We have looked at all NCAA Tournament seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001, and in the last of our eight-part series, we take a look at the 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchups.
We have now reached the start of the NCAA Tournament as it officially begins one week from today with the First Four from Dayton, OH on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17th and 18th. The majority of the country will probably be more interested in the Round of 64 that follows though, now officially called the Second Round, as that is when most of the bracket contests begin including the Free NCAA Bracket Contest at SBR.
And today we conclude our eight-part series looking at seeding trends for that Round of 64.
This year, the Second Round takes place Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th at various venues as usual, with Thursday’s action hailing from Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Portland, and Friday’s venues being Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. And while teams are not allowed to literally be seeded on their home floors, the selection committee does give geographical preferences to upper seeds, often seeding them in their home state or nearby.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
What we did was go back and analyze seeding trends for the Round of 64 for every NCAA Tournament since 2001, and we have presented the results in this series here one matchup at a time, wrapping things up today with the 8 vs. 9 matchups. And while we reference straight up records quite a bit, our primary interest is the ATS performance for each seeding matchup, as well as trying to identify possible shifts in those ATS trends in recent seasons.
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 from that was born the First Four, which in effect is a round of four play-in games to get into the main bracket of 64 teams. The First Four is officially the First Round and has been played in Dayton since its inception.
So now for the last time and without further ado, let us put a wrap on this series with our 8 vs. 9 seeding trends in the Round of 64 since 2001.
8-Seeds vs. 9-Seeds
You would think that the 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchups should be the best matchups in the Round of 64, and sure enough those games have indeed been the most competitive with the 8-seeds holding a 30-26 straight up edge the last 14 tournaments but only winning those games by an average score of 69.9-69.3 for a scant margin of +0.6 points! The 8-seeds are also a ho-hum 28-26-2 ATS in their opening games.
Last season was a tad different however with the 8-seeds going 3-1 both straight up and ATS, with the lone outlier being ninth seeded Pittsburgh destroying eighth seeded Colorado 77-48. And remember that one of the 8-seeds that prevailed was Kentucky, which went on to become a national finalist.
What Have 8-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 8-seeds that have advanced to the round of 32 have always gotten matched up with 1-seeds, so naturally it makes perfect sense that the 8s are 4-26 straight up and 11-19 ATS on opening weekend while getting blown out by an average score of 68.6-81.4.
With that being said, perhaps the most exciting game of the entire tournament last season was when Kentucky became the fourth 8-seed to beat a 1-seed while edging previously unbeaten Wichita State 78-76. Thus Kentucky followed in the footsteps of UCLA in 2002, Alabama in 2004 and Butler in 2011 as 8-seeds to upset top seeds in the Round of 32.
Then, somewhat surprisingly, 8-seeds that have just upset 1-seeds have gone on to go 3-1 both straight up and ATS in the Sweet 16, and the 8’s continued to put the “Madness” in March Madness by going 3-0 straight up and ATS when matchup by with higher seeds while winning those games by a score of 71.7-64.7 including Kentucky’s 74-69 win over the 4-seeds from Louisville last year.
And yet, the one time the 8-seed was “lucky” enough to get matched up with a lower seed in the Sweet 16, UCLA was upset 82-73 by 12th seeded Missouri in 2002.
And the 8-seeds have still been mostly not done as they have proceeded to go 2-1 straight up and ATS in the Elite Eight despite facing 2-seeds on all three occasions and getting slightly outscored 73.3-76.7. The reason for that negative margin is an 87-71 loss by Alabama to Connecticut in 2004, but Butler beat Florida 74-71 in 2011 and Kentucky nipped Michigan 75-72 last season.
And as fate would have it, both 8-seeds to reach the Final Four round have gone on to the National Championship Game while going 1-0-1 ATS. Butler won and covered in a favorable matchup vs. 11th seeded VCU in 2011 while Kentucky got a ‘push’ as a one-point favorite despite facing a higher seed in second seeded Wisconsin last year in a 74-73 nail-biter.
Both 8-seeds that made the Championship Game then bit the dust both on the court and at the betting windows while losing by an average score of 47.5-56-5, and both of those 8-seeds, Kentucky last year and Butler in 2011, lost to Connecticut!
What Have 9-Seeds Done Afterwards?
The 9-seeds that advanced to the Round of 32 have also obviously all been matched up with 1-seeds as well, and have thus gone 3-23 straight up, although they are a semi-respectable 13-13 ATS while getting outscored 65.7-77.4. The last 9-seed to beat a 1-seed was Wichita State knocking off Gonzaga two years ago on the Shockers’ way to the 2013 Final Four. The only 9-seed in this round last year Pittsburgh was throttled 61-45 by Florida in an ATS loss.
That Wichita State team in 2013 is the only 9-seed to win its Sweet 16 game, although the Shockers had a bit of luck in drawing 13th seeded La Salle while covering ATS in that 72-58 win. The two 9-seeds that lost in the Sweet 16 both drew higher seeds and were outscored 63.0-79.5 while going 0-2 ATS.
Wichita State was full of firsts in 2013 as it then became the only 9-seed since 2001 to win a game in the Elite Eight while upsetting second seeded Ohio State 70-66, and the Shockers even covered ATS when they were finally eliminated in the Final Four round 72-68 by top seeded Louisville.