By losing in the early stages of the NCAA Tournament, Utah and BYU have provided their own illustrations of how unusual it is for the low-seeded teams from Connecticut and Kentucky to have reached tonight’s basketball championship game.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, BYU and Utah have been seeded No. 7, 8 or 9 (basically, No. 9 is the same as No. 8) a combined nine times. In every case, the Cougars and Utes have conformed to their seeding, never upsetting a No. 1 or No. 2 seed — if they even got that chance, by winning their first game.
Here’s the tournament history for BYU and Utah, when seeded between Nos. 7 and 9.
1993 (No. 7) - Beat No. 10 Southern Methodist, lost to No. 2 Kansas.
1995 (No. 8) - Lost to No. 9 Tulane.
2007 (No. 8) - Lost to No. 9 Xavier.
2008 (No. 8) - Lost to No. 9 Texas A&M.
2009 (No. 8) - Lost to No. 9 Texas A&M.
2010 (No. 7) - Beat No. 10 Florida, lost to No. 2 Kansas State.
1993 (No. 8) - Beat No. 9 Pittsburgh, lost to No. 1 Kentucky.
2000 (No. 8) - Beat No. 9 Saint Louis, lost to No. 1 Michigan State.
2003 (No. 9) - Beat No. 8 Oregon, lost to No. 1 Kentucky.
That history helps show how remarkable it is for No. 7 seed UConn and No. 8 Kentucky to be where they are tonight, playing for the title at Arlington, Texas. The performances of the Huskies and Wildcats should be remembered the next time there’s an outcry about any team being seeded slightly too low or too high — like next March, inevitably.
What’s clear is that once a team in that seeding range pulls off an upset in the round of 32, the opportunity widens. That’s because at least a No. 1 or No. 2 seed is out of the way in that region.
When seeded in the UConn/Kentucky range of 2014, BYU and Utah never have delivered that big upset.
In the Rick Majerus era, the Utes could always say they won their first tournament game, when the seeding gave them a 50-50 chance or better. Majerus advanced all three times as a No. 8 or 9 seed, although the Utes then were overwhelmed by the No. 1 seed, twice by Kentucky and once by Michigan State. Utah reached the Final Four as a No. 3 seed in 1998.
As a No. 7 seed under coaches Roger Reid and Dave Rose, BYU played competitively in losses to No. 2 seeds Kansas (1993) and Kansas State (2010). But in four opportunities as a No. 8 seed, the Cougars have never won their first tournament game — including the phenomenon of losses to Texas A&M in consecutive years.
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