It had never happened before, but that didn’t stop Syracuse. In 2016, the Orange became the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, with its 68-62 victory against No. 1 seed Virginia. Syracuse fell to eventual national runner-up North Carolina, 83-66, in the Final Four, but history had already been made.
The Orange’s magical run added to what is an impressive resume for No. 10 seeds. Twenty-three teams seeded 10th have reached the Sweet 16 and eight of those teams have advanced to the Elite Eight.
LSU began the No. 10 seed hot streak in 1987, when the Tigers made a run through the Midwest bracket. LSU lost by only one point to top-seeded Indiana in the Elite Eight.
Here's how those eight No. 10 seeds have performed in the Elite Eight over the years:
|1987||No. 1 Indiana||No. 10 LSU||77-76|
|1990||No. 4 Arkansas||No. 10 Texas||88-85|
|1991||No. 1 North Carolina||No. 10 Temple||75-72|
|1997||No. 4 Arizona||No. 10 Providence||96-92|
|1999||No. 1 UConn||No. 10 Gonzaga||67-62|
|2002||No. 5 Indiana||No. 10 Kent State||81-69|
|2008||No. 1 Kansas||No. 10 Davidson||59-57|
|2016||No. 10 Syracuse||No. 1 Virginia||68-62|
The run that Steph Curry's Davidson Wildcats made in 2008 started with a six-point win against No. 7 seed Gonzaga and developed into one of the best Cinderella stories in college basketball history. On March 21, 2008, Curry scored 40 points in the 82-76 win against the Bulldogs and the Wildcats rode his hot hand until they lost against No. 1 seed Kansas by two.
No. 10 seeds are 57-86 against No. 7 seeds to date in the NCAA tournament, including a 2-1 mark in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, while the game between No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 10 seed VCU was declared a no-contest. No. 10 seeds are 11-15 in games decided by three points or less. While 10-versus-7 upsets aren't unusual, blowouts are. West Virginia had the widest margin of victory for a No. 10 seed when it beat Temple, 82-52, in 1998. West Virginia used that momentum to beat No. 2 seeed Cincinnati in the second round on a banked-in, game-winning shot before it lost against Utah by three points in the Sweet 16.
In 2021, two of the three No. 10 seeds that played in the first round advanced to the second round, with both coming from the Big Ten in Maryland and Rutgers. Each won by single digits in the first round, by nine points against UConn and four against Clemson, respectively. The Scarlet Knights came just shy of advancing to the Sweet 16, as they held a 58-53 lead over No. 2 seed Houston with less than three minutes left but the Cougars rallied as part of a 14-2 run to win 63-60.
*Note: All data is from the 1985 NCAA Tournament to the present.