The NCAA Tournament field has finally been set for the 2016-17 season.  This is the most exciting times of year.  More than 40 million Americans fill out over 70 million brackets. That is a lot of competition.

Our goal here is to help you be better than average.  We want to help you fill out more winners and increase your chances of winning.  That’s why we put together a list of bracket tips and offer our expert bracket picks for free.

With nearly $2.5 billion wagered on March Madness every year we want to give you as much help as possible. If you are more interested in ATS results by seed, we have you covered there too.

Probability of Each Seed Advancing to Next Round in NCAA Tournament

SeedSecond RoundSweet 16Elite EightFinal 4Title GameNational Champ (Win)
1100.0%87.0%69.6%40.4%23.4%14.8%
294.0%63.9%47.3%22.2%10.7%4.1%
384.0%50.4%24.2%10.9%7.0%3.5%
480.0%46.4%15.8%10.3%2.6%0.8%
564.0%33.3%6.3%4.7%1.9%0.0%
664.0%33.3%11.0%2.3%1.5%0.8%
761.0%17.7%6.9%1.5%0.8%0.8%
850.0%9.5%6.4%4.0%2.4%0.8%
950.0%4.0%1.6%0.8%0.0%0.0%
1039.0%18.3%6.4%0.8%0.0%0.0%
1136.0%14.8%4.7%2.4%0.0%0.0%
1236.0%15.5%0.8%0.0%0.0%0.0%
1320.0%4.6%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
1416.0%1.6%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
156.0%0.8%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
160.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%

I thought it might also be interesting to look at the history of NCAA tournament winners by seed.  Here is all of the data that I’ve found.

NCAA Tournament Win/Loss Records for Top Seeds in Each Round

#1

A #16 has never beaten a #1 in the first round in Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament history. The #1 is a perfect 128-0.

They are also likely to keep winning.  Here is how often they have historically reached each stage:

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First1280100%
Second1111787%
Sweet 16892280%
Elite 8523758%
Final 4302258%
Championship191163%

Based on this information it’s tough not to slot all your number ones into the Elite 8.  You want either 2-3 among the last four and at least one championship finalist.  They are also far more likely than any other seed to win the championship, taking home 19 of 31 titles.  Remember that if you want to bet on who will win the tournament.

#2

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First120894%
Second813968%
Sweet 16602174%
Elite 8283247%
Final 4131546%
Championship5838%

#15 seeds rarely pull off the upset.  They have beaten #2 seeds just 8 times.  That gives the 2 a 93.8% chance of making it past the initial game.  Here are the percentages to reach the:

These teams aren’t nearly as likely to win the second round game as the ones are.  You only want half of your twos making the Elite 8 and one Final 4 squad.

#3

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First1072184%
Second644260%
Sweet 16313448%
Elite 8141745%
Final 49564%
Championship4544%

Here is where things start turning more towards the underdogs. The #3 has lost to a #14 a total of 21 times (107-21).  That gives them a 83.6% chance of winning.

Only half these teams make the Sweet 16!  Only one is likely to make the Elite 8!  That is why any teams advancing deep as a #3 or more is prime for our tournament sleepers section.

#4

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First1022680%
Second584357%
Sweet 16203934%
Elite 813765%
Final 431023%
Championship1233%

#4 seeds tend to win about the same rate against #13 seeds with the #13 winning just 25 times (102-25) for 80.3%.

This really shows you why you need to pick your champion from the 1-3 seeds.  Only one 4 has even won it all and it was Arizona in 1997.  Check out the farthest each seed has gone in the tournament article to see more.

#5

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First824664%
Second433952%
Sweet 1683519%
Elite 86275%
Final 43350%
Championship030%

Things are really interesting here and where most people have their upset predictions.  The #5 holds a 99-49 record against the #12. That’s only a winning percentage of 66.9%. This is a pretty dramatic drop-off from the 80% or better winning percentage of  the top 4 seeds.

#6

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First824664%
Second434052%
Sweet 16142833%
Elite 831121%
Final 42167%
Championship1150%

We have seen a very similar result long-term when it comes to the #6 against the #11. They have gone 96-52 (64.9%).  Teams on the #6 line make the Sweet 16 just as often (33%), and go to the Elite 8 more (10.5%).  Only three have been among the last four standing (2.4%), two have been in the title game (1.6%), and one has even won it all (Kansas in 1988).

