NCAA Tournament Betting: Opening weekend seeding trends

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 4:00 AM GMT

The NCAA Tournament has arrived and here are seeing trends for the rounds of 64 and 32. This is the first of a two-part series, trends for the rest of the tournament are coming next week.

Selection Sunday has come and gone and the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament has been set, meaning that we are in the midst of the first of three of the most exciting weeks in North American sports all year! Yes, the First Four now takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday of opening week, but the “real” round of 64 still begins on Thursday, which is also when most bracket contests begin such as the great free NCAA Brackets Contest at SBR Forum.

But we are more concerned with the ATS betting side of things, as we have analyzed the ATS seeding trends for the last 13 NCAA Tournaments since 2001, and this week we are presenting the results for the rounds of 64 and rounds of 32. We will be back next week with the seeding trends for the rest of the tournament from the Sweet 16 onward.

Now, there were no huge upsets in the major conference tournaments this season as all the teams that won those tournament would have been in the NCAA Tournament anyway. The upsets were restricted to the smaller tournaments that are one-bid leagues anyway, so one would think that the job of the selection committee would be fairly easy this year.

And yet they did an awful job of seeding in our eyes, with the Midwest Region so stacked that Louisville, who we consider one of the three best teams in the entire country, is a four-seed in that region, and another championship contender Michigan State is also a four-seed in the East. As for teams that got snubbed from the field entirely, we feel that SMU was the worst omission.

But we digress, so getting back on point, let us now move on to the seeding trends for opening weekend. Just to clear up some semantics, due to the addition of the First Four, the round of 64 on Thursday and Friday in now referred to as the second round and the round of 32 Saturday and Sunday is now the third round. Here are the seeding trends for those rounds in the 13 NCAA Tournaments since 2001, all based on the closing odds at Pinnacle Sports.

One-seeds: Three of the one-seeds were obvious this season as Florida, Arizona and Wichita State were basically locked into those slots for a long time. The committee gave the fourth one-seed to Virginia after the Cavaliers won both the ACC Tournament and the regular season title. Now, people are still waiting for a 16-seed to beat a one-seed, and it has still never happened since the seeding process began. The one-seeds are 52-0 straight up during the course of this 13-year study, but the day that humongous upset happens could be drawing closer as top seeds only went 1-3 ATS last season including two single-digit wins. That makes three single-digit wins for the one-seeds in their first game the last two years after there were none over the first 11 years of this study! There has not really much to be found here from a betting standpoint as one-seeds are 26-24-2, 52.0 percent ATS vs. 16-seeds since 2001.

Once we get to round of 32, the one-seeds are 46-6 straight up the last 13 years with the Gonzaga Bulldogs being the sixth victim last season, falling to ninth seeded and eventual Final Four participant Wichita State. You do not need us to tell you how the Shockers have built on the success of that Final Four run this year. The top seeds went 2-2 ATS this round last year, leaving them at a still profitable 29-23, 55.8 percent ATS in the round of 32 since 2001. If you are looking for a different angle, consider that the ‘over’ is an extraordinary 35-15-2, 70.0 percent in games involving one seeds during the round of 32 the last 13 tournaments!

Two-seeds: Two-seeds were once as dominant as one-seeds in the second round as they were 43-1 straight up until two years ago with the only hiccup being Iowa State getting stunned by Hampton in 2001. However, in another sign that the times are changing and more parity is coming to college basketball, 15-seeds have now upset two seeds three times in the last two seasons with the most recent being Florida Gulf Coast shocking Georgetown last year. Thus the two-seeds are now 48-4 in their first games the last 13 seasons. The twos have also had quite a few close calls over the years as 12 of those 48 wins have been by single-digits, so it is not surprising that they have not been great ATS in their tournament openers, going 24-28, 46.2 percent vs. the number.

That mediocrity has continued in the round of 32 when the two-seeds have gone 33-15 straight up, which is not as good as you would expect considering they were favored in every single one of those games over the last 13 years. Although all three two-seeds that advanced won in the round of 32 last season, Duke was the only one of the three to cover the spread, leaving the two-seeds at 22-25-1 ATS this round since 2001.

Three-seeds: Thanks to the sudden vulnerability of the two-seeds the last two years, the three-seeds now have an identical 48-4 straight up record as the two-seeds in the second round. The three-seeds went 3-1 straight last season with only the upset of New Mexico by Harvard going against the grain. Three-seeds have also been good bets over the last 13 tournaments going 29-21-2, 58.0 percent ATS.

That success has continued in the third round with the 48 three-seeds that have advanced going 32-16 straight up including a perfect 3-0 last season They also went 2-0-1 ATS last year to leave the three-seeds at a stellar 26-19-3, 57.8 percent ATS overall in the last 13 seasons in this round of 32.

Four-seeds: It can very easily be that the 2014 National Champion will come from this 4-seed line with two of the hottest teams in the country right now in Louisville and Michigan State both seemingly severely underseeded by the selection committee at this seed. Because the four-seeds are so great this year, they may buck the pattern of the last 13 years as this is usually the point where upsets have become more prevalent. You see, while the top three seeds are a combined 148-8 straight up in the round of 64 since 2001, four-seeds have gone a more human 39-13 with the most recent loss being by Kansas State last season to La Salle. The fours have been mediocre at the betting windows going 28-24 ATS in the second round.

