College Basketball

March Madness: The History of No. 13 Seeds Over No. 4 Seeds

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The No. 13 vs. No.4 seed matchup has become synonymous with the matchup where you can undoubtedly find an upset. Most pundits and just about anyone giving out bracket info and picks will start with these matchups when they’re looking to comment on the most likely upsets. And rightfully so, these happen reasonably frequently, including a pair of 13’s over No. 4’s in 2021. 13 seeds have a 20.9% winning percentage in these matchups since 1985. Let’s look at this year’s No. 13 vs. No.4 matchups and the history of these matchups in the NCAA tournament.

No. 13 Seeds vs. No. 4 Seeds All-Time Stats

  • 31-117: Record for 13 seeds vs. No. 4 seeds
  • 20.9 percent: Overall winning percentage for 13 seeds since 1985
  • 23: Largest margin of victory for a 13 seed; Navy over LSU (78-55)
  • 1: Smallest margin of victory for a 13 seed; six times, first by Xavier over Missouri (70-69)
  • 6-3: Record for No. 13 seeds in games decided by one point
  • 2: Buzzer-beater wins for 13 seeds: Murray State over Vanderbilt (2010), Valparaiso over Ole Miss (1998)
  • 6: 13 seeds to win at least two games

2023 NCAA Tournament No.13 Seeds vs. No. 4 Seeds

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The History of No. 13 vs No. 4

Over the past 40 years, since the NCAA Tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 26 tournaments have seen at least one 13-seed triumph. In four of those years, multiple 13 seeds won games, including Xavier and Missouri State in 1987, Indiana State and Kent State in 2001, Siena and San Diego in 2008, and Buffalo and Marshall in 2018.

The 2008 upsets were particularly noteworthy, as both occurred on the same court in Tampa, making it a historic day in NCAA Tournament history. The other two winning teams that day were double-digit seeds: 12th-seeded Western Kentucky won on a buzzer-beater in overtime. And then, 12th-seeded Villanova staged a comeback from an 18-point deficit to upset Clemson.
The first time a 13 seed defeated a four seed was also memorable. In 1985, the inaugural year of the expanded tournament, future NBA star David Robinson led his Navy Midshipmen to a dominant 23-point victory over No. 4 seed LSU, which still stands as the largest margin of victory for any 13 seed.

Year Result Score
1985 Navy def. LSU 78-55
1987 Missouri State def. Clemson 65-60
1987 Xavier def. Missouri 70-69
1988 Richmond def. Indiana 72-69
1989 Middle Tennessee def. Florida State 97-83
1991 Penn State def. UCLA 74-69
1992 Southwestern Louisiana def. Oklahoma 87-83
1993 Southern def. Georgia Tech 93-78
1995 Manhattan def. Oklahoma 77-67
1996 Princeton def. UCLA 43-41
1998 Valparaiso def. Ole Miss 70-69
1999 Oklahoma def. Arizona 61-60
2001 Indiana State def. Oklahoma 70-68
2001 Kent State def. Indiana 77-73
2002 UNC Wilmington def. USC 93-89
2003 Tulsa def. Dayton 84-71
2005 Vermont def. Syracuse 60-57
2006 Bradley def. Kansas 77-73
2008 Siena def. Vanderbilt 83-62
2008 San Diego def. UConn 70-69
2009 Cleveland State def. Wake Forest 84-69
2010 Murray State def. Vanderbilt 66-65
2011 Morehead State def. Louisville 62-61
2012 Ohio def. Michigan 65-60
2013 La Salle def. Kansas State 63-61
2016 Hawaii def. California 77-66
2018 Buffalo def. Arizona 89-69
2018 Marshall def. Wichita State 81-75
2019 UC Irvine def. Kansas State 70-64
2021 North Texas def. Purdue 78-69 (OT)
2021 Ohio def. Virginia 62-58

Some Memorable No. 13 Over No. 4 Upsets

No. 13 Valparaiso 70, No. 4 Ole Miss 69 – March 18, 1988

Who could forget Bryce Drew’s incredible buzzer-beater that propelled Valpo past Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament opener? Widely considered one of the most beautifully orchestrated buzzer-beaters in tournament history, the shot helped the Crusaders advance to the second round, where they defeated the 12th-seeded Florida State to reach the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, their run ended there with a loss to Rhode Island. Nevertheless, Drew’s unforgettable shot remains a cherished moment in NCAA Tournament lore. Bryce Drew is currently the coach at Grand Canyon, a 14 seed this year that is taking on Gonzaga in the first round.

No. 13 Richmond 72, No. 4 Indiana 69 – March 13, 1988

In 1991, coached by Dick Tarrant, the Spiders became the first No. 15 seed to win a game in the tournament, stunning 2-seed Syracuse. But this wasn’t the first time Tarrant had orchestrated an upset; in 1988, the Spiders knocked off defending national champions Indiana in the opening round, then upset fifth-seeded Georgia Tech in the second round. This was just the fourth 13-seed to knock off a four-seed. Richmond’s historic run ended in the Sweet 16, as top-seeded Temple handed them a 22-point defeat. Despite the loss, Tarrant and the Spiders had etched their names in NCAA Tournament history.