#7

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First785061%
Second235529%
Sweet 1691439%
Elite 82722%
Final 41150%
Championship10100%

What is strange is that No. 7’s have done almost as well as fives and sixes.  They have gone 92-60 (60.5%) in first round games, but that’s where the similarities end.  Only 25 have reached the next weekend, nine (7.3%) made the Elite Eight, and two (1.6%) achieved the Final Four.  Only one team has made the national title game, but the good news is that they won.  That was UConn back in 2014.

#8

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First646450%
Second125219%
Sweet 168467%
Elite 85363%
Final 43260%
Championship1233%

The dreaded #8 vs #9 matchup is one that most just flip a coin on. Not a bad idea, as that’s just about how it’s gone. The #8 holds a slight edge over the #9, but not by much. They are 80-72 (52.6).  The dream doesn’t typically last long though, only 16 have gone to the last 16.  But, eight (6.5%) of those 12 have won.  Five (4%) eights went to the Final Four and three (2.4%) played the title game.  That’s they lowest seed to do so.  One even cut down the nets when in 1985 Villanova knocked off Georgetown.

March Madness Upsets: Win Chances of Lower Seeds (9-16) in Each Round

#9

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First646450%
Second5598%
Sweet 162340%
Elite 81150%
Final 4010%
Championship000%

While nines do have some first game success, things don’t go well after that.  Only 7 have made the second weekend, two (1.6%) the round of 16, then a single team has lasted to the round of eight.  That team was Wichita State in 2013 and they ended up losing their Final 4 matchup.

#10

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First507839%
Second242747%
Sweet 1681535%
Elite 81713%
Final 4010%
Championship000%

The initial two rounds you might see a few tens pulling off the victory.  With 60 (39.5%) first-round wins and 22 (17.8%) second-round wins one ten making the next weekend isn’t out of the question.  However, only seven (5.6%) won the third game but not a single one has ever made the championship weekend.

#11

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First468236%
Second192741%
Sweet 1661332%
Elite 83350%
Final 4030%
Championship000%

Elevens have won 52 (35.1%) times in first round matchups, 18 (14.5%) second, then only six (4.8%) third round games.  Three (2.4%) no. 11 teams have gone all the way to the last four, but that’s where there run has ended.

#12

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First468236%
Second202643%
Sweet 161195%
Elite 8010%
Final 4000%
Championship000%

Everyone makes a big deal of these games.  What’s surprising is they have nearly as many wins as 10 seeds.  They don’t do terrible in the following round either with 20 of the 44 winning again.  That’s 16% advancing past the opening weekend.

That’s where the story ends though.  Only 1 has ever made the Elite 8 and they’ve never seen a Final Four.

#13

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First2610220%
Second62023%
Sweet 16060%
Elite 8000%
Final 4000%
Championship000%

When you get Cinderella stories from this point on, they are more like one-hit wonders.  We’ve seen 25 1st-round winners (20.2%), but only six (4.8%) could pull off back-to-back victories.

#14

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First2110716%
Second21910%
Sweet 16020%
Elite 8000%
Final 4000%
Championship000%

While they do have 21 first round upsets (16.1%), a 14 has only made it to the second weekend twice (1.6%).

#15

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First81206%
Second1713%
Sweet 16010%
Elite 8000%
Final 4000%
Championship000%

They do win 6.3% of the time, but only 1 has even made the Sweet 16.

#16

RoundWinsLossesWin %
First01280%
Second000%
Sweet 16000%
Elite 8000%
Final 4000%
Championship000%

They’ve never won.  Don’t pretend you can pick the first one that will do so.  The rest of your bracket will be ruined and you can see how far No. 1’s typically go.  If you are a fan of a #16, buy your ticket to the first round game.  It will be the only chance you have to see them.

Even using all of this information your odds of picking a perfect bracket aren’t good.  That’s why in 2014 Warren Buffett had no problem offering a $1 billion grand prize to anyone who could pull it off.

I don’t know if there will be any prize quite that big ever again, but if you enter enough of the free March Madness contests out there you can haul in quite a few prizes with a good showing.

Our bracket tips for beginners offers even more historical data to help you fill out a winner.