Social Navigation

March Madness: Highest Seed to Win NCAA Tournament

March Madness is a crazy time of the year. The best teams in the country look to make a run to the Sweet 16, Final Four, and championship games. What about the highest seeds? Here’s a look at the highest seed to win March Madness.

The Highest Seed to Ever Win the NCAA Tournament

First, there might be some confusion on whether it’s called the highest or lowest seed. On the NCAA website, they refer to the highest seed as being number 1 and the lowest being number 16. Some people say highest because the numbers are higher. For now, let’s say highest as in referring to seeds as the numbers go up in value.

The 1985 Villanova Wildcats accomplished a remarkable feat by winning March Madness as an 8th seed. The Wildcats defeated number 1 seed Georgetown 66-64, despite the Hoyas having the All-American center and future NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing.

This upset victory remains one of the biggest in college basketball history, and Villanova still holds the record for the highest seed to win a National Championship.

Interestingly, the men’s basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, making it fitting for a lower seed to make it to the Final Four and ultimately defeat the top seed, Georgetown. The Hoyas were 35-2 going into the game.

Highest Seed Ever to Reach the Final Four

Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams, five 11-seeded teams have made it to the Final Four. These teams include LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola Chicago in 2018, and UCLA in 2021. As such, the 11-seed is the highest seed to have ever reached the Final Four.

However, each of these teams saw their impressive runs on the way to the Final Four come to an end. None were able to win and advance to the championship game.

Highest Seed to Make the Championship Game

The highest seed to ever reach the NCAA men’s basketball championship game is 8 and it has been done by multiple teams. It was first accomplished by Villanova in 1985. 

In 2011, the Butler Bulldogs made it to the title game but ultimately fell to Connecticut. During that year’s tournament, Kemba Walker had an unforgettable performance for UConn, leading the team on an incredible run in both the Big East and NCAA Tourney.

In 2022, North Carolina faced Kansas in the championship game but was not viewed as a significant underdog due to being a powerhouse program over the year. The Tar Heels were beaten by Kansas in the final who took home the championship.

Most Common Division I Men’s Basketball National Champion Seed

The history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament suggests that seeding plays an important role. Top seeds have overwhelmingly dominated, with number 1 seeds winning 27 national championships, number 2 seeds winning six, and number 3 seeds winning five. Although higher seeds generate excitement in the early rounds, a number 5 seed has yet to win a national title.

Since the tournament field expanded, being a top-three seed appears to be critical to winning it all, as 38 national champions have held such a seed. With that in mind, what are the prospects for this season’s tournament?

Highest Seed to Win March Madness FAQs

What is the highest seed to win the national championship?

Villanova won the national title back in 1985 as a number 8 seed. The Wildcats defeated top-seed Georgetown 66-64 to win the championship. It is still considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.

What is the highest seed to reach the national championship game?

There have been three number 8 seeds that have reached the national championship. Villanova won the national title in 1985 while Butler lost in 2011 and North Carolina fell in 2022.

What is the highest seed to ever reach the Final Four?

An 11 seed has made the Final Four a total of five times in history. Most recently, UCLA was able to make the Final Four in 2021. This is possible thanks to more teams being added when the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Has a 15 or 16-seed ever made the Final Four?

No 15 or 16 seed has won the NCAA tournament. A 16 seed has only made it out of the first round once. UMBC beat Virginia back in 2018. As for a 15 seed, Florida Gulf Coast reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 before losing to Florida. No. 15 seed St. Peter’s made the Elite 8 in 2022.