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March Madness Seed Statistics
by - 3/18/2014

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Dorian Finney-Smith of Florida

We are now just a couple days away from the start of the greatest three weeks in sports. That means that the focus now is on filling out your brackets and finding winners. To help you dominate your pool this year, here are some updated March Madness seed statistics to help you out:

No. 1 seeds

There is a lot to like about each of the four teams assigned a No. 1 seed in this tournament, and there are questions to ask about each of them. While each team is vulnerable in some ways, there is a good chance that at least one will still be standing on the final weekend of the tournament. In the 64-team era of the NCAA Tournament, which started in 1985, we have only had two years in which at least one No. 1 seed hasn’t made the Final Four — in 2006 and 2011. In 2011 we saw plenty of carnage — Kansas was the only top seed to make it as far as the Elite Eight.

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While one No. 1 seed is likely, four top seeds advancing isn’t. That only happened one year — in 2008. When you are filling out your bracket, then, you don’t want to avoid the chalky picks entirely, but you can afford to get creative at times as well.

The last two years we have seen the top overall seed in the tournament win the tournament — Kentucky in 2012, and Louisville last year. While that seems like a strong trend, that hasn’t really been the case. The top overall seed has only won the tournament six times in the 64-team era, and Kentucky broke a streak of top seed futility spreading back to 1995.

One thing you can continue to be very confident of is that a No. 1 seed will not lose in the first round. Everyone wants the biggest of all upsets to happen, but in 116 tries it hasn’t yet. Last year Southern came within six of Gonzaga, and Kansas only beat Western Kentucky by seven, so at least things were a little interesting. That means that a No. 16 has stayed within single-digits of a No. 1 three times in the last two years — something that hadn’t previously happened since 1997.

Top three seeds

Aside from top overall seed Louisville last year, the Final Four was reasonably unlikely — Syracuse and Michigan were No. 4 seeds, and Wichita State was a No. 9. The teams that were knocked out in the Elite Eight were two No. 2 squads and two No. 3s, though, so the top three seeds still represented five of the final eight. The year before it was six of eight. Quality tends to fare well in this tournament.

What we almost never see, though, is a situation where all 12 top three seeds advance to the second weekend. The only time that happened was in 2009. Last year didn’t come close after Harvard upset No. 3 New Mexico and No. 2 Georgetown fell to Florida Gulf Coast in the opening round.

The hunt for big upsets

Last year No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast pulled off the shocker. The year before Norfolk State beat Missouri and Lehigh beat Duke. Three No. 15 winners at massive odds in the last two years could convince you that chasing these big upsets is worthwhile. The math still suggests it is not. We have now seen 116 games between a No. 2 and a No. 15. The top seed has won 109 — 94 percent of games played. Over the long term, then, the higher seeds have been very profitable despite recent craziness.

Wichita State advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed last year. That marked the 24th time in 29 years that at least one team ranked No. 6 or lower has made at least the Elite Eight.

Savvy upset hunters know that the No. 12 seed is the place to look in the opening round, and last year was no exception. Akron was the only No. 12 seed that didn’t win their opener last year. In the 29 years of the 64-team era, we have seen at least one No. 12 advance at least once in all but three tournaments played. Last year Oregon made it on to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12, marking the fifth time in six years that a No. 12 has made it that far. Gambling with lower seeds than that is very risky — though No. 13 La Salle and No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast both made the second weekend last year — but penciling a No. 12 in to make a nice run is not a terrible idea.

When Wichita State made the Final Four as a No. 9 seed, it marked the second time in three years that a team seeded in the bottom half of the bracket made it that far — VCU made it in 2011 before losing to No. 8 Butler. Those two efforts show that lower seeds are increasingly competitive in this tournament, Remember, though, that lower-seeded teams have not played well in the championship game. Only three teams ranked below a No. 3 have ever won the tournament — and they were only seeded fourth, sixth and eighth.

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