We are looking at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and in the second of our eight-part series we take a look at the 2-seed vs. 15-seed matchups.
The NCAA Tournament will start soon as it officially begins with the First Four from Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17th and 18th, now less than two weeks away! Next comes the Round of 64, now officially referred to as the Second Round, and while we will continue with our daily NCAA Basketball picks right through the end of the tournament, this is the second of an eight-part series looking at seeding trends for that Round of 64.
The second round takes place on Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th at various sites. Thursday’s venues will be Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, while Friday the scenery shifts to Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. Now, 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 in their home state or very close by.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
Moving on, we have gone back and analyzed seeding trends for the 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, continuing today with the 2 vs. 15 matchups. While we may mention straight up records in passing, our primary emphasis will be on ATS performance for each seeding matchup, as well as trying to identify swings in those trends over recent years.
One format change that occurred over the course of this study is that there used to be one play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament until 2011. The tournament was expanded to 68 teams at that time and thus the First Four was born, which is effectively four play-in games, although those games are now officially the First Round.
So with no further ado, let us take a look 2-seed vs. 15-seed trends since 2001.
2-Seeds vs. 15-Seeds
The 2-seeds have not been a perfect 56-0 like the 1-seeds have in the round of 64 those last 14 years, but they have still been dominant on the court vs. the 15-seeds going 52-4 straight up since 2001 while winning by an average score of 75.2-59.5 for an average winning margin of +15.6 points and an average combined score of 134.7 points.
Just like the 1-seeds though, that dominance has not translated well at the betting windows with the 2-seeds being just 25-29-2 ATS over those last 14 years! Furthermore, three of the four outright shockers by the 15-seeds came over a two-year span in 2012 and 2013.
In fact, two of the stunners took place within about an hour in 2012 when first Norfolk State beat Missouri, and then Lehigh finished off its upset of Duke a short time later. Then in 2013 it was Florida Gulf Coast that was introduced to the nation by beating Georgetown, instantly becoming many people’s favorite Cinderella story with its loose style of play.
What Have 2-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Once the 2-seeds have advanced to the Round of 32, they have surprisingly gone only 35-17 straight up, which is not as good as you would have expected considering the 2s were favored in all 52 of those games. The 2-seeds are just 24-27-1 ATS in this round, winning by an average score of only 72.6-68.9.
Last season was a 2-2 split both straight up and ATS for the 2-seeds, although one of the losses deserves an asterisk as Villanova did not lose to a typical 7-seed but rather to the eventual national champions from Connecticut.
Moving on to the Sweet 16, the news is rather mixed for the 2-seeds as they are a very good 26-9 straight up in this round, but only 17-16-2 ATS while winning by an average score of 72.4-67.9. The two 2-seeds that advanced this far last season both won straight up, with Wisconsin covering ATS in a rout of Baylor but Michigan managing only a ‘push’ on the two-point spread in a 73-71 win over Tennessee.
The 2-seeds that have reached the Elite Eight have split 13-13 straight up while going 12-13-1 ATS. However, we did find two distinct patterns here that are the opposite of what you would expect.
You see, 2-seeds are 11-6 both straight up and ATS when matched up with 1-seeds despite getting slightly outscored by an average of 72.6-73.4. Conversely, 2-seeds are 2-6 straight up and 1-7-1 ATS vs. lower seeds getting outscored 72.2-74.2 and are currently on a six-game losing streak vs. such teams in the Elite Eight! Last year was par for the course for the two 2-seeds that got this far as Wisconsin beat top-seeded Arizona but Michigan lost to eighth-seeded Kentucky.
Looking at the Final Four round, all 2-seeds have gone 6-7 straight up and 5-7-1 ATS, but keep in mind that includes one matchup where 2-seeds have opposed each other. In games where 2-seeds have opposed other seeds in the Final Four round, they are 5-6 straight up and 4-6-1 ATS, broken down by going 3-3 straight up and 2-4 ATS vs. 1-seeds getting outscored 70.7-72.2, and 3-2 straight up and 2-2-1 ATS vs. lower seeds winning by an average of 71.0-64.0.
The ATS ‘push’ occurred last season when Wisconsin was actually an one-point underdog to eighth-seeded Kentucky and got nipped 74-73.
Unfortunately the six 2-seeds that have reached the National Championship Game since 2001 are just 1-5 both straight up and ATS, losing by an average score of 70.0-77.5. The only 2-seed to win the national championship in the last 14 years was Connecticut back in 2004.
What Have 15-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Of the four 15-seeds that shocked 2-seeds in their first game, that 2013 Florida Gulf Coast team was the only one ever to go on to win their game in the Round of 32! The 15-seeds are 1-3 both straight-up and ATS in this round while losing by an average score of 61.5-75.3. The three 15-seeds that lost on this round were all routed by an average of -21.7 points, while the win by FGCU was by an 81-71 score over San Diego State.
Unfortunately the Sweet 16 was the end of line for Florida Gulf Coast, although it did cover the spread again in a 62-50 loss to Florida as a 14-point underdog.