of the first-round matchups between No. 15 seeds and No. 2 seeds heading into this year's NCAA tournament have been decided by single digits.

Only one No. 15 seed has advanced past the second round, when Florida Gulf Coast made it to the Sweet 16 in 2013. In only its second year of full NCAA eligibility and its first time in the NCAA tournament, the Eagles shocked the college basketball world by not only beating second-seeded Georgetown by 10 points in the first round but also beating seventh-seeded San Diego State to advance to the Sweet 16.

Louisiana Monroe and Belmont own the most No. 15 seed appearances, as both the Warhawks and the Bruins have four berths at that slot in the 32 years of the expanded tournament. Here are the eight No. 15 seeds to beat No. 2 seeds.

Year Winner Loser Score
1991 Richmond Syracuse 73-68
1993 Santa Clara Arizona 64-61
1997 Coppin State South Carolina 78-65
2001 Hampton Iowa State 58-57
2012 Norfolk State Missouri 86-84
2012 Lehigh Duke 75-70
2013 Florida Gulf Coast Georgetown 78-68
2016 Middle Tennessee Michigan State 80-61


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