By at least one measure, this is the most chaotic Sweet 16 field to date.
The seed numbers of the 16 remaining teams in Indianapolis add up to 94, the highest total since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expanded in 1985. The previous record of 89 was set in 1986.
This year’s regional semifinals include 15th-seeded Oral Roberts University, 12th-seeded Oregon State, 11th-seeded Syracuse, 11th-seeded UCLA and eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago.
Three No. 1 seeds did make it through—Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor. It’s the sixth straight Sweet 16 appearance for Gonzaga and the fourth for Michigan, the nation’s longest two active streaks.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few could appreciate how difficult it was to emerge from these first two rounds unscathed.
“There are a lot of good teams out there,” Few said. “When you play them on the biggest stage, and it’s just one game, it’s not a seven-game series, anything can happen. And there are a lot of great coaches out there. You give them enough time to game plan for stuff like this, they’re going to take away your strengths.”
1986 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 89)
In just the second year of the expanded 64-team tournament, the Sweet 16 included eighth-seeded Auburn, 11th-seeded LSU, 12th-seeded DePaul and 14th-seeded Cleveland State. LSU became the first 11 seed to reach the Final Four.
Seventh-seeded Navy, led by David Robinson, made it all the way to the regional finals.
1990 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 88)
Three double-digit seeds made this Sweet 16: 10th-seeded Texas, 11th-seeded Loyola Marymount and 12th-seeded Ball State. Loyola made it to the Elite Eight in the aftermath of star Hank Gathers’ death. The Lions scored a tournament-record 149 points in a second-round win over defending champion Michigan. They also allowed 131—the second-highest total in tournament history—against UNLV in the regional final.
1999 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 88)
A record five double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16 in this tournament, although only 10th-seeded Gonzaga went any further, losing in the regional final. The other four were 10th-seeded Purdue, 10th-seeded Miami, Ohio. 12th-seeded Missouri State and 13th-seeded Oklahoma.
2000 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 85)
Two 8 seeds reached the Final Four in 2000: North Carolina and Wisconsin. Gonzaga made the Sweet 16 again as a 10, and 10th-seeded Seton Hall was there, as well. Only two No. 1s and one No. 2 made it past the first weekend.
2018 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 85)
Top-seeded Virginia was eliminated by 16th-seeded UMBC, which then lost to ninth-seeded Kansas State with a Sweet 16 spot on the line. Another No. 1 seed went out when Xavier lost to Florida State in the second round. Loyola Chicago went to the Final Four as an 11 seed, and Syracuse also made the Sweet 16 as an 11.
2013 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 81)
This was the year Florida Gulf Coast became the first 15 seed to reach the regional semifinals. Joining FGCU were 12th-seeded Oregon and 13th-seeded La Salle—and ninth-seeded Wichita State made the Final Four.
2010 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 80)
The Ivy League made it to the Sweet 16 in this tournament with 12th-seeded Cornell, and ninth-seeded Northern Iowa got there too with a memorable upset of Kansas. Saint Mary’s made it as a 10 and Washington as an 11.
2011 (Sum of Sweet 16 seeds: 80)
There were four double-digit seeds in this Sweet 16, including 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth, which ended up in the Final Four. VCU lost in the national semifinal to eighth-seeded Butler. The regional semifinals also included 10th-seeded Florida State, 11th-seeded Marquette and 12th-seeded Richmond.