NCAA Basketball Tournament Seeds Success
by Trevor Whenham - 03/18/2008
People can't get too concerned about the seed a team is given when they are handicapping the NCAA Tournament and not pay attention to the teams themselves. After all, a lousy team is still lousy regardless of the number beside its name. That being said, there is some obvious merit in looking at how different seeds have performed historically so that you can avoid making costly mistakes. With that in mind, here are some of the more interesting situations that come up when you study NCAA Basketball Tournament Seeds Success:
- Everyone knows that a No. 16 seed has never beat a No. 1 seed despite trying 92 different times. There have been a few close calls, though, including a two-point win by Purdue in 1996 and one point wins by Oklahoma and Georgetown in 1989. Murray State took Michigan State to overtime in 1990, too.
- 15 seeds have won four times in 92 tries. We haven't seen an upset on this line of the bracket since 2001, though. The others came in 1997, 1993 and 1991. Depending on how you like to read such things you could say that we are due for an upset. As tempting as picking an upset here can be, though, it usually isn't the best idea - the closest a No. 15 seed came to an upset in 2007 was a 13-point loss.
- It's amazing the difference one step up in seeding makes. A No. 14 seed has beaten a No. 3 15 times in 92 tries. That's still only 16.3 percent, but that's a big jump up from the No. 15 seeds. The magical formula in this situation is to look for a high scoring lower seed that is up against a higher seed that doesn't win by big margins. There were upsets here in 2005 and 2006, but those were the first since 1999.
- Interestingly, No. 4 seeds perform about as well as No. 3 seeds. At 74-18, the No. 4 seed has only been upset three more times than the No. 3. There have been four upsets in these games in the last six years. The last two - Bradley and Vermont - captured the imaginations of fans with their wins.
- It's at the No. 5 vs. No. 12 games that things get interesting. The five seeds are just 63-29, so the lower seed wins 31.5 percent of these match-ups. It's even better in recent years - the No. 12 seed has won 11 times in the last seven years, or at a 39.3 percent clip. The upsets here aren't that surprising because the No. 12s are often a decent mid-major, while the five is often a solid but flawed team from a power conference. There were no upsets in this group in 2007.
- The No. 11 seeds have scored upsets just as often as the No. 12 seeds - 29 times in 92 tries. That rate of success has been consistent over the last five tournaments - six upsets in 20 tries. Two of the bigger Cinderellas in recent time - George Mason and Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2006 - were both No. 11 seeds. There were two upsets in this group in 2007, too - Virginia Commonwealth and Winthrop.
- You might assume that the No. 7 vs. No. 10 matchup would be close because they are relatively closely matched, but the sevens have been reasonably dominant. They are at 57-36, so they have won 62 percent of their games. The No. 10 seeds that do win are generally teams that have been to the tournament at least three times in a row and which have experienced coaches with ample tournament experience.
- Teams probably aren't happy about being an No. 8 or No. 9 seed. They have to play a team that they match up well with, and if they win then they have to play the top seed. The results for these teams are a little surprising - the nine seeds have won 50 of the 92 games.
- In the second round the No. 1 seeds have won 80 of their 92 games against the No. 8 or No. 9. Interestingly, the No. 8 seeds are significantly better than the No. 9 - 33-9 compared to 47-3.
- The No. 4 seeds have as much trouble with the No. 12s in the second round as the No. 5s do in the first round. The No. 12 seeds have won 10 times in 24 tries.
- The No. 3 versus No. 6 games in the second round are as close to a coin flip as anything in the tournament. The three seeds have a 26-25 record.