Will Gonzaga Go Down as the Worst No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament History?

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Will Gonzaga Go Down as the Worst No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament History?

This was supposed to be the year that Gonzaga finally made it to the Final Four.

The Bulldogs entered this year’s March Madness as a No. 1 seed and were placed in what arguably is the easiest of the four regions.

Rather than being the chasing challengers, the Zags were now the chased.

Gonzaga’s storybook season and tournament run came to a screeching halt Saturday as it was upset by No. 9 seed Wichita State.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
This distressing defeat came after a surprisingly close call in the Zags' opening-round game against No. 16 seed Southern University.

In terms of this near catastrophe against the SWAC tourney champs, ESPN Stats and Information provided the following perspective:

Gonzaga's 6-point win over Southern is tied for the 6th-closest margin of victory in a 1 vs 16 game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Southern's 6-point loss is the closest by a 16-seed against a 1-seed since 1996, when Western Carolina lost by 2 against Purdue. Southern is only the 5th 16-seed in the last 20 years to come within single digits of a 1-seed.

Even the most devoted Bulldog fan has to be at least puzzled—if not fuming—over the Zags’ disappointing postseason performance.

In thinking about the implications of this underachievement, should we at least consider whether Gonzaga should go down as the worst No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament history?

Harry How/Getty Images
Too harsh? Too over the top? Maybe not.

The NCAA began seeding teams in 1979. From 1979 to 1984, the No. 1 seeds had first-round byes.

Everyone knows that no No. 1-seeded team has never lost to a 16-seeded team.

Gonzaga didn’t make history in that embarrassing way.

But six previous No. 1’s have lost to No. 9’s (like Gonzaga did) in the second round:

  • 1979—UNC lost to Penn, 72-71
  • 1981—DePaul lost to St. Joseph’s, 49-48
  • 1992—Kansas lost to UTEP, 66-60
  • 1994—UNC lost to Boston College, 75-72
  • 2004—Kentucky lost to UAB, 76-75
  • 2010—Kansas lost to Northern Iowa, 69-67

There is no way to absolutely determine if the Zags pulled off the poorest performance of a No. 1. 

However, the figures surely point to this being a total fail for a team that had a nice path carved out to the 2013 Final Four, only to come up sadly short of Atlanta.

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