We are looking at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and in the third of our eight-part series we take a look at the 3-seed vs. 14-seed matchups.
The NCAA Tournament is set to begin in less than two weeks as it officially commences with the First Four from Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17th and 18th. That is followed by the Round of 64, now officially called the Second Round, and while we will continue to provide our daily NCAA Basketball picks right through the end of the tournament, this is the third of an eight-part series looking at seeding trends for that Round of 64.
That second round takes place on Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th at various venues across the country. Thursday’s games this year will be at Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, while Friday venues are Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. Teams are not allowed to be seeded literally on their home floors, but the selection committee does give geographical preferences to the top seeds so they are often placed close to home.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
So what we have done is go back and analyze seeding trends for the Round of 64 for every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and this series presents those results one matchup at a time, continuing today with the 3 vs. 14 matchups. We may mention straight up records in passing along the way, but our primary emphasis will be on ATS performance for each seeding matchup, as well as trying to identify possible shifts in those trends over recent tournaments.
There has been one format change since the beginning of this study, as before 2011 there was just one play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament. Then the NCAA Tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011 and thus was born the First Four, which are effectively four play-in games to get into the main bracket of 64 teams. The First Four is now officially referred to as the First Round.
So now let us take a look at 3-seed vs. 14-seed trends in the Round of 64 (or Second Round) since 2001.
3-Seeds vs. 14-Seeds
If you followed the first two parts of this series, you would know that 1-seeds are a perfect 56-0 and 2-seeds are 52-4 straight up in the Round of 64 since 2001. Well, the 3-seeds have also dominated vs. the 14-seeds during this span going 51-5 straight up, and they have been better bets than the top two seeds going 31-23-2, 57.4 percent ATS this round while winning by an average score of 72.5-61.2!
The fifth straight up loss by a 3-seed before the opening weekend did come last season though when 14th seeded Mercer shocked Duke 78-71. Even with that stunner however, the 3-seeds have been even stronger bets over the last four tournaments than they have been over the full duration of this study, going 10-5-1 ATS since 2011 while winning by an average of +12.9 points.
What Have 3-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 3-seeds have remained strong bets even after advancing to the Round of 32, or at least that was true before last year, as they have gone 33-18 straight up and a still very good 27-21-3, 56.3 percent ATS while winning be an average score of 72.1-67.3. However the 3s went just 1-2 both straight up and ATS last year with only Iowa State prevailing over North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Creighton was blown out by sixth seeded Baylor 85-55 and Syracuse went down to 11th seeded Dayton 55-53.
The Sweet 16 has not been kind to the 3-seeds as they are just 16-17 straight up and 15-18 ATS in this round. And it has not really mattered from a betting viewpoint if the 3-seeds have been matched up with higher seeded 2-seeds or with lower seeds, as they are 7-12 straight up and 9-10 ATS vs. 2-seeds while getting outscored by an average of 69.4-71.6, and 9-5 straight up but 6-8 ATS vs. lower seeds while slightly outscoring those opponents 70.1-68.5.
The Sweet 16 was the end of the line for the lone remaining 3-seed Iowa State last year as it lost 81-76 to the 7-seeds from Connecticut, who of course went on to win the National Championship.
The 3-seeds that advanced to the Elite Eight are 7-9 both straight up and ATS, but there is one subset where they could be good Money Line potential. That is because 3-seeds are 5-7 straight up when matched up with 1-seeds this round, which could be profitable as the 3-seeds were underdogs in all 12 of those games. The 3s are 6-6 ATS vs. the 1s while not getting outscored as much as you would think with an average score of 74.8-75.3.
When 3-seeds have been matched up with lower seeds in the Elite Eight, they have gone 2-2 straight up but just 1-3 ATS while actually getting outscored by the lower seeds 60-5-67.0.
Moving on to the Final Four round, the 3-seeds have gone 4-3 both straight up and ATS, but they are only 2-3 straight up and ATS when matched up with higher 1-seeds or 2-seeds, getting outscored in those games 75.2-84.2. Conversely the 3-seeds have had two covering wins when facing lower seeds, winning by an average score of 64.5-56.5.
The 3-seeds that have advanced to the Championship Game have tended to finish the deal, emerging as NCAA Champions in three of their four trips while going 3-1 ATS. The 3-seeds have faced 2-seeds for the national title three times and they went 2-1 both straight up and ATS while winning by an average of 75.7-72.3. The only 3-seed not to face a 2-seed was Connecticut in 2011, which beat an 8-seed in Butler 53-41.
What Have 14-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Unfortunately the five 14-seeds that have sprung upsets in the Round of 64 have gone no further, with the 2005 Bucknell Bison being the only one to even cover the spread in the next round. The 14-seeds are 0-5 straight up at 1-4 ATS in the Round of 32 while losing by an average score of 59.6-75.6. That Bucknell team was the only 14-seed to lose by single-digits this round in a 71-62 loss to Wisconsin.