15 seeds to beat 2

History of 15 seeds that have upset 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament since 1985

It’s happened eight times in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.

A 15 seed upsetting a 2 seed is rare, but when it happens, it upsets more than just a basketball team and its fan base. It usually puts a quick end to many brackets.

Just ask those who had Michigan St. going deep in the 2016 tourney. The Spartans, a favorite to win the title, fell to No. 15 Middle Tennessee.

Since 1985, the average margin of victory in 2 vs 15 matchups has been just over 17 points per game, and that includes the eight times a 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed. The games aren’t typically competitive, but the little guys come in knowing they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Such was the case for these Davids, who defied the odds and took down their Goliaths.

2016 – Middle Tennessee State shocks Michigan St., 90-81

And, this is why they call it madness. Middle Tennessee St. of Conference USA was dancing for just the second time in 25 years and quickly gave notice they weren’t leaving after 40 minutes of regulation. The Blue Raiders jumped out to a six-point halftime lead over the Spartans and never looked back. They destroyed the brackets of many who picked MSU to win it all.

MTSU ran out of gas in the Second Round and fell to Syracuse, 75-50.

2013 – Florida Gulf Coast beats Georgetown, 78-68

In just its second year of being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, the high-flying Eagles scored the most recent upset of a 2 seed. They used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas.

FGCU beat San Diego State, which knocked out Oklahoma in its opening game, in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

2012 – Norfolk St. stuns Missouri, 86-84

The Spartans were in the tourney for the first time, and did they ever make an impression, as they knocked off the Big 12 champs in Omaha. It was the first 15 seed over a 2 seed in 11 years, but it wouldn’t take that long for the next 15 seed to hold their heads up high in victory.

Norfolk St. fell to Florida in round 2. For the record, the head coach of the Missouri Tigers was current Tulsa Golden Hurricane head coach Frank Haith.

2012 – Lehigh takes down Duke, 75-70

Riding an eight-game winning streak, and using Norfolk State’s upset as inspiration, Lehigh knocked off prohibitive tournament favorite Duke in North Carolina. It was the first time two 15 seeds won in the same NCAA tournament.

Lehigh fell to Xavier in the second round.

2001 – Hampton dances over Iowa St., 58-57

The Pirates traveled cross-country from Virginia to Boise, Idaho to face Iowa St. and its future first-round NBA picks Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley. That didn’t faze Hampton in their first NCAA Tournament. They hung tough with the Cyclones and knocked off the Big 12 regular season champs.

The Pirates’ Cinderella run would end with a second-round loss to Georgetown.

1997 – Coppin St. crushes South Carolina, 78-65

It’s hard to believe looking at the score that Coppin St. was a 30-point underdog. So much for the oddsmakers, huh?

The victory wasn’t just the Eagles’ first NCAA win, it was also the first victory for its conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coppin St. nearly pulled off another upset in the second round but eventually fell to Texas, 82-81.

1993 – Santa Clara surprises Arizona, 64-61

Future NBA all-star Steve Nash scored 10 points for Santa Clara as the Broncos became just the second 15 seed to advance to the second round. Arizona built a 13-point second half lead, but the West Coast Conference champions fought back to send the Wildcats home after the first round for the second year in a row.

Santa Clara dropped its next game to Temple, 68-57.

1991 – Richmond snares Syracuse, 73-69

Richmond had tasted NCAA Tournament success as a 12 seed in 1984 when it upset 5 seed Auburn. And they did it again in 1988 when, as a 13 seed, the Spiders made a run to the Sweet Sixteen.

They made history in ’91 when they dropped high-powered Syracuse in the first round to become the first victorious 15 seed. They fell to Temple in the second round, 77-64.

Now, after reading all that, which of these 2 seeds do you think is most vulnerable this season?

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A 15 seed upsetting a 2 seed is rare, but when it happens, it upsets more than just a basketball team and its fan base. It usually puts a quick end to many brackets.

History of 2 seed vs. 15 seed in March Madness

We haven’t seen a 15 seed upset a 2 seed in March Madness since Middle Tennessee shocked Denzel Valentine, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans in 2016. But it’s happened enough since the NCAA tournament field expanded in 1985 to be on notice every year.

