The NCAAB Championship produces single game upsets every year but underdogs going all the way and taking the title are rare occurrences.
As there are four groups of 1-16 seeds, rather than 1-64, the championship is usually won by a team with a top three ranking and Kansas Jayhawks’ success in 2022 means that each of the last five national championships have been won by a 1-seed.
Quality usually prevails in the NCAAB Championship
Underdogs may be able to take out a big name along the way, but a team has to win at least six games in a row to win the championship so generally the teams who have posted the best regular season records are the ones who come through.
A team with a lower seed may well have had to win a conference tournament first just to secure a spot at the Big Dance, and the lowest ranked teams involved contest the First Four.
The stats reflect this as since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 a 1-seed team has won 24 of the 37 titles available, while nine of the other winners have been second or third seeds.
1. Villanova 8-seed, 1985
The lowest seeds to win the tournament are Villanova, who completed one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport by seeing off the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas 66-64 in the championship game back in 1985.
The Wildcats had made a positive start to the season, losing just three of their first 16 games, but they limped over the finish line going 5-5 over their last 10 games and then lost in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, meaning they entered the tournament with the Southeast regional bracket's eighth seed.
What followed is one of the greatest Cinderella story in basketball history as Villanova took out Dayton, the region’s 1-seed Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina and Memphis State to set up the showdown with the Hoyas, who were the defending champions and were the top seeds in the Eastern bracket.
Two years earlier NC State had won the tournament as 6-seeds when the event involved 52 teams in what was a huge shock, but Villanova’s success in the first year the event was held as a 64-team event - in the last college basketball game played without a shot clock - eclipsed that.
NCAAB Championship: Previous Winners Year By Year
Best conference tournament team runs of all time
Best conference tournament player runs of all time
2. Connecticut 7-seed, 2014
Connecticut had pulled off a major upset to win the NCAAB Championship in 2011 as the 3-seeds and three years later they were back in the championship game, this time as the 7-seeds.
The Huskies claimed the title by seeing off 8-seeds Kentucky in the championship game, meaning that it was the first ever tournament final not to include at least one 1, 2, or 3 seed and just the third not to include a 1 or 2 seed.
Both teams had produced upsets in the Final Four as Uconn had seen off South Regional 1-seeds Florida and Kentucky had overcome West Regional second seeds Wisconsin and it was the Huskies who came through with a famous 60-54 win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
3. Kansas 6-seed, 1988
Only one top seed from the first five years of the 64-team format secured the title, Indiana in 1987, and in 1988 Kansas Jayhawks went all the way as the 6-seeds.
The Jayhawks fell at the semifinal stage of the Big 8 Tournament to Kansas State, but then took their revenge in the Elite Eight before seeing off Duke to reach the championship game, where they overcame Oklahoma 83-79.
4. Arizona 4-seed, 1997
Arizona emerged triumphant in 1997 as 4-seeds before a 16-year run where the winner was either a 1,2 or 3 seed – before Uconn’s 2014 success.
The Wildcats stunned Southeast regional top seeds Kansas in the Sweet 16 and they were the only team who were not a 1-seed in the Final Four that year.
Arizona claimed an eight-point win over North Carolina to secure a place in the championship game, where they overcame Kentucky Wildcats 84-79 to become national champions.