College Basketball

March Madness: The History of No. 12 Seeds Over No. 5 Seeds

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The 12-over-5 upset is often seen as the perfect balance between a double-digit upset, which adds excitement to the tournament, and a realistic chance for the underdog to pull off the upset. And history supports this notion, with multiple 12 seeds advancing to at least the tournament’s second round in most years. In fact, 12 seeds have a 35.8% winning percentage against 5 seeds. Let’s take a look at some historic 12 over 5 victories and the 12 vs. 5 matchups for the 2023 NCAA tournament.

No. 12 Seeds vs. No. 5 Seeds All-Time Stats

  • 53-95: Record for 12 seeds vs. No. 5 seeds
  • 35.8 percent: Overall winning percentage for 12 seeds since 1985
  • 20: Largest margin of victory for a 12 seed; Eastern Michigan over Mississippi State (76-56)
  • 1. Smallest margin of victory for a 12 seed; four times, first by Ball State over Oregon State (54-53)
  • 7: Number of times a 12 seed has won in overtime
  • 2: Number of times a 12 seed has won in double overtime
  • 1: Buzzer-beater wins for 12 seeds: Western Kentucky over Drake (101-99)
  • 21: 12 seeds to reach the Sweet 16
  • 1: 12 seeds to reach the Elite Eight

2023 NCAA Tournament No.12 Seeds vs. No. 5 Seeds

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The History of No. 12 vs No. 5

There’s something undeniably special about the 12-5 matchups in the NCAA Tournament. Despite being ranked lower than their opponents and facing tough odds, 12 seeds have upset 5 seeds an incredible 53 times in the past 40 years. In contrast, 11 seeds have only upset 6 seeds 55 times, while 10 seeds have done so just 56 times. This shows that the seeding system is only sometimes a perfect predictor of a team’s performance in the tournament. In fact, in only five years in the past four decades, has there been no 12-over-5 upset. And in 14 years, at least two 12 seeds have won their opening games, proving that it’s more than twice as likely for multiple 12 seeds to advance than for none to do so. So, when filling out your bracket, it’s worth considering the magic of the 12-5 upset and the unpredictable nature of March Madness.

Year Result Score
1985 Kentucky def. Washington 66-58
1986 DePaul def. Virginia 72-68
1987 Wyoming def. Virginia 64-60
1989 DePaul def. Memphis State 66-63
1990 Dayton def. Illinois 88-86
1990 Ball State def. Oregon State 54-53
1991 Eastern Michigan def. Mississippi State 76-56
1992 New Mexico State def. DePaul 81-73
1993 George Washington def. New Mexico 82-68
1994 UW-Green Bay def. California 61-57
1994 Tulsa def. UCLA 112-102
1995 Miami (Ohio) def. Arizona 71-62
1996 Drexel def. Memphis 75-63
1996 Arkansas def. Penn State 86-80
1997 College of Charleston def. Maryland 75-66
1998 Florida State def. TCU 96-87
1999 Detroit def. UCLA 56-53
1999 Missouri State def. TCU 96-87
2001 Utah State def. Ohio State 77-68 (OT)
2001 Gonzaga def. Virginia 86-85
2002 Tulsa def. Marquette 71-69
2002 Missouri def. Miami (Fla.) 93-80
2002 Creighton def. Florida 83-82 (2OT)
2003 Butler def. Mississippi State 47-46
2004 Pacific def. Providence 66-58
2005 Milwaukee def. Alabama 83-73
2006 Montana def. Nevada 87-79
2006 Texas A&M def. Syracuse 66-58
2008 Villanova def. Clemson 75-69
2008 Western Kentucky def. Drake 101-99 (OT)
2009 Wisconsin def. Florida State 61-59 (OT)
2009 Arizona def. Utah 84-71
2009 Western Kentucky def. Illinois 76-72
2010 Cornell def. Temple 78-65
2011 Richmond def. Vanderbilt 69-66
2012 South Florida def. Temple 58-44
2012 VCU def. Wichita State 62-59
2013 Ole Miss def. Wisconsin 57-46
2013 California def. UNLV 64-61
2013 Oregon def. Oklahoma State 68-55
2014 Harvard def. Cincinnati 61-57
2014 North Dakota State def. Oklahoma 80-75 (OT)
2014 Stephen F. Austin def. VCU 77-75 (OT)
2016 Little Rock def. Purdue 85-83 (2OT)
2016 Yale def. Baylor 79-75
2017 Middle Tennessee def. Minnesota 81-72
2019 Oregon def. Wisconsin 72-54
2019 Liberty def. Mississippi State 80-76
2019 Murray State def. Marquette 83-64
2021 Oregon State def. Tennessee 70-56
2022 New Mexico State def. Connecticut 70-63
2022 Richmond def. Iowa 67-63