March Madness Cinderellas: What is the lowest seed to win the NCAA tournament title?
Take heart, potential Cinderella stories and bracket busters.
The odds don’t favor you past the first weekend, but history offers you a North Star, a small glimmer of hope that anything is possible. On April Fools’ Day, 1985, eighth-seeded Villanova became — and remains — the lowest seed to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship, when it defeated top-seeded Georgetown 66-64.
The Wildcats reached the final without reaching 60 points in any of its previous five tournament games, which included defeats of a No. 1 seed (Michigan), two No. 2’s (North Carolina and Memphis) and a No. 5 (Maryland). Its closest call, it turned out, was a two-point victory over ninth-seeded Dayton in the opening round.
The victory over a then-dominant Hoyas squad led by Patrick Ewing has been described as the perfect game, though, it should be noted, Villanova turned the ball over 17 times. Taking advantage of college basketball’s final year without a shot clock, the Wildcats attempted a mere 28 field goals, knocking down 22 of them. Cinderella did not originate with the Wildcats, but no program has inspired more overworked references to the term.
In the 36-season history of the 64-team men’s tournament, 23 top seeds have won the title, followed by five No. 2 seeds and four No. 3 seeds. In addition to the Wildcats’ championship, the remaining tournaments have been captured by a No. 4 (Arizona in 1997), a No. 6 (Kansas, 1988) and a No. 7 (Connecticut, 2014). No five seed has won it all.
The lowest seed to reach the NCAA men’s final in the 64-team tournament era? Four No. 8 seeds: the Wildcats in ‘85, Butler in 2011, Kentucky in 2014 and North Carolina in 2022.