NCAA Tournament Seed History
Betting on the NCAA Tournament is kind of like betting on the stock market. You have to do your research and make your moves based on what the numbers say. I’m not saying your plays will always be the right moves. However, at some point, you have to trust what the numbers say and go for it. I’ve compiled a list of data for each of the 16 seeds that are a part of March Madness. And I don’t mean each individual team, I’m talking about the specific seed itself.
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No. 1- Before the 2018 March Madness tournament rolled around, No. 1 seeds had never lost to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams (now 68) in 1985. They were a perfect 132-0. And then, UMBC shocked the world and upset the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers. After that tournament, the record stood at 1-139. The point of this? Well, it’s safe to assume all No. 1 seeds will advance past the first round just based on the numbers. If you are thinking a step ahead, at least one No. 1 seed has advanced to the Final Four in 14 of the last 14 seasons. In 2017, two No. 1 Seeds faced off against each other in the National Championship Game, which marked the first time that has happened since 2015 when Duke took on Wisconsin.
No. 2- No. 2 seeds own an all-time record of 132-8 in their opening-round matchup against the No. 15 seeds. Blindly penciling them into the second round would be a safe bet on most occasions. However, taking them against the spread is a risky proposition. Since 2008, it’s actually the No. 15 seed with the slight edge in terms of ATS betting, holding a 25-22-1 record. Take the No. 2 seed to win, but don’t trust them to cover the big spread.
No. 3- A three-seed has advanced to the Final Four in just six of the last 13 installments of the NCAA Tournament -- the most recent being Texas Tech in 2019 when they made the Finals and lost to Virginia. The No. 3 seed holds a 119-21 record against No. 4 seeds all-time.
No. 4- No. 4 seeds own an all-time record of 111-29 against their opponents in the first round. In 2019, three out of the four teams won, with Kansas State falling short against UC Irvine. Coming into this tournament, No. 4 Seeds have made just three Championship Game appearances and managed to win the title only once (Arizona in 1997).
No. 5- No. 5 seeds are infamous for suffering first-round upsets. They are a mediocre 90-50 SU against 12 seeds after compiling a 1-3-mark in 2019. A grand total of zero No. 5 seeds have ever won the National Championship, and just three have reached the Final Four over the last 13 years (Butler and Michigan State in 2010 and Auburn in 2019).
No. 6- Sixth seeds are 88-52 all-time against the No. 11 line. At least one has lost in the first round of the tournament dating back to 2004. The last No. 6 seed to reach the Final Four was Michigan -- led by the Fab Five -- back in 1992. From a betting perspective, No. 6 seeds are just 17-11 ATS over the last seven years. In 2019, No. 6 seeds went 3-1 SU and ATS.
No. 7 – It has already been seven years since the Connecticut Huskies won the National Championship as a seven-seed. There are only two other No. 7 seeds that have progressed past the Elite Eight, and those are Michigan State (2015) and South Carolina (2017). In 2019, the No. 7 seeds went 1-3 SU and ATS against their opponents.
No. 8- In 1985, Villanova became the lowest-seeded team to ever win the National Championship. Only three such seeds have made Final Four appearances since. No. 8 seeds have reached the Final Four just four times since 1985, with the last being Kentucky in 2014. Not surprisingly, the 8-9 matchup has extremely even with a 68-72 all-time advantage.
No. 9- It has been seven years since the last No. 9 seed made a deep run in the tournament. No. 9 Wichita State made the Final Four in 2013 before falling to the eventual champion, Louisville. In 2019, No. 9 seeds went 4-0 SU and 4-0 ATS.
No. 10 – Just five years ago, the Syracuse Orange were gifted a second chance and a lifeline into the tournament. They took full advantage and went on a run that saw them reach the Final Four before being knocked off by North Carolina.
No. 11- This is the lowest seed you will find in the record books when looking at the Final Four. Three times a No. 11 seed has made it to the Final Four, with the most recent being the VCU Rams in 2011. From a personal standpoint, my favorite tournament moment was watching No. 11 George Mason captivate America and reach the Final Four in 2006.
No. 12- This is usually where the upsets start to happen on a more frequent basis. At least one No. 12 seed has won a first-round game in 18 of the past 20 tournaments. If you are putting together a bracket, this would be the first place to look for an upset pick. Unfortunately, the furthest a No. 12 seed has progressed in the tournament was the Elite Eight appearance by Missouri in 2002.
No. 13- It has been a rather tough go for No. 13 seeds as well. None have reached the Elite Eight in six tries. The latest team to lose in the Sweet 16 was La Salle back in 2013.
No. 14- When you compare the No. 14 seed to the futility of the 15 and 16 seeds, it’s not all that bad. No. 14 has an all-time record of 21-119, which is essentially triple the number of wins of the 15 and 16-seeds combined. The most recent No. 14 to make a splash in the tournament was Stephen F. Austin in 2016 when they took out West Virginia. No. 14 seed has managed to make it past the second round since Chattanooga did it in 1997 when they made the Sweet 16.
No. 15- Fifteen-seeds have provided money line bettors with handsome rewards on eight separate occasions. The latest No. 15 seed to do so was the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders defeated the second-seeded Michigan State Spartans in an upset for the ages. The Blue Raiders were +16.5-point underdogs, which is the fifth-largest upset in tournament history. Unfortunately, no 15-seed has made it past the second game and into the Sweet 16.
No. 16- It took 135 tries before lucky No. 136 provided the upset for the ages as No. 16 UMBC completely dominated No. 1 Virginia. It was the first loss by a No. 1 seed in the first round in the history of the tournament and it’s likely something we don’t see happen again for quite some time.
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