Final Four 2022: Who’s the lowest seed to make an NCAA championship game? North Carolina joins the list

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North Carolina will make its 12th national championship appearance against the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday, but this one will be a little different.

The Tar Heels entered this tournament as the No. 8 seed in the East bracket in coach Hubert Davis’ inaugural season, but snatched five straight wins, including an 81-77 thriller against arch-rival Duke blood. With their NCAA Championship appearance, North Carolina will be tied for the lowest seed to make a Finals appearance, joining 1985 Villanova (who beat No. 1 Georgetown), 2011 Butler (who lost to the No. 3 Connecticut), and 2014 Kentucky (which lost to the No. 7 Connecticut).

Interestingly, three of the four teams that achieved the feat are considered blue blood programs, and two of the four made appearances in this year’s Final Four.

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Why was UNC an 8 seed?

Outcome-driven thinking will ask the question: what is this North Carolina and this eighth seed like? Just looking at the rankings doesn’t give us a clear answer. Duke was 16-4 in the ACC, while North Carolina was 15-5. The answer lies in the quadrants, especially in Quadrant 1. Duke was 9-2 against teams in Quad 1, with wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga. North Carolina was 6-8, with its biggest win against Duke.

UNC was 31st in NET entering the tournament and Duke was 12th, hence the disparity in their rankings. Range setting is a subjective process, and some teams are either better than the committee thinks or they get hot at the right time. It seems North Carolina is a combination of the two.

How did 8 seeds do in the national championship?

The No. 8 seeds are 1-2 in the national championship game, with No. 8 Villanova beating Georgetown powerhouse in 1985, No. 8 Butler losing to No. 3 Connecticut in 2011 and No. 8 Kentucky losing to No. 7 Connecticut (highest seeding sum in National Championship history) in 2014. North Carolina will attempt to tie the record, although its task is much closer to that that Villanova had to face: a program facing a No. 1 Goliath in Kansas.

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Villanova’s victory in 1985 was a 66-64 win, powered by a 17-point performance from Dwayne McClain and a 16-point showing from Ed Pinckney. Three Wildcats played 40 minutes that night, while Patrick Ewing was limited to 14 points. Villanova shot 9 for 10 from the field in the second half in the pre-shot clock era.

Butler easily had the roughest appearance of these teams, shooting 12 of 64 against 3-seeded Connecticut. Shelvin Mack led the Bulldogs with 13 points, while Alex Oriakhi, Jeremy Lamb and Kemba Walker led the Huskies to a 53-41 victory.

Kentucky’s performance was a 60-54 loss to Connecticut, with Shabazz Napier leading with 22 points. James Young scored 20 for Kentucky, but he and Julius Randle were the only players to finish the game in double figures (Randle had just 10 points).

North Carolina will look to place 8 seeds at 2-2. In a sense, for trend-hunters, history is oddly on the side of the Tar Heels. They’re playing a No. 1 seed and it’s not Connecticut, so that counts for something. The Jayhawks looked like a full team throughout the tournament, with Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack taking over. It will be up to Hubert Davis and his team to slow them down in order to break the No. 8 seed’s losing streak at the Nationals.

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