Every year, when filling out a bracket, it always looks so enticing — picking a 1 seed to win the national championship. But is it a smart decision? How do 1 seeds do in the NCAA tournament? 

That’s where this handy guide to everything you want to know about a March Madness 1 seed comes in.

RELATED: The history of March Madness

Let’s start at the basics.

What are seeds?

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is made up of 68 teams. On Selection Sunday, before any tournament game is played, those teams are ranked 1 through 68 by the Selection Committee, with the best team in college basketball — based on regular season and conference tournament performance — sitting at No. 1. Four of those teams are eliminated in the opening round of the tournament (known as the First Four), leaving us with a field of 64 for the first round.

Those 64 teams are split into four regions of 16 teams each, with each team being ranked 1 through 16. That ranking is the team’s seed. 

MORE: What is March Madness: The NCAA tournament explained

In order to reward better teams, first-round matchups are determined by pitting the top team in the region against the bottom team (No. 1 vs. No. 16). Then the next highest vs. the next lowest (No. 2 vs. No. 15), and so on. In theory, this means that the 1 seeds have the easiest opening matchup in the bracket.

How have 1 seeds performed in the NCAA tournament?

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 1 seeds have played 569 games. They have won 454 of those, for a ridiculous win percentage of 79.8. 

Their first-round performance is even more impressive, as 1 seeds are 135-1 against 16 seeds in the NCAA tournament. That lone loss of course came in 2018 when 16-seed UMBC beat 1-seed Virginia by 20 points in the biggest upset in March Madness history.

MORE: How many No. 1 seeds to pick to make the Final Four?

How have 1 seeds performed in the championship game?

Since 1985, there have been 34 national championship games, meaning 68 spots in a championship game have been available. Of those, 1 seeds have taken 32 of them (47 percent). In that span, there have only been eight championship games that did not feature a 1 seed at all:

1989 — 3-seed Michigan beats 3-seed Seton Hall
1991 — 2-seed Duke beats 3-seed Kansas
1998 — 2-seed Kentucky beats 3-seed Utah
2003 — 3-seed Syracuse beats 2-seed Kansas
2004 — 2-seed UConn beats 3-seed Georgia Tech
2006 — 3-seed Florida beats 2-seed UCLA
2011 — 3-seed UConn beats 8-seed Butler
2014 — 7-seed UConn beats 8-seed Kentucky

On the other side of the coin, seven national championships have pitted 1 seeds against 1 seeds:

1993 — UNC beats Michigan
1999 — UConn beats Duke
2005 — UNC beats Illinois
2007 — Florida beats Ohio State
2008 — Kansas beats Memphis
2015 — Duke beats Wisconsin
2017 — UNC beats Gonzaga

How many 1 seeds have won the NCAA tournament?

Of the 34 national champions since the tournament’s expansion in 1985, 20 of them have been 1 seeds:

  Champion Opponent Score
1987 1-seed Indiana 2-seed Syracuse 74-73
1992 1-seed Duke 6-seed Michigan 71-51
1993 1-seed UNC 1-seed Michigan 77-71
1994 1-seed Arkansas 2-seed Duke 76-72
1995 1-seed UCLA 2-seed Arkansas 89-78
1996 1-seed Kentucky 4-seed Syracuse 76-67
1999 1-seed UConn 1-seed Duke 77-74
2000 1-seed Michigan State 5-seed Florida 89-76
2001 1-seed Duke 2-seed Arizona 82-72
2002 1-seed Maryland 5-seed Indiana 64-52
2005 1-seed UNC 1-seed Illinois 75-70
2007 1-seed Florida 1-seed Ohio State 84-75
2008 1-seed Kansas 1-seed Memphis 75-68
2009 1-seed UNC 2-seed Michigan State 89-72
2010 1-seed Duke 5-seed Butler 61-59
2012 1-seed Kentucky 2-seed Kansas 67-59
2013 1-seed Louisville 4-seed Michigan 82-76
2015 1-seed Duke 1-seed Wisconsin 68-63
2017 1-seed UNC 1-seed Gonzaga 71-65
2018 1-seed Villanova 3-seed Michigan 79-62

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