Here’s everything you need to know about 15 seeds vs. 2 seeds in March Madness.

History of 15 vs. 2 seeds in March Madness

Eight 15 seeds have upset 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, which means 15 seeds have an 8-132 all-time record against 2s, a 5.71 win percentage.

Here are all of the times it’s ever happened.

15-2 upsets

Year Result Score
1991 Richmond def. Syracuse 73-69
1993 Santa Clara def. Arizona 64-61
1997 Coppin State def. South Carolina 78-65
2001 Hampton def. Iowa State 58-57
2012 Lehigh def. Duke 75-70
2012 Norfolk State def. Missouri 86-84
2013 Florida Gulf Coast def. Georgetown 78-68
2016 Middle Tennessee def. Michigan State 90-81

A few more tidbits:

  • Roughly 25 percent of the matchups have been decided by single digits, almost double the amount of No. 16 seeds.
  • Louisiana Monroe and Belmont own the most No. 15 seed appearances, as both the Warhawks and the Bruins have four berths at that slot in the 35 years of the expanded tournament.
  • Only one No. 15 seed has advanced past the second round, when Florida Gulf Coast made it to the Sweet 16 in 2013.

The most noteworthy times a 15 almost beat a 2

Winthrop vs. Tennessee, 2006

Winthrop, a 15-seed, nearly shocked No. 2 Tennessee in 2006. But then, Chris Lofton happened:

Lofton was only 5-of-14 for the game, but he hit the shot that mattered most. Gregg Marshall, now the coach at Wichita State, was the head man at Winthrop at the time.

Belmont vs. Duke, 2008

Belmont led Duke by one with two minutes to play, but the Blue Devils ultimately pulled out the win, 71-70. Gerald Henderson scored 21 points to lead Duke.

Robert Morris vs. Villanova, 2010

It took overtime for Villanova to defeat Robert Morris in 2010. The Wildcats prevailed by a score of 73-70:

Robert Morris led Villanova by six at halftime and held the Wildcats to 22 points in the opening 20 minutes. But Scottie Reynolds put ‘Nova on his back, scoring 20 in the game.

How much more likely is a 15-2 upset than a 16-1 upset?

Eight times more likely. A 16 seed has only beat a 1 seed once, in 2018 when UMBC upset Virginia.

How much more likely is a 14-3 upset than a 15-2 upset?

A 14 seed has upset a 3 seed 21 times, which equates to 15 percent. That’s nearly three times more likely than a 15-2 upset.

Here are all of the times it’s happened.

14 vs. 3 March Madness upsets

Year Result Score
1986 Cleveland State def. Indiana 83-79
1986 Arkansas Little-Rock def. Notre Dame 90-83
1987 Austin Peay def. Illinois 68-67
1988 Murray State def. NC State 78-75
1989 Siena def. Stanford 80-78
1990 Northern Iowa def. Missouri 74-71
1991 Xavier def. Nebraska 89-84
1992 ETSU def. Arizona 87-80
1995 Old Dominion def. Villanova 89-81
1995 Weber State def. Michigan State 79-72
1997 Chattanooga def. Georgia 73-70
1998 Richmond def. South Carolina 62-61
1999 Weber State def. North Carolina 76-74
2005 Bucknell def. Kansas 64-63
2006 Northwestern State def. Iowa 64-63
2010 Ohio def. Georgetown 97-83
2013 Harvard def. New Mexico 68-62
2014 Mercer def. Duke 78-71
2015 UAB def. Iowa State 60-59
2015 Georgia State def. Baylor 57-56
2016 Stephen F. Austin def. West Virginia 70-56

Joe Boozell has been a college basketball writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Joe’s claim to fame since joining he’s predicted the correct national championship game twice… and picked the wrong winner both times. Growing up, Joe squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene. You can imagine how that went.

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The 15-2 March Madness upset is rare, but it happens enough that we shouldn't be shocked when it does. Here's the history of 15-seeds vs. 2-seeds in the NCAA tournament.