Men’s NCAA Basketball Final Four – Record-Breaking March Madness Seeps Into April

Before 2023, there were only three occurrences (1980, 2006, 2011) of the NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four taking place without a number-one seed still in contention. This year is the fourth occurrence. 2011 was the first time there was not a number two seed, and this year will be just the second time. 

There have been some tournaments in the past that had more upsets than usual, but nothing like this year. All four number-one seeds were eliminated before the round of sixteen, and the remaining two and three seeds were knocked out in the round of eight. 

This is the first time the Final Four will take place without at least a three-seed. Official seeding was first used in the 1979 tournament, and that process has been used ever since. More than four decades have gone by, and each tournament in between has had at least a two or three-seed still playing at this point. Not this time, not this tournament. 

No matter who wins tonight, the final pairing won’t be record-setting. This won’t be the first national championship game without a one or two seed, which already happened in the 1989 title game when #3 Michigan played #3 Seton Hall. It would happen again in 2011 when #3 Connecticut played #11 VCU. 

Then came 2014 and #7 Connecticut taking on #8 Kentucky, so this won’t be the lowest-seeded championship. 2014 was the first time the national championship had no teams ranked at least in the top three seeds and was the first to feature no teams ranked in the top 6. It will probably be a while before we see that again. 

This year the championship game is guaranteed to feature a minimum of a #4 vs. a #5, but it could also be a #5 vs. a #9. Either way, it’s historic because every other Final Four slate going back to 1979 gave the championship game a chance for one high seed, but not this time. Not this tournament. 

The 2023 Final Four has an average seed of 5.75

San Diego State (5)

Florida Atlantic (9)

Miami (5)

Connecticut (4)

That’s much lower seeding than the norm but not record-breaking. We’ve compared the seeds of the wackiest tournaments to date, and here is where 2023 stacks up.

The 2006 Final Four had an average seed of 5

LSU (4)

UCLA (2)

Florida (3)

George Mason (11)

The 1980 Final Four had an average seed of 5.25

Iowa (5) 

Louisville (2) 

Purdue (6)

UCLA (8)

The 2000 Final Four had an average seed of 5.5

Florida (5)

North Carolina (8)

Michigan State (1)

Wisconsin (8)

The 2011 Final Four had an average seed of 6.5.

Kentucky (4)

Connecticut (3)

VCU (11)

Butler (8)

You may be wondering why 2014 didn’t make the list. They actually had two normal seeds thrown in the mix; it wasn’t that nuts of a final grouping. 

2014 Final Four 

Kentucky (8)

Wisconsin (2)

Connecticut (7)

Florida (1)

Even though 1989 was the first championship game to feature two #3 seeded teams fighting for the national title, the previous two matchups were relatively normal. 

1989 Final Four

Duke (2)

Seton Hall (3)

Michigan (3)

Illinois (1)

So what can we expect in the Final Four with no blue blood schools, no players fighting to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft, and a lack of household names on the rosters? Madness will be on the menu, and it will be served frequently. None of these teams are just happy to get this far; they want to win the whole thing. Many folks might remember what these teams were seeded when they look back at this tournament in the years to come, but no one will care. The title is what matters, not what seed some committee gave the team when creating a bracket that is largely used to enforce team building in the workplace. 

The 2023 Men’s NCAA Final Four takes place tonight, with #5 San Diego State against #9 Florida Atlantic in the first game at 3:09pm. The second game will follow at 5:49pm, although there will likely be a delayed tip-off if the first game runs long. Once that second game starts, we’ll see who wants the final spot in the championship more between #4 Connecticut and #5 Miami. 

The winners of the games tonight will face each other on Monday evening for the chance at the national title. Florida Atlantic has already made history, as this was just their second appearance in the NCAA tournament, and they are appearing in their first Final Four game in program history. No matter what happens next, they have much to be proud of. 

Connecticut has been to the Final Four five times before, this visit marking their sixth appearance and first since 2014. Some of the wackiest NCAA tournament endings have aligned with UConn winning it all, so don’t be surprised if that happens again. 2011 and 2014 were very unusual tournaments, and the Huskies cut down the net at the end of both; this could be them rounding up for a victory lap. 

Miami made their first Elite Eight in program history last year, and this year are in their first Final Four. Based on that trajectory, they might have another year to go before they can get to the championship game and another until they can win it all, but who knows? 

Connecticut wasn’t the only team surprising experts in 2011 and 2014; San Diego State was there making their first Sweet 16 in 2011 and making a comeback in 2014. They made their first Elite Eight appearance this year and haven’t given up on being the next big small program to make the championship game. It would be fitting if the Aztecs could take on the Huskies with the entire nation watching, but first, they’ll have to get past Florida Atlantic. 

No matter who moves on and who goes home, all four of these teams can hold their heads up high. Few had any of them getting this far, and any advancing from here will just be even more impressive. For two of these teams, a win tonight would further elevate a small program on the rise. For Miami, it would mean finally getting your basketball program at the level of your football program. And for Connecticut, it would mean getting back to the national stage and blue-blood status after several years of being an early exit.

You’ve seen madness in March but now get ready for madness in April. It’s just as crazy, but more is on the line. 

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About Casey Mabbott 253 Articles
Casey Mabbott is a writer and podcast host born and raised in West Philadelphia where he spent most of his days on the basketball court perfecting his million dollar jumpshot. Wait, no, that’s all wrong. Casey has spent his entire life here in the Pacific NorthWest other than his one year stint as mayor of Hill Valley in an alternate reality 1985. He’s never been to Philadelphia, and his closest friends will tell you that his jumpshot is the farthest thing from being worth a million bucks. Casey enjoys all sports and covering them with written words or spoken rants. He has made an art of movie references, and is a devout follower of 80's movies and music. I don't know why you would to, but you can probably find him on the street corner waiting for the trolley to take him to the stadium or his favorite pub, where he will be telling people the answers to questions they don’t remember asking. And it only goes downhill from there if he drinks. He’s a real treat.