With the NCAA Basketball Tournament just around the corner, here is an early look at how each seed has done in the first two rounds of the tournament, both from a straight up and a betting view point. You will see that while the one seeds have never lost in the first round, they have not been good bets ATS. Also, the five vs. 12 matchups have indeed produced the most upsets.


The NCAA Basketball Tournament is now just a month away, so we felt that this was a good time to examine how each seed has done in the first two rounds of March Madness over the last 10 years, not only straight up but also on the betting odds.

Now it is no secret that a one seed has never lost to a 16 seed, but have the one seeds actually been good bets in the first round? We have the answer to this and other burning NCAA seed questions coming up

Please note that all records against the NCAA Basketball odds are based on the closing lines from Pinnacle Sports for all NCAA Tournament games since the 2000-01 Season.

Also, we need to clear up some semantics, as when we say “first round”, we mean the round of 64, which does not include the play-in games played the Tuesday after Selection Sunday. When we say “second round”, we are referring to the round of 32.

That may change starting this year, as with the field now expanding to 68 teams, the four “play-in” games played Tuesday and Wednesday may be considered the first round, with the main bracket of 64 considered the second round and the round of 32 being referred to as the third round.

One seeds: Naturally, the top seeds are 40-0 straight up in the last 10 years while winning by an average margin of +26.4 points. However, even with that whopping average margin of victory, the ones have gone just 20-18-2, 52.6 percent in NCAA Basketball betting, mainly because the lines are almost always so huge. All 40 first round wins by the top seeds have been by double-digits, with the closest call being a 10-point win by the Pittsburgh Panthers over East Tennessee State in 2009. The ‘over’ has gone 21-19, 52.5 percent in first round games involving one seeds, with an average total score in those games of 142.8 points.

NCAA Champions - Kansas 2009In the second round, one seeds have gone 36-4 straight up the last 10 years, although they have slightly improved their ATS mark to 22-18, 55.0 percent with an average winning margin of +12.5 points. The fourth top seed in the last 10 years to lose in the second round was the Kansas Jayhawks last season, as they were shocked by Northern Iowa. Most interestingly, the ‘over’ has gone a lucrative 27-11-2, 71.1 percent in second round games involving one seeds, with an average total score of 150.0 points.   

Two seeds: The two seeds have gone 39-1 straight up in the first round since the 2000-01 Season, with the only victim being Iowa State vs. Hampton back in 2001. The average winning margin by the two seeds in the first round has been +15.8 points. Besides the Cyclones’ loss, 12 of the 39 wins have been by single-digits with narrowest escape being a one-point win by Duke over Belmont in 2008. The two seeds have not done well against the NCAA Basketball odds in the first round, going just 18-22, 45.0 percent overall. Also, the ‘under’ is 26-14, 65.0 percent in first round games involving two seeds, with an average total score of 134.0 points.

The 39 two seeds that have advanced to the second round have gone a disappointing 25-14 straight up despite being the favorite every single time with an average winning margin of just +3.8 points, and they are right at .500 from a betting perspective at 19-19-1. The latest loss came last year when Villanova lost to 10th seeded St, Mary’s. Also, while the ‘under’ dominated games with two seeds in the first round, the ‘over’ is 20-19 in the second round with an average total score or 142.8 points.

Three seeds: Three seeds have gone 37-3 straight up in the first round with an average winning margin of +10.7 points, and they have held their own betting wise at 21-18-1, 53.8 percent ATS, one of the three first round losses came last season when Georgetown got shocked 97-83 by the Ohio Bobcats. The other two first round defeats of three seeds were when Iowa lost to Northwestern State in 2006 and Kansas, notorious for losing early as a high seed, lost to Bucknell in 2005. The ‘under’ is 25-14-1, 64.1 percent in first round games involving three seeds with an average total score or 133.7 points.

The 37 winning three seeds have gone on to go 25-12 in the second round with an average winning margin of +5.5 points. Interestingly, the three seed has actually been either an underdog or a Pick’em in the second round six times in 10 years, going 3-3 both straight up and ATS in those games. This includes last season when third seeded New Mexico was a 2½ point underdog to 11th seeded Washington and promptly lost 82-64. Three seeds are a nice 20-15-2, 57.1 percent ATS overall and 17-12-1, 58.6 percent ATS as favorites in the second round. Also, the ‘under’ is 20-17 in second round games involving three seeds with an average score of 140.6 points.

Four seeds: While the top three seeds are a cumulative 116-4 straight up in the first round, four seeds have gone 30-10, so this is the point where you can start to look for upsets if the price is right. The average winning margin for the four seeds has been +8.3 points, and they are just barely above ground at 21-19, 52.5 percent ATS in Round One. Vanderbilt was upset by Murray State last season and Wisconsin failed to cover the spread while nipping Wofford 53-49. The ‘over’ is a nice 24-15-1, 61.5 percent in first round games involving four seeds with an average score of 142.5 points.

