UPDATE: No. 1 Michigan did not cover against No. 16 Texas Southern, but had little trouble. No. 1 Baylor tolled No. 16 Hartford with relative ease.
UPDATE: No. 1 Illinois thumped No. 16 Drexel 78-47 to open the NCAA Tournament.
Since the NCAA Mens’s Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, a 16-seed has only beaten a 1-seed once. We’ve seen several close calls, but only one monumental upset. Could it happen this season?
In 2018 the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers came into the NCAA Tournament as a 20.5 point underdog to No. 1 seed Virginia. The Retrievers shocked the world and took down the Cavs by 20 points themselves.
In the 1989 NCAA Tournament, it almost happened twice when Georgetown played Princeton and when Oklahoma took on ETSU. The Hoyas came away with a 50-49 win in a game for the ages, and Oklahoma made a furious comeback to win 72-71.
No such game has otherwise been decided by a single possession since 1996, when Purdue narrowly escaped West Carolina 73-71.
The biggest of possible postseason upsets has only happened once in the women’s tournament, as No. 16 Harvard beat top-seeded Stanford in 1998 and did it on the Cardinal home floor of Maples Pavilion. Go watch the video, it’s incredible.
This season, the No. 16 seeds have a tough task on their hands taking on Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Illinois.
The No. 16 with the best chance to pull an upset this year will likely be either the Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers or the Texas Southern Tigers. Whoever wins the play-in game between those two will face off with the Michigan Wolverines in the Round of 64. The Wolverines have limped into the postseason and are without senior Isaiah Livers, but will still be an overwhelming favorite.
Bot Texas Southern and Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers have struggled to score points, and both teams are ranked in the mid-200s in terms of offensive efficiency by KenPom. The Mount is a solid defensive unit though, and they will need to get plenty of unexpected stops to pull off the miracle.
The Drexel Dragons are the highest-rated 16 seed in the tournament, listed as 135 in the NET rankings and 146 in KenPom. They got a tough draw going against the Illinois Fighting Illini though, who are playing their best basketball of the season at the moment.
And as for Norfolk State or Appalachian State vs. Gonzaga, or the Hartford Hawks taking on the Baylor Bears: We wish you the best, but go ahead and pack up your hotel room before you get on the team bus to the arena.