NCAA Tournament Betting: Final Four & Championship seeding trends

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, April 1, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

We are at the Final Four, with one top seed, two four-seeds and one nine-seed participating. Here are our seeding trends and other trends for the Final Four from the last 12 NCAA Tournaments.

We have arrived at the Final Four of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, and before making your NCAA Basketball picks when probably the most watched college basketball games all year are played on Saturday and Monday, we have analyzed the ATS seeding trends for the last 12 tournaments since 2001, and we are presenting the results for the Final Four and the National Championship Game at the end of this piece.

The first matchup in the Final Four on Saturday has the only one-seed remaining in the tournament, the Louisville Cardinals, taking on the annual Cinderella team, the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers at 6:09 ET. We get the sense that Wichita State is not in the same Cinderella class as say VCU or George Mason in recent years though, as we feel that the Shockers are a legitimately good team that was severely underseeded by the selection committee.

The second matchup on Saturday is a battle of four-seeds, as the Michigan Wolverines take on the Syracuse Orange at 8:49 ET. Both of these teams knocked off the one-seeds from their respective regions in the Sweet 16 with Michigan rallying late to beat Kansas and Syracuse having a surprisingly easy time with Indiana, and both teams then went on to easy double-digit wins in the Elite Eight.

The two winners will then square off in the NCAA Basketball Championship Game next Monday, April 8th at approximately 9:20 ET.

Now in the last two weeks, we have delved into the seeding trends for the upcoming rounds for each week at this point. This week however, that discussion is rather brief as we really have only two seeding numbers to discuss with those being one-seeds and four-seeds. That is because before this season, no nine-seed had advanced even as far as the Elite Eight in the last 12 years, never mind the Final Four, so Wichita State is breaking new ground.

Do not fret however as we are filling the gap by first discussing some miscellaneous trends from the last 12 seasons specifically applicable to the Final Four and Championship Game rounds. If you truly cannot wait and need your seeds now, just scroll down to the Seeding Trends section on the bottom.

So without further ago, here are both our general trends and our seeding trends for the final two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. As usual, all results stated are from the last 12 tournaments since 2001, and are based on the closing odds at Pinnacle Sports.

General Trends
Chalk has had the edge: Before last season and much to the chagrin of the sportsbooks, the favorites did very well in the last two rounds over the previous 11 years. The chalk had been 13-9, 59.1 percent ATS in the Final Four round, but the books got some back from the chalk players last season with the favorites going 0-2 ATS, as Kentucky missed the cover by one-half point in an eight-point win over Louisville and Ohio State lost outright to Kansas, leaving the chalk at 13-11, 54.2 percent ATS in the Final Four round since 2001. Louisville and Michigan are currently the two favorites this year.

The favorites did continue their dominance in the Championship Game though with the Wildcats covering the spread in their win over the Jayhawks to bring the record for the favorites to 9-3, 75.0 percent ATS in the Championship Game the last 12 seasons. That makes a combined record of 22-14, 61.1 percent ATS for all the favorites over the last two rounds since 2001.

Lower seeded favorites: The lower seed has been the favorite in the Final Four round four times in 11 years and it is just 1-3 ATS and 2-2 straight up in that role. Kentucky was the latest casualty when it lost while favored as a four-seed in 2011 vs. the three-seeded Connecticut Huskies. The most famous game involving a lower seeded favorite took place in 2004 when second-seeded Connecticut was -2 over top-seeded Duke. With Connecticut up by four points, Duke’s Chris Duhon made a “meaningless” three-pointer from mid-court at the final buzzer for a Duke cover, causing millions of dollars to change hands in a 79-78 UConn win. Incidentally, the only lower seeded favorite to cover in a Final Four game was second-seeded Arizona back in 2001 when it routed top-seeded Michigan State 80-61 as a scant 1-point favorite.

Only once has a lower seeded team been the favorite in the National Championship Game in the past 12 seasons, and that produced a positive result when the three-seeds from Florida blew out the two-seeds from UCLA 73-57 in 2006.

