Kentucky hope? Five No. 8 seeds have made it to Final Four

broberts@herald-leader.comMarch 16, 2014 

  • There's a chance

    Ten teams seeded No. 8 or lower have advanced to the Final Four since the seeding process began in 1979.

    Year Team Seed How it fared

    2013 Wichita State 9 Lost in semifinals

    2011 Butler 8 Lost in title game

    2011 VCU 11 Lost in semifinals

    2006 George Mason 11 Lost in semifinals

    2000 North Carolina 8 Lost in semifinals

    2000 Wisconsin 8 Lost in semifinals

    1986 LSU 11 Lost in semifinals

    1985 Villanova 8 Won national title

    1980 UCLA 8 Lost in title game

    1979 Penn 9 Lost in semifinals

A look at the fate of No. 8 seeds in the NCAA Tournament doesn't give the Kentucky Wildcats much reason for optimism.

That recent history is littered with first- and second-round exits, and only one No. 8 seed in the past 10 years has advanced to the tournament's second week.

But there are bright spots to be found. Five teams that entered the tournament as a No. 8 made it to the Final Four. One even played its way to a national title.

Here's a look at what the most successful eight seeds have done over the past 20 tournaments, and beyond:

2013: Colorado State and North Carolina defeated their ninth-seeded opponents before falling in the round of 32. The Rams lost by 26 points to eventual national champion Louisville in front of a Rupp Arena crowd decked out in Cardinal Red.

Others: N.C. State and Pittsburgh (lost in round of 64).

2012: Iowa State, Kansas State and Creighton all won their openers before losing in the round of 32. The Cyclones dropped an 87-71 decision to eventual national champion Kentucky.

Other: Memphis (lost in round of 64).

2011: Butler returned to the national title game and lost there for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs — led by Lexington native Shelvin Mack — beat Old Dominion, top-seeded Pittsburgh, No. 4 seed Wisconsin and No. 2 seed Florida to get to the Final Four. There, they defeated 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth before losing to Kemba Walker and UConn in the national title game. Butler is the only No. 8 seed in the past 10 years to make it past the round of 32.

Others: Michigan and George Mason (lost in round of 32); UNLV (lost in round of 64).

2010: California and Gonzaga won their tournament openers — the Bears beat Louisville — before losing to No. 1 seeds in the round of 32.

Others: UNLV and Texas (lost in round of 64).

2009: LSU and Oklahoma State defeated their No. 9 seeds, but both lost in the round of 32. The Tigers fell to No. 1 North Carolina, which won every game by double digits en route to a national championship.

Others: Ohio State and BYU (lost in round of 64).

2008: Mississippi State and UNLV won their openers and fell in the round of 32. The Bulldogs lost to John Calipari's top-seeded Memphis Tigers, who ended up losing the national championship game in overtime.

Others: Indiana and BYU (lost in round of 64).

2007: Kentucky was the only No. 8 seed to make it to the round of 32, and that's where the Wildcats' season ended. UK defeated No. 9 seed Villanova in its opener before an 88-76 loss to No. 1 seed Kansas in what turned out to be Tubby Smith's final game as the Cats' head coach.

Others: Marquette, BYU and Arizona (lost in round of 64).

2006: Kentucky, Arizona and George Washington all advanced to the round of 32, and all three teams lost there. UK beat UAB in the opener, then fell to tournament favorite UConn in the second round.

Other: Arkansas (lost in round of 64).

2005: Pacific was the lone No. 8 seed to get a victory, defeating Pittsburgh before an 18-point loss to top-seeded Washington in the round of 32.

Others: Texas, Minnesota and Stanford (lost in round of 64).

2004: Alabama made it all the way to the Elite Eight. The Crimson Tide defeated Southern Illinois, upset No. 1 Stanford and then fifth-seeded Syracuse, the defending national champs. Bama's run ended with an 87-71 loss to eventual national champion UConn.

Others: Texas Tech and Seton Hall (lost in round of 32); Washington (lost in round of 64).

2003: California defeated N.C. State in overtime before losing to top-seeded Oklahoma. The Bears were the only No. 8 seed to get a win in this tournament.

Others: Oregon, Cincinnati and LSU (lost in round of 64).

2002: Every No. 8 seed won its opener, and UCLA made it to the Sweet 16 with a double-overtime upset of top-seeded Cincinnati. The Bruins lost their next game, 82-73, to No. 12 seed Missouri.

Others: Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Stanford (lost in round of 32).

2001: The No. 8 seeds accounted for zero tournament victories. Tennessee, California, Georgia and Georgia Tech all lost in the first round.

2000: The year of the eight seed — Wisconsin and North Carolina both advanced all the way to the Final Four. The Badgers knocked off top-seeded Arizona and eventually lost to Big Ten rival Michigan State, which won the national title. The Tar Heels defeated top-seeded Stanford before ultimately falling to Florida in the national semifinals. This is the only tournament that saw two No. 8 seeds make it to the Final Four.

Others: Utah and Kansas (lost in round of 32).

1999: Zero No. 8 seeds won a game. Charleston, Syracuse, Villanova and Missouri all lost in the round of 64.

1998: Rhode Island — coached by Jim Harrick — made it all the way to the Elite Eight. The Rams beat Murray State, top-seeded Kansas and No. 13 seed Valparaiso before losing by two points to No. 3 seed Stanford.

Others: Charlotte and Oklahoma State (lost in round of 32); Tennessee (lost in round of 64).

1997: Purdue and Iowa won their openers and then lost in the round of 32. The Hawkeyes fell, 75-69, to top-seeded Kentucky, which ended up losing to Arizona in the national title game.

Others: Mississippi and Indiana (lost in round of 64).

1996: Georgia was the only No. 8 seed to advance, but they put together a magical run behind Coach Tubby Smith. The Bulldogs beat Clemson and top-seeded Purdue to make the Sweet 16. There, they led Syracuse by nine points with less than 3 minutes remaining in regulation before losing to the Orange in overtime.

Others: Duke, Bradley and Wisconsin-Green Bay (lost in round of 64).

1995: Western Kentucky and Missouri both won one game before falling in the round of 32. The Toppers lost to top-seeded Kansas.

Others: Minnesota and BYU (lost in round of 64).

1994: Cincinnati, Illinois, Washington State and Providence all lost in the round of 64.

In 1985, Rollie Massimino's Villanova Wildcats entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed and went home to Philadelphia as the national champions.

It was the first year of the 64-team tournament, and Villanova defeated Dayton, top-seeded Michigan, No. 5 seed Maryland and No. 2 seed North Carolina to make the Final Four in Rupp Arena.

In Lexington, the Wildcats beat Memphis and then upset Patrick Ewing and Georgetown to become the first — and only — No. 8 seed to win it all.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service