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Syracuse men’s basketball: How double-digit seeds have fared in the Sweet 16 (and beyond)

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Not that past results indicate future returns, but... what sort of luck have double-digit seeds had getting his far?

Syracuse v West Virginia Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

As Syracuse.com pointed out this week, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program has already established itself as the most formidable double-digit seed ever — a staggering 9-2 in two completed tries, plus the third we’re currently in the middle of.

So while we know that history, obviously double-digit seeds getting this far is not all that common for other programs. With Syracuse trying to pull off yet another upset in order to get to the Elite 8, it seemed worthwhile to look at what other double-digit seeds have done in the Sweet 16 (and beyond) since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.

Of note, 74 double-digit seeds had reached the Sweet 16 prior to this year, with at least one making it in every NCAA Tournament except for 1995 and 2007. With an abundance of upsets in this year’s bracket, we’re now up to 78 double-digit seeds making it to the regional semifinal round.

Syracuse v Virginia Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

10-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 23 (8 wins, 15 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: 1-7
  • Final Four W-L: 0-1

You already know who the most successful 10-seed ever is. The 2016 Syracuse squad kicked off the original Apology Tour (tm) after surprising everyone by being included in the field to begin with, then having some upset luck land in their favor prior to a monumental comeback over Virginia in the Elite 8 to get to the Final Four.

Though 10-seeds have made the Sweet 16 more than any other double-digit seed (makes sense), they’ve clearly had minimal success once there. Just three of those Sweet 16 wins by 10-seeds have come in the last 20 years, and only one (Syracuse’s) came in the last decade. The Orange are also the only program with more than one win in the Sweet 16 or later as a 10-seed. Gonzaga and Texas are the only schools to make it to the Sweet 16 twice as 10-seeds.

11-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 21 (8 wins, 13 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: 4-4
  • Final Four W-L: 0-4

This would be the seed you’re most interested in this year, since Syracuse is an 11 in the Midwest region. Until SU made the 2016 Final Four as a 10, this was the only double-digit seed that had produced a Final Four team before. LSU was the first back in 1986, then it took 20 years for another, when George Mason pulled it off in 2006. VCU did it again in 2011, and Loyola-Chicago was the most recent in 2018.

The last decade’s been a pretty successful one for 11-seeds, as 11 of them (including SU and UCLA this year) have made it to the Sweet 16 — including two Final Four trips so far. Washington is the only program to make it to the Sweet 16 twice as an 11-seed (losing immediately in both instances). To-date, Temple is the only program to win Sweet 16 games as both a 10- and an 11-seed. The Orange would join that list with an upset over Houston.

12-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 21 (1 wins, 20 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: 0-1
  • Final Four W-L: N/A

While 12-seeds get a lot of upset buzz in the first round — and actually get to the Sweet 16 just as much as 11-seeds do — they don’t do much with Sweet 16 appearances, as you can see above. The only 12 to make it to the Elite 8 was Missouri in 2002, and just three 12-seeds made it to the Sweet 16 since 2011 (Richmond in 2011, Oregon in 2013 and 2019) before this year’s appearance by Oregon State.

Interestingly, two teams seeded 12th made the Sweet 16 in the first expanded tournament back in 1985, when Kentucky and DePaul did it (there were actually two 11-seeds in the Sweet 16 that year as well). Though we usually think of a 12-seed as a plucky mid-major conference champ, the Sweet 16 participants from this seed line have been pretty evenly split between Power Five-ish squads and mid-majors. Oregon’s the only program to get here as a 12 twice, in both 2013 and 2019 (the two most recent occurrences before this year).

13-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 6 (0 wins, 6 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: N/A
  • Final Four W-L: N/A

Obviously not that common, with good reason. We’ve only seen it happen twice in the last decade, with Ohio in 2012 and LaSalle in 2013. Oklahoma (in 1999) is the only power conference team on the list.

14-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 2 (0 wins, 2 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: N/A
  • Final Four W-L: N/A

At this point, it would be more surprising to see this happen than a 15-seed making it to the Sweet 16, given how recent tournaments have unfolded. No 14-seed has made it this far since Chattanooga did it back in 1997, and the only other was Cleveland State in 1986. Not sure what it is that’s prevented a 14 from making it through since... especially given the upsets even further down the bracket.

15-seeds

  • Sweet 16 trips: 1 (0 wins, 1 losses)
  • Elite 8 W-L: N/A
  • Final Four W-L: N/A

Oral Roberts joined this list in 2021, so it’s now drawn even with the 14-seeds in terms of Sweet 16 trips. But the initial 15 to make it this far — Florida Gulf Coast — will always be the best one in our hearts after what they did to Georgetown in 2013.

16-seeds

N/A

***

Certainly not what anyone would call a “great” record there for double-digit seeds, with just 17 Sweet 16 wins in 74 tries so far, and only another five more in the Elite 8. The fact that this tournament’s been incredibly weird, however, should potentially bring some hope for supporters of every double-digit seed. The fact that Syracuse has already pulled off not only making it this far but recently going to the Final Four as a double-digit seed is a fact that only comforts Orange fans... which is fine, too.