The Enigma of a No. 1 Seed: Why a No. 16 Seed Just Can't Win

John MartinCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2009

(The preceding picture has no religious insinuation; its purpose is to only put the main point of my article into perspective.)

The brainchild of Phog Allen—the NCAA tournament—has been around for exactly 70 years. Anything and everything you can imagine has taken place during those 70 tournaments; save for one thing.

During the Pitt-ETSU contest today, CBS flashed a glaring statistic; since its 1939 inception, never in the NCAA tournament has a No. 16 seed knocked off a No. 1 seed.


No. 1 seeds are now 99-0 against No. 16 seeds. Presuming that Louisville takes care of business tonight, that would make No. 1 seeds 100-0 all-time against No. 16s.

As it stands at this very moment, 99-0! 99-0! The gaudier this record gets, the more and more intimidated No. 16-seeded teams are going to be. I'm beginning to believe that we may never see this monumental upset take place.

... or will we?

Today, ETSU played with inspiration, confidence, and willpower. They were with Pittsburgh the whole game, and the game was much closer than the score indicates. Without DeJuan Blair, the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers would have made history.

Problem is, Pitt wasn't without Blair. He wore his man britches.

CBS also displayed a statistic dealing with close calls in No. 16 versus No. 1 matchups. I believe there were only four, with the most recent being in 1996. The Western Carolina University Catamounts were held off by a measly two points by the Purdue Boilermakers.

Times have indeed changed since then. The aristocrats of the college basketball world are perpetually flexing their recruiting muscles. The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer.

The North Carolinas, the Kentuckys, the Dukes, and recently the Memphises of the world are nabbing top-notch talent and leaving the rest of the college basketball world with scraps.

Today, Pittsburgh was very fortunate to have advanced. They played sloppily, they looked out-of-sync, and excessively turned the ball over. But guess what? They were one player better than ETSU.

And the consensus is that's the way it's going to be forever. The No. 1 seeds are just one McDonald's All-American better.

And for the most part, this is the mentality of a No. 16 seed. In most situations, they limp into the game believing they have no virtual shot. In most situations, they glance over to the other side of the court during pregame warmups, see the jerseys and panic.

In almost all situations, they are outmanned and fed to the dogs of war.

Which begs the question:

Will a No. 16 seed ever, in our lifetime, our children's lifetime, or our great-great-great grandchildren's lifetime, ever defeat a No. 1 seed?

Who really knows?

But until the blue-bloods of the college basketball world desist from their overbearing tyranny, the subordinate squads of the tournament will bear the stigma of cowardice and always come up just a little bit short.