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History of 5 vs. 12 seeds in the NCAA Tournament

We go over the infamous 5-12 matchup in the NCAA Tournament and how often there is an upset.

Duke Blue Devils center Kyle Filipowski (30) takes a shot against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half of the ACC Championship at Greensboro Coliseum.  John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

A popular tip going into filling out NCAA Tournament brackets is the idea of picking one No. 12 seed over the No. 5 seed in that particular region. Is that actually a smart strategy? Let’s take a look at what the history says about the 5 vs. 12 seed matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

History of 5 vs. 12 seed matchup in NCAA Tournament

Since the field expanded in 1985, a No. 12 seed beat the No. 5 seed 52 times with a 35.4 winning percentage. At least one No. 12 seed won a first round game in 31 of the last 36 years, and the only seasons where a 12th seed didn’t see Round 2 came in 1988, 2000, 2007, 2015 and 2018.

Three No. 12 seeds advanced past Round 1 in three NCAA Tournaments, and this most recently occurred in 2019. In the most recent tournament, Richmond knocked off the Iowa Hawkeyes, and New Mexico State took down the UConn Huskies.

Here are the 5-12 matchups in the 2023 NCAA Tournament:

West: No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 VCU
South: No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 Charleston
East: No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Oral Roberts
Midwest: No. 5 Miami (FL) vs. No. 12 Drake

While it seems like the 5-seed would have a big advantage over the 12-seed, that isn’t the case. Miami finds itself only a 2.5-point favorite against Drake at DraftKings Sportsbook. VCU is no stranger to pulling off a first-round upset, officially putting St. Mary’s on upset alert.