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Has an unranked team won the NCAA Tournament?

Two schools have entered the NCAA Tournament unranked and came out as national champions.

The 1985 Villanova Wildcats and 1988 Kansas Jayhawks are the only two teams to go into the NCAA Basketball Tournament not ranked in the AP Poll and complete a Cinderella run to win the whole thing.

Has an unranked team won the NCAA Tournament?
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images/AFP

After a second-round elimination the previous season, the 1984-85 Wildcats entered the season unranked. However, after going 8-0 through the first six weeks of the season, Villanova made its way into the poll, reaching as high as 14.

Both the 1985 Villanova Wildcats and 1988 Kansas Jayhawks pulled off improbable runs, defying the March Madness odds to reach the NCAAM Final Four and ultimately claim the national championship.

Nova had to play nearly perfect against Georgetown

Things took a turn toward the end of the season as Villanova went 4-5 through its last nine games to get knocked out of the rankings. That left it with an eighth seed in the tournament. The Wildcats met No. 1 Georgetown in the finals after winning five in a row, where Villanova played what is known as “The Perfect Game” to capture a national championship.

To win, Nova had to play nearly perfectly against Georgetown, shooting 9-of -10 from the field in the second half, hence the moniker given.

After Villanova stunned the sports universe by defeating the favorites in the national championship, the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks did it a few years later.

Unlike Villanova, Kansas entered the season ranked seventh in the AP Poll. The Jayhawks started their season winning eight 10 games. However, those two losses dropped them from the Top 10 at the beginning of the season to 17th by game 10.

The next 10 games proved to be a struggle for the Jayhawks, as they dropped six and fell out of the rankings. Kansas was able to turn things around, going 9-3 in its final 12 games, including the Big Eight Tournament. It wasn’t enough to get the Jayhawks back in the poll before the big dance.

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The Jayhawks grabbed a six-seed for the tournament and carried the momentum to the national championship game.

It was there Kansas faced No. 4 Oklahoma, a team it’d lost to twice already that season. Still, this time the Jayhawks were victorious, becoming the second team to finish the regular season unranked and win the tournament. After Danny Manning hit two free throws to clinch the win, Kansas pulled off the upset to get the name “Danny and the Miracles.”

There are also three other teams who have begun the regular season unranked and won the national championship.

Syracuse in 2003, Florida in 2006, and Connecticut in 2011 all started their seasons unranked. However, all three finished the regular season ranked third in the AP Poll before going on to win the NCAA Tournament.

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