NCAA Tournament Seed History
Trying to decide which upsets to take in the first round of the NCAA Tournament might be the hardest part of picking your bracket. As a bettor, it is important to understand the trends of the past and what bets will give you your most value. There are also some bets to avoid altogether. With the history of the tournament, it is safe to say we can never predict the future, but we have a pretty good indication on certain trends based on the past -- after all, history often repeats itself, right? This article will have a list of the 16 seeds that are participating in the tournament and their past performance. Each seed in tournament history has a track record, so let’s take a deeper look how they have performed since 64 teams have been introduced.
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No. 1- History tells us that you should pick at least one No. 1 seed to make the Final Four. If you pick a No. 1 seed to make the Final Four, you have a 41.67% chance of at least one team making it; only one No. 1 to make the Final Four has happened 15 times since 1985. Two teams have made it 14 times, three teams have made it four times and four teams have made all made the Final Four only once in 2008. With an average of 1.64 No. 1 seeds making the Final Four, the hard part is choosing which one. On another note, the No. 1 seed is 143-1 all time in the first round, so do not pick a first round upset in any of the four matchups.
No. 2- A No. 2 seed has made the Final Four 30 times in the 36 years there has been a 64- or 68-team tournament, which is almost once per year on average. As far as the first round goes, the No. 2 seed has a 135-9 record against the No. 15 seed all time. A total of five No. 2 seeds have won the tournament since the expansion to 64 teams. Over the last 10 years, 35 of 40 have advanced to the second round. Twenty-four went to the Sweet 16, 17 reached the Elite 8, 7 reached the Final Four, and 2 have made it to the Championship Game, with only one of them winning it.
No. 3- The No. 3 seed has a 0.47 average of teams making the Final Four. Last year marked the first time since 2016 a No. 3 seed has lost to a No. 14 seed. From 2013-2016, at least one No. 14 advanced to the round of 32. Posting a record of 122-22, it is very likely the No. 3 seed will advance out of the first round, but an upset is not out of the question. The No. 3 seed has also been painfully average against the spread, posting a record of 18-18.
No. 4- With a historic record of 113-31 against No. 13 seeds, No. 4 seeds are often those teams ranked between 12-20 in the final polls. Most frequently teams from the power conferences, they can come with huge upside but great inconsistency. The No. 4 seed has made 13 Final Four appearances since 1985.
No. 5- Everyone’s favorite matchup to talk about includes the No. 5 seed when they play the No. 12 seed in the first round. Is the No. 5 seed cursed? They are the only seed out of the top 8 that has not won a NCAA Championship. The 2018 tournament was just the fifth time the No. 5 seeds completely avoided a loss. The other four happened in 1988, 2000, 2007 and
2015. Historically, 5-seeds only own a 93-51 advantage against 12-seeds.
No. 6- Posting a 90-54 record all time versus the No. 11 seed, the 6 versus 11 matchup is a less sexy version of the 5 vs 12. The average margin of victory for No. 6 seeds over No. 11 seeds is about three points per game in favor of the No. 6 seed, and about 60 percent of the 6-versus-11 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Of the top 8 seeds, the 6 seed is tied with the 7 seed for lowest average of Final Four appearances, appearing at a 0.08 clip. No. 6 seeds are 1-1 in National Championship Games historically. Much like the 5 vs 12, this seed has red flags all over it and can be a great way to earn money in ATS betting.
No. 7- No. 7 seeds hold an 87-57 record against the No. 10 seed. In much of these matchups, the ATS are the tightest of any of the 8 matchups featured in each region historically. All four matchups this year are coin flip games, with the biggest ATS being -1.5 points. (No. 7 Michigan vs No. 10 Davidson). With a .604 winning percentage in the first round, will you pick two or three 7 seeds to advance to the round of 32? The best No. 7 seed of all time was the Connecticut Huskies in 2014 where they won the National Championship. They are the only No. 7 seed to do so.
No. 8- About 60 percent of the 8 versus 9 games have been decided by single digits or less, with the No. 8 seed posting a 71-73 record against the 9 seed. Only three times since 1985 has the No. 8 seed swept the 9 seed. The one feat an 8 seed has completed that a 9 has not is win a National Championship, becoming the lowest seed to ever do so (Villanova 1985).
No. 9- Although posting a winning record against the No. 8 seed, the No. 9 seeds have not performed well in the round of 32. When facing the No. 1 seed, they have lost 67 of the 74 games played. Four No. 9 seeds have made the Elite Eight, and only one has advanced to the Final Four, taking place in 2013 by Wichita State, led by Fred VanVleet.
No. 10- The No. 10 seed has been prone to make bettors profit, with their best stretch being between 2009 through 2012 where the No. 10 seed went 11-5 against the spread and 9-7 straight up. The difference between a No. 10 seed and No. 11 seed is very minimal as far as getting out the first round goes. The No. 10 seed holds a 39.6 percent win percentage compared to a 37.5 percent win percentage from No. 11 seeds.
No. 11- Five No. 11 seeds have made it to the Final Four, including UCLA 2021, Loyola Chicago in 2018, VCU in 2011, George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986. There is some magic historically with the No. 11 seed, and some of the best March Madness stories all time have come from this position. In the last eight tournaments, the No. 11 seed is 19-13 against the spread and 16-16 straight up.
No. 12- Over the last 13 tournaments, No. 12 seeds are an impressive 31-20-1 against the spread while also going 22-30 straight up. In 2019, three No. 12 seeds won SU with just Auburn winning as a favorite but failing to cover. For your bracket and betting straight up, it usually comes down to not if you are going to pick a No. 12 seed to win a first-round matchup or cover but instead how many you will pick. In recent history, Murray State's Ja Morant joined exclusive company in 2019, as the 12-seed Racers took down No. 5 Marquette, 83-64. In 21 of the last 25 years, a 12-seed has won at least one game in the tournament. 2013, 2014 and 2019 saw three of the four No. 12 seeds advance out of the first round. A No. 12 seed has never reached the Final Four.
No. 13- Multiple No. 13 seeds have upset No. 4 seeds on five separate occasions, most recently happening last year (2021) where North Texas and Ohio joined the list of 13 seed upsets, beating Purdue and Virginia, respectively. The No 13 seed is 6-2 all-time in games decided by one point, and only three times in the last 10 years has a No. 13 seed not advanced to the second round.
No. 14- Posting a 15.3 percent win percentage all time, 19 of the 36 years a No. 14 seed has made it to the round of 32. A 14 versus 3 upset is about 2.5 times more likely than a 15 versus 2 upset. Only two No. 14 seeds have ever advanced past the second round, and it hasn’t happened in more than 20 years. When the No. 14 seed are underdogs by at least 12 points historically, they have produced very well against the spread, going 8-3 in the past three tournaments. In three of the four matchups this year, the No. 14 seed is 12 point or more underdogs.
No. 15- The No. 15 seed has put fear into bettors only as of recently. Only four times prior to 2012 have fans witnessed a 15 versus 2 upsets. Since 2012, it has happened on five separate occasions. The No. 15 seed has not performed well in ATS or straight up historically. Since 1996, the No. 15 seed has had an ATS record of 23-28-1 in the first round. The win percentage historically is 6.25 percent for No. 15 seeds, so choose wisely if you dare to do so.
No. 16- Picking the No. 16 to come out on top is basically suicide, but the No. 16 seed has performed historically well ATS, posting a 53.5-win percentage since 2014. Only once has the No. 16 seed knocked out the No. 1 seed, happening in 2018 when UMBC beat Virginia. Only 15 games have been decided by 10 points or less.
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