The 30 fourth seeds that have advanced to the second round have gone a very disappointing 14-16 straight up and 10-19-1, 34.5 percent ATS with a slim average winning margin of +0.9 points. Four seeds have gone 9-16, 36.0 percent ATS as favorites in Round Two and 1-3-1 ATS as either underdogs or a Pick’em. Alos, it is the ‘under’ that has gone 15-13-2 in second round games involving four seeds with an average total score of 139.8 points.

Five seeds: Upsets start becoming much more common with the five seed vs. 12 seed matchups, as the fives have only gone 23-17 straight up over the last 10 years. The five seeds are 19-21 ATS in those games with an average winning margin of +4.2 points. One upset took place last season when Cornell routed Temple 78-65. The ‘over’ is 22-18 in first round games involving five seeds with an average total of 140.6 points.

Interestingly, the 23 five seeds that have managed to avoid the first round upsets have gone on to go a nice 17-6 straight up in the second round, going a surprising 12-5 straight up vs. higher four seeds and 5-1 vs. 13 seeds. Regardless of the opponent, five seeds are a nice 13-8-2, 61.9 percent ATS in the second round.

Six seeds: Believe it or not, six seeds have fared better then five seeds straight up in the first round, going 26-14 straight up although the average winning margin for the sixes is lower at +3.8 points. Six seeds are 20-19-1 ATS in Round One. It should be noted that three six seeds have been underdogs in the first round, and they are 2-1 both outright and ATS. The ‘under’ is 22-18 in first round games involving six seeds with an average total score of 134.8 points.

The 26 six seeds that advanced to the second round have proceeded to go just 11-15 straight up and 12-13-1 ATS, including going 8-15 straight up vs. three seeds. The six seeds did go 3-0 straight up and 2-1 ATS when they were fortunate enough to face 14 seeds however.

Seven seeds: The seven seeds have gone 24-16 straight up in the first round, although they have been one of the best bets at 24-16, 60.0 percent ATS with an average winning margin of +3.1 points. Seven seeds have been first round underdogs 10 times in 10 years, going 5-5 both straight up and ATS in that role. This means that seven seeds are a scintillating 19-11, 63.3 percent as first round favorites. The ‘under’ is 20-19-1 in first round games involving seven seeds with an average total score of 138.3 points.

Seven seeds that have advanced to the second round are just 8-16 straight up, although it is worth mentioning that all eight wins were outright upsets of two seeds. The sevens are barely over .500 ATS in Round Two, at 12-11-1.

Eight seeds: You would think that the eight vs. nine matchups would be the closest games of the first round, and in fact it is the lower ninth seed that has prevailed more often than not, with the eight seeds going 19-21 straight up despite having a positive average winning margin of +0.2 points. The eight seeds are also just 18-21-1 ATS. The best bet in the eight vs. nine games has been the ‘over’, as it is 24-16, 60.0 percent with an average total score or 142.4 points.

The 19 eight seeds that have advanced to the second round have all been matched up with one seeds, and thus are understandably 2-17 straight up in Round Two while going only 8-11 ATS.

Nine seeds: The 21 nine seeds that advanced to the second round have also all been matched up with one seeds, and they have gone 2-19 straight up, although the second win was Northern Iowa over Kansas last year. Nine seeds have also fared slightly better than eight seeds at the betting window in Round Two, but not by much as the nines still have a losing 10-11 ATS mark.

10 seeds: 10 seeds have gone a better then expected 7-9 straight up when advancing to the second round, even though they are just 8-8 ATS.

11 seeds: The 11 seeds that pulled first round upsets are 4-10 straight up and 5-8-1 ATS in the second round. The most interesting aspect about second round games involving 11 seeds is that the ‘under’ is 11-3, 78.6 percent with an average total score of 137.7 points.

12 seeds: 12 seeds have pulled off 17 first round upsets in 10 years, and these teams have also gone on to go a very good 8-9 straight up and 12-5, 61.5 percent ATS in the second round. The lesson here is if a 12 seed pulls an upset, keep on following that team.

13 seeds: The 13 seeds are just 1-9 straight up and 3-6-1 ATS when advancing to the second round, with only Bradley in 2006 moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.

14 seeds: The 14 seeds that pulled first round upsets have been one and done, going 0-3 straight up and 1-2 ATS in Round Two with only Bucknell covering the number vs. Wisconsin back in 2005.

15 seeds: Hampton was brought back to earth in the second round 76-57 by Georgetown as a 13½ point underdog in 2001.

Play-in games: Up until this season, there was just one play-in game on the Tuesday before the main bracket of 64 teams kicked off on Thursday, and while the favorites have gone 6-4 straight up in the play-in games the last 10 years, those favorites are just 4-5-1 ATS with a low average winning margin of +2.4 points. The totals have been split at 5-5 in these games with an average total score of 135.0 points.

The teams that have won the play-in games are obviously 0-10 straight up vs. the top seeds in the first round, losing by an average of -26.7 points. The play-in winners are 4-6 ATS in Round One, with the ‘over’ going 6-4 with a high average total score of 149.3 points.