We are looking at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and in the fifth of our eight-part series, we take a look at the 5-seed vs. 12-seed matchups.
The NCAA Tournament is drawing closer and closer as it is now just 10 days until it officially begins with the First Four from Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17th and 18th. However, the vast majority of bracket contests including the Free NCAA Bracket Contest at SBR begin in the Round of 64, now officially called the Second Round. And today is the fifth of our eight-part series looking at seeding trends for that Round of 64.
The Second Round takes place Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th at various venues across the country, with Thursday’s games taking place in Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, and Friday’s venues being Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. Teams are not allowed to be seeded on their home floors, but the committee does give geographical preferences to the upper seeds, usually seeding them either in their home state or close to home.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
So what we have done is go back and analyze seeding trends for the Round of 64 for every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and we present those results here one matchup at a time, continuing today with the 5 vs. 12 matchups. And 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 identify some possible shifts in those trends over recent seasons.
Note that one format change has taken place 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 the NCAA Tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011 and thus the First Four was born, which in effect is 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 played at Dayton since its inception.
So now without further ado, let us take a look at the 5-seed vs. 12-seed trends in the Round of 64 since 2001.
5-Seeds vs. 12-Seeds
If you listen to most experts during college basketball telecasts, you will probably hear countless times that the 12-seed upsetting the 5-seed is the most common big upset in the Round of 64, and what do you know, that would be correct! The 5-seeds have gone just 30-26 straight up over the last 14 tournaments while going only 24-31-1 ATS, despite out-scoring the 12-seeds by an average score of 71.3-67.9.
And this trend is showing no signs of slowing down as the 12-seeds upset the 5-seeds in three of the four matchups last season with North Dakota State surprising Oklahoma, Stephen F. Austin stunning VCU and Harvard getting by Cincinnati. Furthermore the 5-seeds did not cover a single matchup this round last year going 0-3-1 ATS and they very nearly got swept straight up, as Saint Louis managed a ‘push’ on a narrow three-point spread in an 83-80 win over NC State.
What Have 5-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 5-seeds that have avoided the upsets in their openers the last 14 seasons have gone on to go a decent 18-12 straight up but just 14-14-2 ATS in the Round of 32. There could be some Money Line potential here when 5-seeds have matched up with 4-seeds in the Round of 32 as the 5s have gong 13-11 straight up as well as 12-11-1 ATS, getting slightly outscored by the 4s by an average of 66.2-68.2.
However the tide may be shifting as the 5-seeds have lost the last four meeting with 4-seeds both straight up and ATS, most recently with Saint Louis losing to Louisville last year. And when 5-seeds have matched up with 13-seeds in the Round of 32, they have gone 5-1 straight up but 2-4-1 ATS, outscoring the lower seeded 13s by an average of 65.8-59.2.
Many 5-seeds have seen their seasons come to a crashing halt in Sweet 16, going 5-13 straight up, but the news is not totally awful as they are 10-8 ATS. Remember that one of the reasons for the poor straight up record is often getting matched up with 1-seeds this round, and the 5-seeds are 4-12 straight up and 9-7 ATS in those matchups getting outscored 71.1-75.8, which is closer than you might think.
On the two occasions when 5-seeds were matched up with lower seeds in the Sweet 16, they split 1-1 both straight up and ATS while surprisingly getting outscored 65.0-66.0.
However if you like oddities, consider that the 5-seeds that have reached the Elite Eight are a perfect 5-0 ATS the last 14 seasons with four of them winning outright! And the 5-seeds are very nearly 5-0 straight up as the only loss was by two points when fifth seeded Arizona lost to third seeded Connecticut 65-63 in 2011.
Even when that loss narrow loss to a higher seeds, 5-seeds have outscored higher seeds 73.3-69.7 on the three occasions they have squared off. The two times the 5-seeds have faced lower seeds in the Elite Eight, the 5s outscored them 75.5-69.0.
Once the 5-seeds have advanced to the Final Four round, they have gone 2-2 both straight up and ATS, including a match-up of five-seeds in 2010 when Butler nipped Michigan State 52-50. When the 5-seeds have faced either 1-seeds or 2-seeds in the Final Four round, they are 1-1 straight up and ATS while getting outscored fairly narrowly 72.0-75.5.
Both 5-seeds that reached the Championship Game lost the final outright, but they did split 1-1 ATS with Butler getting a memorable cover vs. Duke in 2010, missing a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer in a 61-59 loss. The 5-seeds have been outscored 55.5-62.5 in the final game.
What Have 12-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 12-seeds that have pulled off opening upsets in the last 14 tournaments have gone on to go 10-16 straight up in the Round of 32, but they have actually been great bets this round going a stellar 17-9, 65.4 percent ATS! However, none of the three 12-seeds that advanced to the Round of 32 last year won outright, although they did go 1-2 ATS with Harvard covering against Michigan State.
Somewhat surprisingly the 12-seeds have been matched up with 13-seeds seven times in this round and they went 5-2 both straight up and ATS in those games while outscoring them 72.4-63.7. When the 12-seeds have faced 4-seeds in the Round of 32, they are 5-14 straight up but 12-7 ATS, getting outscored 67.5-71.3.
While an abnormally high amount of 12-seeds have reached the Sweet 16 since 2001, the 10 that have done it have only gone 1-9 straight up and 3-7 ATS while getting outscored 63.1-77-1. The only 12-seed to prevail on the court was the 2002 Missouri Tigers.
That 2002 Missouri team then managed a ‘push’ of the six-point spread in the Elite Eight in an 81-75 loss to second seeded Oklahoma.