Do you want tournament bracket trends that will give you an edge when filling out your bracket this year? Lucky for you I’ve done the research so you don’t have to.
I’m sure you know to have a No. 12 picked to beat a No. 5 in your bracket. I’m sure my upset predictions will have one or two of those in there. But, this article goes more in depth to give you a better understanding of where the advantages lie.
Filling Out NCAA Tournament Bracket: Statistics on #1 Team & #1 Seeds
Struggles of No. 1 Ranked Team in the Nation
Here’s some food for thought that just might surprise you. Only eight teams since the beginning of the seeding process have entered the Big Dance ranked number one in the AP or Coaches Poll and went on to cut down the nets.
- Kentucky (1978)
- North Carolina (1982)
- Duke (1992)
- UCLA (1995)
- Michigan State (2000)
- Duke (2001)
- North Carolina (2009)
- Kentucky (2012)
This couldn’t have been more true than in 2018. No. 1 overall seed Virginia didn’t just fail to win it all, they became the first ever No. 1 seed to go down in the first round, losing 74-54 to No. 16 seed UMBC.
In 2014, No. 1 ranked Florida advanced to the Final 4, but would go on to lose to No. 7 seeded Connecticut, who followed that up be beating No. 8 Kentucky to win the title.
Almost everyone thought undefeated Kentucky was a lock to win the tournament in 2015. The NCAA tournament odds had them at more than a 50% chance of winning. But, that didn’t end up being the case. After barely scraping by Notre Dame 68-66 in the Elite 8, the Wildcats were defeated 64-71 by fellow No. 1 seed Wisconsin in the Final Four.
#1 Seeds in the Championship Game
Since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979, the title game has featured two number one seeds only eight times. While this did just happen in 2021 with No. 1 Baylor taking on No. 1 Gonzaga, it’s just the third time in the last 10 years.
However, you can be confident that at least one No. 1 will make the Final Four. There’s only three times when it hasn’t happened. The most recent being 2011, where the highest seed to make the Final Four was No. 3 Connecticut (Prior two times were in 1980 & 2006).
With that said, it’s also not a good idea to pick all four No. 1’s to make the Final Four. While it happened not too long ago (2008), that’s the only time it has taken place. That said, each No. 1 seeded team has about a 40% chance of making it out of their region based on past history.
Trends on Picking & Predicting Most Likely Upsets in March Madness
We all know it’s important to pick some live dogs when filling out our brackets, but we don’t want to pick the No. 16 over the No. 1 upset.
While the No. 1 seeds are no longer perfect in the first round, they are still 147-1 all-time. If you have a 16 over a one this year, you may want to rework your bracket.
A No. 15 has knocked off a No. 2 just 10 times. The most recent being #15 St. Peters over #2 Kentucky. Despite this relative success, it’s typically not worth the risk. No. 2s are 138-10 versus No. 15’s overall.
We start to see a few more upsets when we get to the No. 3 vs No. 14 and No. 4 vs No. 13 showdowns. No. 3’s are 126-22 against No. 14. As for No. 4’s, they are 117-31 against No. 13’s.
The No. 5 versus No. 12 matchups are the ones that everyone talks about, and rightfully so. No. 5’s are just 95-53 against No. 12’s since 1985. That’s only a 64% success rate, meaning, on average, at least one 12 advances to the second round each season.
While it doesn’t get as much hype, it’s not a bad idea to have a No. 6 seed go down in their first game. No. 11 seeds have a respectable 57-91 record in this matchup.
The No. 9 versus No. 8 game requires a little more research, as this has been a near 50/50 split with No. 9 seeds holding a slight 76-72 advantage.
How Far Does Cinderella Dance?
If you’re looking to pick Cinderellas, the furthest a 12 seed has made it is the Elite Eight and it has happened twice (Missouri 2002, Oregon State 2021).
While a total of five No. 11 seeds have made it to the Final Four over the last 36 years, none have advanced to the Championship game. These are Cinderella Stories to be sure, however, keep in mind this only happens about once every seven years.
The lowest seed to win the NCAA Championship is a No. 8 seed, which was done by Villanova in 1985.
Check out the furthest each seed has gone in the tournament for more.
Connecticut became the first ever No. 7 seed to win it all in 2014, leaving only the No. 5 seeds as the only of the top eight seeds to have never won the title. With that said, there have been three occasions where a No. 5 seed has advanced to the championship game.
These trends should give you a better idea where the percentages are when filling out your NCAA tournament bracket this March.