We are looking at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and in the fourth of our eight-part series we take a look at the 4-seed vs. 13-seed matchups.
The NCAA Tournament is now less than two weeks away as it officially begins with the First Four from Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17th and 18th. Then next is the Round of 64, now officially called the Second Round, which is when most contests start including the Free NCAA Bracket Contest at SBR. This is now the fourth of our 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 venues based on region. This year, Thursday’s games will take place at Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, and Friday’s venues are Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. And while teams are not allowed to be seeded literally on their home floors, the selection committee does give geographical preferences to the top seeds, usually seeding them close to home.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
What we have done is go back and analyze seeding trends for the Round of 64 in every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and this series presents those results one matchup at a time, continuing today with the 4 vs. 13 matchups. While we often mention straight up records in passing, our primary emphasis will be on ATS performance for each seeding matchup, as well as trying to pinpoint possible shifts in those trends over recent seasons.
Now, there has been one format change since the beginning of this study, as until 2011 there was just one play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament. But 2011 marked the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams and the First Four was born, which is effectively a round of four play-in games to get into the main bracket of 64 teams. The First Four is now officially the First Round and it has been at Dayton since its inception.
So now it is time for us take a look at the 4-seed vs. 13-seed trends in the Round of 64 since 2001.
4-Seeds vs. 13-Seeds
If you have been following along since the beginning of this series, you are probably aware that the top three seeds are a combined 159-9 straight up in the Round of 64 since 2001, so those are probably bad spots to pick upsets in your brackets! However, now that we have reached the 4-seed vs. 13-seed matchup, upsets start to become a bit more common.
To wit, 4-seeds are 43-13 straight up in this round, which is four more losses than the first three seeds combined, and the 4-seeds are a nondescript 29-26-1 ATS, winning their games by an average score of 74.4-65.2. The 4-seeds want a perfect 4-0 straight up last season but they went only 1-2-1 ATS with UCLA getting the only cover. Louisville failed to cover vs. pesky Manhattan, as did San Diego State while edging New Mexico State.
Michigan State got a ‘push’ on the 15-point spread in a 93-78 win over Delaware in the other 4 vs. 13 matchup.
What Have 4-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 4-seeds that have advanced to the Round of 32 have not been good bets overall despite going a respectable 25-18 straight up while winning by an average score of just 69.5-66.8, as that has only netted them an 18-24-1 ATS mark this round.
However last season was a banner year for the 4-seeds the Round of 32 as all four of them advanced to the Sweet 16 and they went 3-1 ATS with only Michigan State failing to cover in a seven-point win over Harvard, so perhaps the tide is turning.
The Sweet 16 has often been the end of the line for the 4-seeds though as those that have advanced this far have gone dismal 8-17 straight up, although they have managed to go 13-12 ATS. That straight up mark makes sense though considering the 4-seed have been matched up with 1-seeds 22 times, and they are 7-15 straight up in those meetings while losing by an average score of 66.6-70.6, although that are a respectable 12-10 ATS.
The surprising part is that the 4-seeds are only 1-2 both straight up and ATS when matched up with lower seeds in the Sweet 16. The latest loss came last year when Louisville fell to eighth seeded Kentucky.
The 4-seeds that advanced to the Elite Eight are a nice 6-2 straight up and 5-3 ATS, although that record was 6-1 straight up until Michigan State lost to seventh seeded but eventual national champion Connecticut last season. In a nice oddity though, 4-seeds are 4-1 both straight up and ATS when matched up with higher seeded 2-seeds or 3-seeds in the Elite Eight, winning those games by an average of 70.2-61.2.
However, the loss by Michigan State last year made the 4-seeds 1-2 ATS when matched up with lower seeds, although that are 2-1 straight up in those games while winning by an average of 73.0-71.0.
Unfortunately once the 4-seeds have reached the Final Four round, they have gone just 1-5 straight up and 2-4 ATS, and furthermore the only straight up win came the only time two four-seeds have opposed each other, which was in 2013 when Michigan beat Syracuse. Take away that matchup and the 4-seeds have gone 0-4 straight up and 1-3 ATS in the Final Four round the last 14 tournaments losing by an average score of 54.5-64.0.
Thus, the 2013 Michigan team is the only 4-seed over the 14-year span to make the NCAA Championship Game, and it failed to cover the spread losing to Louisville 82-76.
What Have 13-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 13-seeds that have advanced to the Round of 32 are just 3-10 straight up and 5-7-1 ATS, losing by an average score of 61.6-69.4. Two of the straight up winners and the last two ATS covers by 13-seeds did come within the last three years, first with Ohio bearing South Florida in 2012 and then with La Salle beating Mississippi in 2013, although no 13-seed made it this far last year.
And the three 13-seeds have reached the Sweet 16 since 2001 have gone no further going 0-3 straight up while managing a 1-2 ATS mark, losing by an average of 62.3-75.0. The lone cover was by that 2012 Ohio team as it covered in a 73-65 loss to North Carolina.