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March Madness Cinderellas: What is the lowest seed to win the NCAA tournament title?

Take heart, possible Cinderella stories and bracket destroyers.

The odds don’t favor you beyond the first weekend, but history offers you a lodestar, a small ray of hope that anything is possible. On April Fool’s Day 1985, eighth-seeded Villanova became, and remains, the lowest seed to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship, when they defeated first-seeded Georgetown 66-64.

The Wildcats reached the final without reaching 60 points in any of their previous five tournament games, which included losses of a No. 1 seed (Michigan), two No. 2 (North Carolina and Memphis) and a No. 5 (Md.). As it turned out, their closest decision was a two-point victory over ninth-seeded Dayton in the first round.

The victory over the then-dominant Hoyas squad led by Patrick Ewing has been described as the perfect game, although it should be noted that Villanova turned the ball over 17 times. Taking advantage of college basketball’s senior year with no shot clock, the Wildcats attempted just 28 field goals, knocking down 22 of them. Cinderella did not originate with the Wildcats, but no show has inspired further references to the term.

In the 36-season history of the 64-team men’s tournament, 23 top seeds have won the title, followed by five No. 2 seeds and four No. 3 seeds. In addition to the Wildcats’ championship, the other tournaments have been won by a No. 4 (Arizona in 1997), a No. 6 (Kansas, 1988) and a No. 7 (Connecticut, 2014). No five seed has won it all.

The lowest seed to reach the NCAA men’s final in the 64-team tournament era? Four No. 8 seeds: the Wildcats in ’85, Butler in 2011, Kentucky in 2014 and North Carolina in 2022.