Time for No. 16 to beat No. 1?


Other losses stay with the old coach more. Like the one at Pauley Pavilion, when his team had John Wooden's wildly talented 1969 team on the ropes only to lose by one point.

Or worse, the 1966 state championship game at Reading High School, when his team led Nanticoke by five with two minutes to play and still managed to lose.

"That one," Pete Carril remembered, "bothers me more, maybe more than all of them."

To the general public, Carril is known for another defeat, a game billed as an epic David versus Goliath then, a result that even now, on the week of its 25th anniversary, still stands the test of time:

March 17, 1989: No. 1 seed Georgetown 50, No. 16 Princeton 49.

In that same 1989 NCAA tournament, East Tennessee State would also lose by one to Oklahoma. A year later, Murray State and Popeye Jones would take Michigan State to overtime in another 1 versus 16 game.

But the Tigers' near miss, in a battle of geeky hoops nerds versus tradition-rich basketball behemoth, remains the ultimate almost-Cinderella moment. Since that 1989 season, 24 more sets of No. 16 seeds have tried to knock off a No. 1 seed. All, like those before them, have failed, adding up to an impressive 116-0 record for those resting on the top line.

And for the most part, it hasn't even been close. Just 14 of the 1-16 games have been decided by single digits; the two in 1989 were the only ones decided by a single point.

The average gap? A Grand Canyon-like 24.8 points per game.

"I thought for sure someone else would do it by now," said Carril, now 83, who recently sat down at an on-campus spot to reminisce about the game. "I never thought we'd be the last to come so close."

He's not alone. Most people close to the game are stunned that the ultimate Cinderella moment hasn't happened, especially as parity has become the game's biggest buzzword.

And most think it's not too far away.

"I think it can happen anytime," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Really, it's just a matter of time."

If there is a sign that we're closer, look no further than one line beneath those No. 1 seeds.

After an 11-year hiatus, a No. 15 seed has claimed victory three times in the past two years: Norfolk State over Missouri and Lehigh over Duke in 2012 and Florida Gulf Coast's Dunk City over Georgetown en route to the Sweet 16 last year.

There have been narrow escapes lately. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Syracuse's seven-point victory over UNC Asheville in 2012 was the first single-digit margin of victory by a No. 1 over a No. 16 seed since 1997. Last year, Western Kentucky lost to Kansas by just seven and Southern made it scary for Gonzaga, falling by six. So it would seem the climate for the shiniest of shining moments has to be changing.

"Well, I would say, yes, we're close," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But that's a large part because we're a 1-seed and Western Kentucky had us down at halftime. But seriously, I do think we're a lot closer. A lot."

So why, after nearly 30 years without the ultimate bracket buster, do folks think we're suddenly near a hoops apocalypse?

Plenty of reasons, some statistical, some subtle and some slightly sociological.

Start with the numbers, since most everything starts and finishes with the numbers.

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