The four-seeds have been more disappointing in the round of 32, going a mere 21-18 straight up and just 15-23-1, 39.5 percent ATS. They went 1-2 ATS this round last season including an outright upset loss by St. Louis vs. Oregon.

Five-seeds: Just tune into any March Madness show and you will probably be bombarded with the fact that the 12-seed upsetting the five-seed is the most common upset of the second round. Well, in this case, that is not just propaganda as it is actually true. The five-seeds have only gone 29-23 straight up over the last 13 years while going a losing 24-28 ATS in those contests. There were even three more upsets by the 12-seeds last season in the four matchups.

If the five-seeds do avoid the second round upset bug, they have fared much better on the court in the third round as the 29 that have advanced since 2001 have gone 18-11 straight up. Unfortunately they have not had that same success at the betting windows going a basically neutral 14-13-2 ATS in those games.

Six-seeds: Unlike the five-seeds, the six-seeds have actually done a much better job of avoiding those early upsets going 32-20 straight up in the last 13 seasons. However bettors have not really been able to take advantage as despite that better than 60 percent straight up winning percentage, six-seeds are just 26-25-1 ATS in this round.

Now, the 32 six-seeds that advanced to the round of 32 have gone just 13-19 straight up and 14-16-2 ATS, but keep in mind that when the second round seeding has held up, most of those third round matchups were vs. better three-seeds. Last season was par for the course with the sixes going 1-2 straight up with both losses coming to three-seeds and the one win coming when Arizona beat the 14-seeds from Harvard.

Seven-seeds: The seven-seeds have an identical straight up record as the six-seeds in the second round since 2001 at 32-20, but the seven-seeds have been much better bets going 30-22, 57.7 percent ATS in those games. Seven-seeds have been most dangerous when cast as favorites in this second round, going a terrific 25-14, 64.1 percent ATS in that role.

Seven-seeds that have advanced to the weekend are just 9-23 straight up in the round of 32, but once again remember that the vast majority of those games were vs. superior two-seeds. The sevens are a commendable but not profitable 16-15-1 ATS in the third round since 2001.

Eight-seeds: Simple logic would tell you that the matchups between the eight-seeds and nine-seeds wound be the most competitive matchups in the round of 64, and it has indeed turned out that way with the eight-seeds holding a slim 27-25 straight up edge over the last 13 tournaments. Furthermore the eights and nines are dead even in the second round from a betting viewpoint over the course of this study as they are an identical 25-25-2 ATS.

If you have been paying attention, it is obvious that all 27 eight-seeds that have advanced to the round of 32 have been matched up with one-seeds, so the fact that the eight-seeds are 3-24 straight up should not surprise you. Now, there was once a time when the eight seeds were at least competitive vs. the one-seeds ATS-wise, but they have now slipped to 10-17 ATS in the third round since 2001 after all five eight-seeds to advance the last two season were blown out of the building while going 0-5 ATS.

Nine-seeds: It should be also obvious that all 25 nine-seeds that advanced to the round of 32 since 2001 have also been matched up with one-seeds, and they have gone 3-22 straight up. At least the nines have remained competitive, although not enough so to turn a profit at 13-12 ATS. It is worth noting that the third upset by a nine-seed over a one-seed came last year when those Shockers from Wichita State beat Gonzaga.

10-seeds: If you like betting money line underdogs, playing 10-seeds in the third round has been right up your alley! These 10-seeds have gone 9-11 straight up when advancing to the second of 32, and even if you had stuck with strictly ATS betting, the tens are a super 12-8, 60.0 percent vs. the number this round the last 13 seasons.

11-seeds: The 11-seeds that pulled upsets in the round of 64 are a not too terrible 7-13 straight up in the round of 32, and in fact they may have been better bets on the money line than on the spread as while 7-13 was probably good enough to turn a profit at square odds, these same teams are a losing 8-11-1 ATS since 2001.

12-seeds: The 12-seeds in the third round have been among the best bets in the entire tournament the past 13 seasons! Not only are these teams a potentially wallet-filling 10-13 straight up after Oregon’s trouncing of Saint Louis last year, but the twelves are also a spectacular 16-7, 69.6 percent ATS in the round of 32!

13-seeds: On the one hand, 13-seeds are just 3-10 straight up and 5-7-1 ATS when advancing to the round of 32. But on the other hand, two of those three wins have come in the last two seasons. Last year’s win does deserve an asterisk however as 13th seeded La Salle was actually the favorite when it defeated the Mississippi Rebels.

14-seeds: The 14-seeds that have pulled upsets in the round of 64 have been unable to go any further, not winning another game since our study began in 2001 going 0-4 straight up and 1-3 ATS in the third round.

15-seeds: Up until last year, the three 15-seeds in the previous 12 seasons that advanced to the third round were all thoroughly destroyed, going 0-3 ATS while losing by a telling average of -21.7 points. However, you can now make it 1-3 both straight up and ATS as Florida Gulf Coast made history last year, following up its upset of Georgetown in the round of 64 with another upset of San Diego State in the round of 32 to advance all the way to the Sweet 16.