Take heart, potential Cinderella stories.
The odds are not in your favor after the first weekend, but the story offers you a North Star, a small glimmer of hope that anything is possible. On April 1, 1985, Vilanova, seeded eighth, became — and remains — the lowest seed win the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a 66-64 victory over top-seeded Georgetown.
The Wildcats entered the final without scoring 60 points in any of their previous five tournament games, which included losses to a No. 1 seed (Michigan), two No. 2 seeds (North Carolina and Memphis) and a No. 5 seed (Maryland). Its closest option appeared to be a two-point win over ninth-seeded Dayton in the first round.
The win over a then-dominant Hoyas team under Patrick Ewing was described as a perfect game, although it should be noted that Villanova turned the ball over 17 times. Taking advantage of college basketball last year without a shot clock, the Wildcats made just 28 field goals, making 22 of them. “Cinderella” didn’t originate in Wildcats, but no program has inspired more overwrought references to the term.
In the 36-season history of the 64-team men’s tournament, 23 No. 1 seeds have won the title, followed by five No. 2 seeds and four No. 3 seeds. In addition to the Wildcats’ championship, other tournament wins include No. 4 (Arizona in 1997), No. 6 (Kansas, 1988) and #7 (Connecticut, 2014). None of the five seeds won it all.
Lowest seed to reach the NCAA Men’s Finals during the 64-team tournament? Four No. 8 seeds: Wildcats in 1985, Butler in 2011, Kentucky in 2014 and North Carolina in 2022.