2015 NCAA Tournament Seeding Trends

Doug Upstone

Saturday, February 21, 2015 8:38 PM UTC

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 8:38 PM UTC

The men’s college basketball tournament is fast approaching and before you know it we will be making sports picks in filling out brackets hoping to win whatever pools we enter.

The focus of this article will not be about college basketball betting odds from the sportsbooks, rather historical data in terms of how seeds perform against one another once the field is set at 64 teams.

One aspect that needs to be understood, there are no absolutes and the perfect example was last season as Connecticut was crowned the national champions, being the first No. 7 seed to do so since the field was increased to 64 participants in 1985.

This is not to say wagering will not be mentioned, because the first Thursday of the tournament is known as one of the least productive work days on the calendar (studies have been done), with millions of people making college basketball picks and at that time, they are as confident as an hoops handicapper selling plays who studies the betting odds for a living.

As we head towards Selection Sunday, this might come in handy for filling out a bracket.


Field of 64 (1999-2014)

Being the top seed is a big deal and the proof is in the fact the No. 16 seed has never won in 64 matchups.

There is nothing wrong with being a 2-seed, especially in the first game, it’s not the slam dunk like being No. 1 and these teams are 60-4, with one higher seed falling on average about every four years. However, that is just an average since 2012 and 2013 saw No. 15 seeds pull shockers.

No. 3 seeds are not that far behind those right above them at 58-6, but they do occur like last season when Duke was stunned by Mercer 78-71.

Where the tournament starts to turn is when we reach the No. 4 seed. Here we find more frequent upsets with the overall record at 50-14. What begins to happen is teams listed 13-16 are not quite as strong as those seeded by the NCAA tournament committee. These teams might have a particular skill set which allowed them to reach this point, but they also have flaws which can be exposed. The other element in this mix is 13- seeds tend to be more talented squads from the lesser known conferences, who have players that might not be tall enough or half step slower to play at a larger school, but still have ample basketball ability.

When it comes to upsets, the 5 vs. 12 matchup is the go to for anyone filling out brackets. And it should be because it occurs more often than what happens to six-seeds. Squads seeded fifth are only 36-28 in the past 16 years and there is good reason why. The 12th seed, similar to the 13’s, are more often than not teams from conferences which receive little attention nationally, which frequently won the regular season and postseason tournament, proving their pedigree and playing with great confidence. If a 12 is from a power conference, they are normally teams which played well done the stretch to sneak in for at-large berth. Almost always, the fifth seed was not good enough to be seeded higher and usually is they did not play well late in the season or lost in the first round of their conference tournament despite a solid season and end being ripe for the taking. Last year, 5-seeds VCU, Cincinnati and Oklahoma all lost and St. Louis escaped in OT versus N.C. State.

Six seeds are 41-23 and the main reason why they have a better record than those directly above them is 11-seeds tend to be marginal opponents, who have weaknesses which are easier to detect than positioned one below them. Nonetheless, the lower seed averages almost three wins every two years and last year both Dayton and Tennessee advanced to the round of 32.

It used to be the 7 vs. 10 was another area to expect the lower seed to have success and those teams are 27-37. In recent years we have not seen the same frequency of 10’s winning at 4-8 the last three tourney’s.

The 8 vs. 9 confrontation is about what you would expect, with the seeding almost interchangeable with the higher seed holding a slim 33-31 edge.

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