The NCAA Tournament field has finally been set for the 2020-21 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.
Probability of Each Seed Advancing to Next Round in NCAA Tournament
|Seed||2nd Round||Sweet 16||Elite 8||Final Four||Championship||Win Championship|
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
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 22 of 34 titles where at least one #1 seed makes the game. Remember that if you want to bet on who will win the tournament.
#15 seeds rarely pull off the upset. They have beaten #2 seeds just 8 times. That gives the No. 2 seed a 94% chance of making it past the initial game.
These teams aren’t nearly as likely to win the second round game as top seeds are. You only want half of your twos making the Elite 8 and one Final 4 squad if you want to play the odds optimally.
Here is where things start turning more towards the underdogs in the later rounds. The #3 has lost to a #14 a total of 21 times (119-21), meaning you still probably don’t want to pick against them in round one.
What is interesting is less than half these teams make the Sweet 16, and 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.
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.
Things are really interesting here and where most people have their upset predictions. The #5 holds a 90-50 record against the #12. That’s only a winning percentage of 64%. This is a pretty dramatic drop-off from the 80% or better winning percentage of the top 4 seeds.
We have seen a very similar result long-term when it comes to the #6 against the #11. They have gone 88-52 (63%). Teams on the #6 line make the Sweet 16 at a 48% clip, and go to the Elite 8 33% of the time. Only three have been among the last four standing (2.4%), two have been in the title game (1.6%), and one has ever won it all (Kansas in 1988).
What is strange is that No. 7’s have done almost as well as fives and sixes. They have gone 85-55 (61%) in first round games, but that’s where the similarities end. Only 27 have reached the next weekend, 10 made the Elite Eight, and 3 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.
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 #9 holds a slight edge over the #8, but not by much. The dream doesn’t typically last long though, only 13 have gone on to the last 16. Of those who made it, just eight (6.5%) of those 13 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
While nines do have some first game success, things don’t go well after that. Only 7 have made the second weekend and a single team has lasted past the Elite 8. That team was Wichita State in 2013 and they ended up losing their Final 4 matchup.
The initial two rounds you might see a few tens pulling off the victory. With 55 (39%) first-round wins and 23 second-round wins. One ten making the next weekend isn’t out of the question, however, 8 have won their third game, and just one made it to the Final Four, but not a single one has ever made the championship weekend.
Elevens have won 52 (37%) times in first round matchups, 22 second, then only 8 third round games. Four No. 11 teams have gone all the way to the final four, but that’s where their run has ended.
Everyone makes a big deal of these games traditionally at least one 12 upsets a 5. Historically speaking, that’s been the case. What’s more surprising is they have nearly as many wins as 10 seeds. They don’t do terrible in the following round either with 21 of the 50 advancing to the Sweet 16.
That’s where the Cinderella story ends though. Only 1 has ever made the Elite 8 and no 12 seed has seen a Final Four.
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.
While they do have 21 first round upsets (15%), a 14 has only made it to the second weekend twice (1.6%).
They do win 6.3% of the time, but only 1 has even made the Sweet 16.
We finally had a No. 1 seed lose in the first round, as No. 1 Virginia lost to No. 16 UMBC. Still, it’s not something you want to try and predict in your bracket. 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.