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Where Florida Atlantic's Final 4 run ranks among long shot tournament runs in NCAA history

Since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament in 1985, we have seen a handful of double-digit seeds make their way through the first few rounds and into the Final 4.

HOUSTON — The Florida Atlantic Owls, the winningest team in college basketball's regular season, proved they aren't just a mid-major darling, advancing past Kansas State and into the Final 4 over the weekend.

It is not only the first Final 4 appearance in program history, it marks their first ever NCAA Tournament victories - an incredible testament to the job coach Dusty May and his squad have done this year. 

Parity in college basketball appears to be at an all-time high, with NIL and transfer portal allowing more player movement and less imbalanced rosters. However, this isn't a one time thing either, with many other teams making improbable runs in the expansion era.

Since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament in 1985, we have seen a handful of double-digit seeds make their way through the first few rounds and into the Final 4.

Here is a look at all eight instances of a double-digit seed making it to the Final 4. For more on FAU's historic run, and previewing the games this weekend, check out the Locked on College Basketball podcast.

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1. VCU Rams - 2011 (11 seed)

Shaka Smart's team is one of four 11 seeds to make the Final 4, but considering they lost four of their final five regular season games, and entered the tournament a lowly 84th at KenPom, they are the most improbable of them all.

Smart's team beat Georgetown and 3 seed Purdue by 18 points each, and took down a top seeded Kansas team to advance to the Final 4.

2. George Mason Patriots - 2006 (11 seed)

Jim Larranaga's first trip the Final 4 was back in 2006, and he's back 17 years later with the Miami Hurricanes - cementing himself as one of college basketball's best coaches.

George Mason earned an at-large bid despite losing to Hofstra in the CAA Tournament, but once they made the dance they took full advantage. Wins over seven seed Michigan State, three seed North Carolina and seven seed Wichita State were impressive enough, but the legacy defining game was the win over one seed UConn, who entered the tournament as a preseason favorite.

3. Loyola Chicago Ramblers - 2018 (11 seed)

The run that educated the world about super-fan Sister Jean, Loyola Chicago was actually one of the hottest teams in the country entering the tournament - having won 17 of their last 18 games.

They did not have to go through a one seed to get to their Final 4, defeating six seed Miami by two, three seed Tennessee by one, seven seed Nevada by one, and then blowing out nine seed Kansas State to make the Final 4. Still, it was an extraordinary run for the Ramblers.

4. LSU Tigers - 1986 (11 seed)

LSU isn't your traditional cinderella, but they are the only 11 seed to advance to the Final 4 having played the highest seed in each of their matchups, including an extremely satisfying win over one seed Kentucky in the Elite 8 - having played them three times in the regular season and losing each of them.

5. UCLA Bruins - 2021 (11 seed)

The most recent 11 seed to make a Final 4, UCLA is hardly an underdog in the college basketball landscape - but a rough regular season led Mick Cronin's team to a play-in game where they proceeded to knock off BYU, Abilene Christian, two seed Alabama and one seed Michigan before Jalen Suggs and undefeated Gonzaga defeated them in the final seconds.

6. Syracuse Orange - 2016 (10 seed)

Jim Boeheim's final appearance in the Final 4 was the only time a 10 seed has ever advanced that far. Syracuse lost five of their final six games heading into the tournament, but the 2-3 zone came alive in March.

The Orange blasted seven seed Dayton in round one, beat 15 seed Middle Tennessee, took out a similarly plucky Gonzaga team (as an 11 seed) and beat Virginia to advance to the Final 4.

7. Wichita State Shockers - 2013 (9 seed)

The Shockers had an outstanding run as the first ever nine seed into the Final 4 back in 2013, taking out Gonzaga and Ohio State and beating three top 12 teams per KenPom. The momentum from this run led Wichita State to an undefeated regular season the following year.

8. Florida Atlantic Owls - 2023 (9 seed)

Dusty May's team is the eighth nine seed or higher to make the Final 4, having narrowly escaped Memphis in the first round and getting a favorable draw against Fairleigh Dickinson in round two. They took care of very solid squads in Tennessee and Kansas State after that, however, proving their run was anything but a fluke.

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