We are looking at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and we begin our eight-part series today with a look at the 1-seed vs. 16-seed matchups.
The NCAA Tournament is fast approaching as it officially begins with the First Four from Dayton, OH on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, March 17th and 18th, now just two weeks away! Then comes the Round of 64, now officially referred to as the Second Round, and while we will continue to provide daily NCAA Basketball picks right through the end of the tournament, this is the first part of an eight-part series looking at seeding trends for that Round of 64.
The second round will take place on Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th. Thursday’s venues will be Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, while on Friday the festivities will take place at Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. While teams are not allowed to be seeded literally on their home floors, the selection committee does give geographical preferences to the top seeds so they are oftentimes in their home state or very nearby.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
We have gone back and done a seeding analysis for this Round of 64 for every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and we are presenting the results one matchup at a time over this eight-part series, beginning today with the 1 vs. 16 matchups. While we may briefly discuss the straight up records for each seeding matchup, our primary emphasis will be on ATS performance, as well as trying to show swings in the overall trends in more recent years.
One change in the format over the years is that their used to be one play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament until two years ago. That was when the tournament was expanded to 68 teams and the First Four was born with what effectively is four play-in games, although those games are now considered the First Round.
So without any further ado, let us take a look at today’s two seeding matchup trends since 2001.
1-Seeds vs. 16-Seeds
As you have probably heard thousands of times and probably will continue to hear until it actually happens, a 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed since the seeding format began, so obviously the 1-seeds are a perfect 56-0 straight up in these matchups since 2001. The average winning score for the 1-seeds has been 81.6-57.4, for an average winning margin of +24.2 points and an average combined total of 139.0 points.
However, you may be shocked to know that there has been an even split between the 1s and the 16s ATS wise, with each team going 27-27-2 vs. the number! Obviously that does not provide any edge one way or the other over the entire course of the last 14 years, but in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times, the times they are a changin’!”
You see, up until the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the 1-seeds were 25-19 ATS and only once did the 1-seed not win by double-digits. That one time occurred in that 2012 Tournament when Syracuse only beat UNC-Ashville by seven points 72-65, and that was perhaps a precursor of what was about to transpire over the 2013 and 2014 tournaments.
You see, the talent gap in college basketball may be shrinking, as in the last two seasons the 16-seeds have gone 6-2 ATS. Not only that but after only hanging within single-digits once over the first 12 years of this study, they have incurred three single-digit losses in the last two years, most recently when Arizona got by a pesky Weber State team 68-59 last year.
What Have 1-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Normally we would now go on to give the performances of each seed involved in our daily matchup in all future rounds, but since a 16-seed had never beaten a 1-seed, we are only doing so for the 1-seeds today.
Once the 1-seeds have advanced to the Round of 32, they have gone 49-7 straight up and a good 32-24, 57.1 percent ATS, winning by an average score of 79.6-67.3. The seventh straight up loss came last year when the eighth seeded eventual national finalists the Kentucky Wildcats nipped previously undefeated top seed Wichita State 78-76.
Moving on to the Sweet 16, the 1-seeds are 38-11 straight up but just a nondescript 25-24 ATS, winning by an average score of 73.8-67.0. Of the three 1-seeds that reached the Sweet 16 last year, two advanced with the only one failing to do so being Virginia, which fell to fourth seeded Michigan State in another nail-biter 61-59.
The 1-seeds have become riskier bets in the Elite Eight round where they have gone a modest 20-18 straight up and have been losing propositions betting wise at 14-23-1 ATS. Granted the 1s still have a positive average winning margin, but just narrowly with an average score of 73.8-72.4. The 1-seeds split in the Elite Eight last season with Florida winning but Arizona losing 64-63 to second seeded Wisconsin.
Looking at the Final Four round, all 1-seeds have gone 12-8 straight up and 11-9 ATS, but keep in mind that includes three matchups where 1-seeds have opposed each other. In games where 1-seeds have opposed other seeds in the Final Four round, they are 9-5 straight up and 8-6 ATS while winning by an average score of 74.9-70.9. The only 1-seed to reach the Final Four last year did not survive as Florida lost to seventh seeded and eventual champion Connecticut.
The 1-seeds that have reached the National Championship Game since 2001 are 9-3 straight up and 8-4 ATS, but that again includes three matchups where they have opposed each other. Most interestingly, 1-seeds that have opposed other seeds for the national title are a perfect 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS, winning by an average score of 74.2-65.0!