With the 2016 NCAA Tournament now less than one month away, today we are beginning our eight-part series on seeding trends since 2001, starting with the 1-seeds and 16-seeds.
The NCAA Tournament is less than one month away beginning with the First Four from Dayton, OH on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, March 15th and 16th before the Round of 64, now referred to as the Second Round, begins Thursday and Friday, March 17th and 18th. And while we will continue to provide NCAA basketball picks here at Sportsbook Review almost daily, this is the first part of an eight-part series on seeding trends beginning with that round of 64.
This series will be posted on Mondays and Tuesdays over the following four weeks, with the final piece being posted on the week ending with Selection Sunday on March 13th.
For the record, the second round venues this year will be Denver, Des Moines, Providence and Raleigh on Thursday, followed by Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Spokane on Friday. Remember that teams are not allowed to be seeded literally on their home floors, although the selection committee does give geographical preferences to the top seeds so they are oftentimes placed in their home states or at the very least very nearby.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records Are Since 2001
So we have gone back and done a seeding analysis of NCAA basketball odds by individual seed for every round of every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and we are presenting the results starting today with the 1-seeds and 16-seeds, which are the seeds that match up in the round of 64 (now the Second Round). While we may briefly discuss the straight up records for each seed by round, our primary emphasis will be on ATS performance, which is of utmost importance to bettors.
One change in the tournament format in recent years is that while there used to be one play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament until five years ago, the tournament has now expanded to 68 teams and the First Four was born in 2011, which is effectively four play-in games that are now considered the First Round.
Also keep in mind that there was a fundamental change to the game this season with the shot clock shortened to 30 seconds, which could theoretically lead to fewer upsets with underdogs now having a tougher time shortening games by milking the clock.
So with no further ado, let us take a look at today’s seeding trends over the last 15 NCAA Tournaments since 2001. All of these ATS records are based on the closing lines at Pinnacle Sports.
1-Seeds vs. 16-Seeds In Second Round
As you have probably already heard thousands of times and will probably hear again continuously from the talking heads of the media over the next month or so, a 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed since the seeding format began, so it goes without saying that the 1-seeds are a perfect 60-0 straight up in these matchups since 2001. The average winning margin for the 1-seeds has been +24.4 points with the average final score being 81.9-57.5.
However, what you may not have realized is that the 1-seeds and 16-seeds have had an even split ATS wise with both going 29-29-2 vs. the number! Thus, there has obviously been no advantage either way despite the enormous talent gap between the teams, as the oddsmakers have done an expert job as usual of inflating the point spreads enough to generate that even split.
It had appeared that the 16-seeds had been gaining steam by going 6-2 ATS in the two tournaments prior to last season, but then last year it was back to par for the entire course of our study with each seed going 2-2 ATS. Ironically, the smallest winning margin last year was the 14-point non-covering win by Wisconsin over Coastal Carolina, the same Wisconsin team that would eventually advance all the way to the National Championship Game.
What Have 1-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Now, as you will see by the next seven parts of this series, this is the section where we would normally discuss the performances of each seed for each subsequent round of the tournament. Today though, since a 16-seed had never beaten a 1-seed, we are only looking at the outward performance of the 1-seeds.
Once all 60 of the 1-seeds the past 15 years have advanced to the round of 32, they have gone 52-8 straight up and a good 33-27, 55.0 percent ATS, winning by an average score of 78.8-66.7. However, the eighth straight up loss took place last year when eighth seeded NC State upset top seeded Villanova, and 2015 was bad betting year for the 1-seeds in the round of 32 as they went just 1-3 ATS with the eventual national champions from Duke getting the only cover.
Moving on to the Sweet 16, the 1-seeds are 41-11 straight up and a so-so 28-24, 53.8 percent ATS, winning by an average score of 73.8-66.3. Last year was a banner year for the 1-seeds this round though as they went a perfect 3-0 both straight up and ATS. However, they were also rather fortunate with two of the covers being by less than two points, as Duke (-4½) beat Utah by six points and Wisconsin (-6) had an even closer ATS call vs. North Carolina, winning by seven!
The 1-seeds have generally become riskier bets in the Elite Eight round where they have gone a relatively modest 23-18 straight up and have been losing propositions overall betting wise at 16-24-1, 40.0 percent ATS. Also, the average winning margin for the 1-seeds has been very narrow in the Elite Eight with an average score of 73.7-71.9. Again though, 2015 was a bit of an aberration with 1-seeds going 3-0 straight up and 2-1 ATS.
Looking at the overall records in the Final Four round, all 1-seeds have gone 14-9 straight up and 13-10 ATS, but keep in mind that includes four matchups where 1-seeds have opposed each other such as last year when Wisconsin ended the season of then undefeated Kentucky. In games where 1-seeds have opposed other seeds in the Final Four round, they are 10-5 straight up and 9-6 ATS while winning by an average score of 75.3-70.2.
That record includes Duke routing seventh seeded Michigan State 81-61 last season as just a 5½-point favorite in several sportsbooks.
Now we have reached the National Championship Game, where 1-seeds have gone 10-4 straight up and 9-5 ATS since 2001, but that again includes four matchups where they have opposed each other such as Duke knocking off Wisconsin last April. Most interestingly though, 1-seeds that have opposed other seeds for the national title have taken care of business going a perfect 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS, winning by a fairly sizable average score of 74.2-65.0!