In just days - or even hours depending upon when you read this - it will be time to fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket and, hopefully, make some riches. Or it will be time to bet on individual tournament games . Either way, knowing what is more likely to happen in games based on the history of seeding is a valuable tool we can have at our disposal in tournaments like this.
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To help you out, then, here is a look at some of the more useful and powerful March Madness seed statistics to help you find the profits:
The No. 1 seeds
You need to have the right perspective on No. 1 seeds. They are the best teams in the tournament most years, but the gap between them and the No. 2 seeds is very small, and even the gap down to the No. 3 or No. 4 teams isn't much. You need to treat them with respect, but you can't be afraid to pick against them if you think the matchup warrants it - at least beyond the first round, because top seeds haven't lost in 128 first-round games and aren't likely to soon.
There have been 32 tournaments held since the field expanded to 64 teams, so that's the sample size we will work with. Based on that, it's more than likely that we will see at least one No. 1 team in the Final Four - 2006 and 2011 were the only years in which there wasn't at least one top seed playing on the last weekend. The latter of those two was particularly crazy - only one No. 1 even made the Elite Eight. Oftentimes it's not much more than just one team that advances as well - North Carolina was the only No. 1 in the Final Four last year.
While it's very rare to see zero No. 1 seeds, it's twice as likely to see that as it is to see all of the No. 1 seeds in the Final Four - the only time that that happened was in 2008. This year's tournament is very wide open, with flawed top seeds and lots of solid teams out there, and feels very unlikely to be a second year of top-seed dominance.
In 2012 Kentucky won the tournament as not only a No. 1 seed but as the top seed overall. The same thing happened the next year with Louisville. It was a bit of a trend but not a sustained one - Kentucky was the first top overall seed to win the tournament since 1995. There were four between 1985 and 1995, but that's still a minority. In other words, top overall seeds deserve some respect but not too much.
Top three seeds
If the tournament played out exactly as expected then the Elite Eight would be made up of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from each of the four regions. Of course, it almost certainly won't work out that way. We will likely see at least half or more of the Elite Eight teams ranked No. 1 or No. 2, though - last year six of the eight Elite Eight teams were top two seeds for the second year in a row, and there were four and five in the two years before that. So, the immediate lesson here is that we don't have to be afraid to pick an upset team in the Elite Eight, but we don't want to make the mistake of picking too many of them.
If all things went to plan we would also see all 12 of the teams ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 in their regions advance to the Sweet 16. In 32 tries, though, we have seen that happen only once - in 2009. Last year eight of the 12 top seeds made the second weekend, and No. 2 Michigan State and No. 3 West Virginia didn't even win their first game. The year before that only seven teams advanced, and in 2014 only six of 12 moved on. So again, respect the top three seeds, but don't be afraid to go against them if it makes sense to you.
Those pesky No. 9 seeds
Last year the No. 9 seeds won three of their four matchups against the No. 8 teams in the first round. That's so common that it doesn't even qualify as an upset anymore. In fact, that moves the all time record of No. 9 seeds in first-round games to a perfectly-balanced 64-64. For a long time, in fact, the No. 9 seeds actually had the edge, but a sweep by No. 8 teams in 2015 temporarily swung things the other way. The lesson here is clear - completely ignore seedings in these games.
Where are the big upsets?
Those huge upsets are out there, but they aren't as common as some people think. Last year No. 15 Middle Tennessee beat No. 2 Michigan State. It was a stunning upset, and it was the eighth time we have seen an upset here. That might seem like a lot, but it still means that the No. 2 teams have 120 wins in these games - a .938 winning percentage. So, as fun as these upsets are to watch, and as impressive as it might seem if you get one right, picking an upset in these showdowns is almost never a very good idea.
Last year, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 10 Syracuse were both in the Elite Eight - and Syracuse even won there. Those two teams were the 27th and 28th teams ranked No. 6 or lower to make the Elite Eight in the last 32 years. That's not quite one per year, so you should be concerned if you fill out your bracket and you have multiple low seeds playing at least four games. On the other hand, if there is a low seed that you really, really like then it's not a disaster to have them making a fairly deep run.
When it comes to first-round upsets it's the No. 12 teams that get all of the attention - and for good reason. Last year Yale and Little Rock both won their openers as No. 12 seeds, and that marked the 28th time in 32 years that at least one No. 12 squad has won a game. Neither of those teams last year made the Sweet 16, but in five of the last nine years at least one No. 12 team has.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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