The 2016 NCAA Tournament begins one week from today with the First Four, and we wrap up our eight-part series on seeding trends Tuesday by analyzing the 8-seeds and 9-seeds.
The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament, perhaps the most exciting three weeks in all of sports, begins one week from today with the First Four from Dayton next Tuesday and Wednesday, and that is followed by the round of 64 next Thursday and Friday, March 17th and 18th. So while we have continued providing NCAA basketball picks here almost daily, today we wrap up our eight-part series on NCAA Tournament seeding trends since 2001 starting with that round of 64.
As you probably know by now, the round of 64 has officially become the Second Round and it takes place at various venues. This season, the Thursday sites will be Denver, Des Moines, Providence and Raleigh while the Friday sites will be Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Spokane. Teams are not allowed to be seeded on their home floors, but the committee does give geographic preference to the top seeds, placing them either in their home state or close to home.
NCAA Tournament ATS Records are Since 2001
Now, we have gone back and analyzed the NCAA basketball odds by individual seed for every round of the NCAA Tournament since 2001, and we have been presenting the results here for two seeds daily. Today we conclude our series with the 8-seeds and 9-seeds, which are the seeds that match up in the Second Round or round of 64. As usual, we will briefly discuss straight up records by seed by round, but our main focus will still be on ATS records.
Remember that there was one format change during the course of this 15-year study, and that was in 2011 when the NCAA Tournament field expanded from 65 to 68 teams. Thus, instead of having just one play-in game between the 64th and 65th overall seeds for a spot in the round of 64 like before, 2011 marked the birth of the First Four, or essentially four play-in games to advance to the main bracket of 64 teams. Also, the First Four is now officially the First Round.
Now without any further ado, we end this series with our look at the seeding trends for the 8-seeds and the 9-seeds in the last 15 NCAA Basketball Tournaments since 2001. Keep in mind all of these ATS records are based on the closing lines from Pinnacle Sports.
8-Seeds vs. 9-Seeds in Second Round
You would logically expect the 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchups to be the tightest matchups in the Round of 64, and for the most part they have been with the 8-seeds going 34-26 straight up the last 15 tournaments, tied with the 5-seeds for the lowest winning percentage among the top eight seeds, with the 8-seeds barely winning by an average score of 70.1-69.2. The 8-seeds are also a nondescript 30-28-2 ATS during this Second Round.
Last season was a tad stranger with the 8-seeds going a perfect 4-0 straight up! However, those same 8-seeds only split 2-2 ATS with San Diego State being the only one to win by double-digits while beating St. John’s by 12 points. In fact, two of the wins were by identical 66-65 scores, so that is how close the 8-seeds and 9-seeds came to splitting straight up.
What Have 8-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Unfortunately, since a 1-seed has never lost to a 16-seed. all of the 8-seeds that have advanced to the round of 32 have always gotten matched up with 1-seeds, and thus it makes perfect sense that 8-seeds are 5-29 straight up and 14-20 ATS opening weekend while getting blown out by an average score of 67.5-79.8.
Last year was a good one from a betting viewpoint for the 8-seeds vs. the 1-seeds however as they went 3-1 ATS, including N.C. State upsetting top seeded Villanova outright to become the fifth 8-seed during the course of our study to knock off a 1-seed on the court.
Then, 8-seeds that have just upset 1-seeds have gone on to go 3-2 both straight up and ATS in the Sweet 16, putting the “Madness” into March Madness by surprisingly going 3-1 straight up and ATS when matched up with higher seeds while winning those games by a score of 70.0-67.3. Those records had both been a perfect 3-0 until last season, when NC State failed to cover ATS vs. Louisville in a 10-point loss.
The oddity was that the one time that the 8-seed was “lucky” enough to draw a lower seed in the Sweet 16, UCLA was upset 82-73 by 12th seeded Missouri way back in 2002.
Furthermore, two-thirds of the 8-seeds that have advanced to the Elite Eight have continued to play on, going 2-1 both straight up and ATS despite facing 2-seeds on all three occasions and getting slightly outscored 73.3-76.7. That negative margin is due to the one loss being by 16 points by Alabama to Connecticut in 2004, but Butler beat Florida 74-71 in 2011 and Kentucky nipped Michigan 75-72 in 2014. Interestingly, Kentucky was a -2½-point favorite that game.
Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that both 8-seeds to reach the Final Four round have won to move on to the National Championship Game while going 1-0-1 ATS. One of those was a favorable draw however, as Butler won and covered vs. 11th seeded VCU in 2011, while Kentucky gained a ‘push’ as a one-point favorite despite facing a second seeded Wisconsin in a 74-73 nail-biter in 2014.
Sadly, both 8-seeds that made the National Championship Game then bit the dust both on the court and at the betting windows while losing by a very low average score of 47.5-56-5. Coincidentally, both of those 8-seeds, Butler in 2011 and Kentucky in 2014, lost to the Connecticut Huskies!
What Have 9-Seeds Done Afterwards?
Just like the 8-seeds, all of the 9-seeds that advanced to the Round of 32 have been matched up with 1-seeds as well, and have thus gone 3-23 straight up, although they are a somewhat respectable 13-13 ATS while getting outscored 65.7-77.4. The last 9-seed to beat a 1-seed was Wichita State upsetting Gonzaga on the Shockers’ way to the 2013 Final Four.
That 2013 Wichita State team is the only 9-seed to win its Sweet 16 game, although some luck was on the Shockers’ side in drawing 13th seeded La Salle while covering ATS in that 72-58 win. The other two 9-seeds to reach the Sweet 16 both lost convincingly to higher seeds while getting outscored 63.0-79.5 and going 0-2 ATS.
Wichita State was not done making history in 2013 as it then became the only 9-seed in the last 15 NCAA Basketball Tournaments to win a game in the Elite Eight, 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 the top seeded and eventual 2013 National Champions from Louisville.