How UNC-Asheville-‘Cuse compares to other 16-1 close calls

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Twenty-five years after Syracuse earned a spot in NCAA tournament infamy, it almost did it again.

The Orange trailed No. 16 UNC-Asheville during Thursday’s round of 64, just the third time the underdog’s managed that. (Fairfield led Kansas 35-28 in ’97 and Holy Cross led the Jayhawks 37-35 in 2002. Kansas won both.)

But thanks to some clutch jumpers and a few questionable calls, the East’s No. 1 seed held off UNC-Asheville, 72-65. That’s the closest call any top seed has had against a 16 since 1996.

UNC-Asheville players says: ‘Refs need to call it, that’s it’

But it’s far from the closest any 16 seed has come to beating a 1 since the tournament expanded in 1985.

Here’s a list of the 10 closest:

  • Georgetown 50, Princeton 49 (1989)
  • Oklahoma 72, East Tennessee State 71, (1989)
  • Purdue 73, Western Carolina 71 (1996)
  • Michigan State 75, Murray State 71, OT (1990)
  • Michigan 59, Fairleigh Dickinson 55 (1985)
  • Illinois 77, McNeese State 71 (1989)
  • Duke 85, Mississippi Valley State 78 (1986)
  • Connecticut 68, Colgate 59 (1996)
  • Oklahoma 77, Towson 68 (1990)
  • St. John’s 83, Montana State 74 (1986)

Some thoughts from this list:

Four teams (Michigan, ’86 St. John’s, ’90 Oklahoma and Purdue) all lost their next game.

Two teams from this list (’89 Illinois and ’86 Duke) made the Final Four. None won it all.

What the heck was going in in 1989? Three No. 1 seeds all won by less than double-digits? Only Arizona didn’t make it close.

Oklahoma sure made life interesting in back-to-back seasons.

Pitt’s 10-point win over East Tennessee State in 2009 just misses the cut, as does North Carolina’s 10-point win vs. Fairfield in 1997.

Also, special shout out to Towson, which also lost to Ohio State, 97-86, as a 16 seed in 1991. Just guessing, but Terry Truax’s teams must’ve been better than their 18-12, 19-10 records indicated..

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