Mid-major ‘unders’: This angle becomes relevant with the inclusion of Wichita State in the Final Four this year. You would think that mid-majors that make it as far as the Final Four would want to try to slow the tempo of the game, as the more possessions there are in a contest, the greater the likelihood that the better team wins and that team is usually the one from the major conference. Well, this has indeed been the case! The ‘under’ is 4-1 in Final Four games involving mid-major conferences over the last 12 seasons, with an average score in those games of 127.6 points. Another positive sign for this angle this season is that Wichita State is a defensive minded team that is used to playing low scoring games anyway.

Should the Shockers pull off another, well, shocker, the ‘under’ is then a perfect 3-0 in the three Championship Games in the past 12 tournaments than have involved mid-major programs, with those games averaging a scant 119.0 points. Two of those three games came in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011 with Butler repeating as national runner-ups, and the third came in 2008 when Memphis stayed ‘under’ vs. Kansas despite the game going into overtime. That makes the ‘under’ 7-1 in games involving mid-major schools over the last two rounds combined with an average combined total score of 124.4 points.

Seeding Trends
While Wichita State is the first nine-seed to crash the Final Four since 2001, it is the fourth team seeded higher than fifth to do so in that time. Two of those high seeds made in the same year of 2011 when eighth seeded Butler and the 11-seeds from VCU both crashed the Final Four. The other Cinderella in the last 12 years was also an 11-seed in the 2006 George Mason Patriots, who were then coached by current Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Jim Larranaga.

One-seeds: A total of 18 one seeds have reached the Final Four since 2001, with the Kentucky Wildcats being the 18th participant last season. The one-seeds went 11-7 straight up and a identical 11-7, 61.1 percent ATS the last 12 seasons even with Kentucky losing ATS last year, but note that three of the matchups pitted two top seeds against each other. In games pitting one-seeds with lower seeds, the top seeds are an identical 8-4 straight up ATS including Kentucky’s ATS loss to fourth seeded Louisville. Interestingly, three of those one-seeds were actually underdogs to lower seeds, and the one-seeds went 2-1 ATS on those occasions. As for the three games where top-seeds opposed each other, it was the underdogs that went 2-1 both straight up and ATS. As mentioned, Louisville is the lone one-seed in the Final Four this season by virtue of an 85-63 romp over Duke.

The 11 one-seeds that reached the Championship Game went 8-3 straight up and 7-4 ATS, including three Championship Games where two one seeds faced each other. The one-seeds that have faced lower seeds in the Finals are a perfect 5-0 straight up the last 11 years and 4-1 ATS including the cover by Kentucky over Kansas last year, with the only non-cover being by Duke vs. Butler in 2010. When two one-seeds faced each other in the Finals the last 11 seasons, the favorites went 2-1 both straight up and ATS. Louisville will certainly be favored if it reaches the Championship Game this season, and it would definitely be facing a lower four-seed.

Four-seeds: Somewhat surprisingly, Louisville last year was only the fourth four-seed to reach the Final Four the last 12 tournaments, and all four have now lost both straight up with Louisville being the first to cover ATS. The Cardinals were preceded by Kentucky, which lost by one point as a favorite to Connecticut in 2011, a different Louisville team which lost by 15 points to Illinois in 2005, and LSU, which lost by 14 points to UCLA in 2006. Well, one four-seed is guaranteed to win and cover this year (unless there is a ‘push’) with Michigan and Syracuse opposing each other.

Obviously, there are no Championship Game trends for whoever wins the matchup between the Wolverines and the Orange, as whichever team advances with be the first four-seed to reaching the Final since 2001.

Nine-seeds: There are no seeding trends for nine-seeds in either the Final Four or the Championship Game as this is unchartered territory. The Wichita State Shockers got here by upsetting Ohio State in the Elite Eight, and even reaching the Elite Eight was a feat in itself as no nine-seed before Wichita State had even advanced that far the past 12 years.

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