Know the Numbers: Tips for Filling Out Your NCAA Tournament Bracket

 
on March 18 2013 8:09 AM

 

There are few things in sports that are more enjoyable than watching a lower-seeded team take down a national powerhouse in the NCAA Tournament – particularly if you happened to predict a win for said team in your bracket. 

But how often does this actually happen?  Some of the most memorable games in Tournament history involve wins by double-digit seeds, but a big reason for that is because they are fairly rare occurrences.  Predicting a bracket full of upsets may be fun, but it isn’t likely to win an office pool.

So to help everybody out, here is some advice on picking the bracket, based on the historical data dating back to 1985: 

First Week

A.  No 16-seed has ever defeated a top seed in the Men’s Tournament.  If it were to happen this year, it would be an upset of monumental proportions.  Keep this in mind before boldly deciding that Gonzaga will be the first top seed to fall this year.

B.  15-seeds have upset 2-seeds exactly six times in 112 attempts, though two of them (Norfolk State over Oklahoma State and Lehigh over Duke) happened last year.  However, no 15-seed has ever reached the Sweet Sixteen.

C.  It’s a good idea to predict at least one 13 or 14-seed to win in the opening round, as it has happened approximately 17.8% of the time.   Not surprisingly, 13-seeds (24-88) have a slightly better record in the first round than 14-seeds (16-96). 

D.  Both 11 and 12-seeds are equally likely to win on the first day, winning approximately 33% of the time.  12-seeds are also notorious for advancing into the Sweet Sixteen, as it has happened 19 times since 1985.  This is actually higher than the number of 11-seeds (15) to have done so, primarily because 11-seeds are almost always facing 3-seeds in the round of 32.

E.  The 7-10 game is essentially a toss-up, with the 7-seed winning approximately 60% of the time.  However, 10-seeds that win their first game are surprisingly successful in the next one, having won 21-of-45 matchups in the round of 32 and having the exact same number of wins over 2-seeds as their 7-seeded counterparts.

F.  The 8-9 game is the most evenly-matched in the Tournament and is in fact the only first-round matchup where the lower seed has a slight advantage.  However, the winner of this game has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen on only 13 occasions, since they have always had to face the top seed in the Round of 32.

Second Week

A.  Top seeds have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen on 98-of-112 occasions (87.5%).  81 of those have gone on to the Elite Eight.  So when in doubt, advance three top seeds past the Sweet Sixteen.

B.  No 13 or 14-seed has ever advanced to the Elite Eight, and only seven have even made it to the second weekend.

C.  12-seeds are 1-18 all-time in the Sweet 16.  The only one to advance to the Elite Eight (Missouri in 2002) did so without facing the top seed.  When in doubt, the Sweet Sixteen is where Cinderella runs come to a close.

Final Four

There have been a total of 112 spots in the Final Four since 1985.  Here is how they have shaken out by each seed:   

1-seed:  46 (41.1%)

2-seed:  25 (22.3%)

3-seed:  14 (12.5%)

4-seed:  11 (9.8%)

5-seed:  6 (5.3%)

6-seed:  3 (2.7%)

8-seed:  4 (3.6%)

11-seed:  3 (2.7%)

A.  No other seeds have advanced this far.

B.  Only once (2008) have all four top-seeds made the Final Four, while only twice (2006, 2011) have none of the four made it.

C.  On five occasions (1993, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2008), two top seeds have played each other in the championship game.  Top seeds have won 16 of the 27 championships overall.

D.  Only three double-digit seeds (LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011) have ever made the Final Four.  All were 11-seeds, and none made it to the championship game.

E.  Statistically speaking, the most likely combination of seeds to make the Final Four is 1,1,2,3.  In actuality, however, this has happened only twice (1991 and 2001).

F.  No 6-seed has made the Final Four since 1992.  Kansas (1988) is the only 6-seed to win it all.

G.  Two of the four 8-seeds to make the Final Four played in the title game.  Villanova won the Tournament in 1985, while Butler defeated an 11-seed to advance last year.  The other two (Wisconsin and North Carolina) both lost in the Final Four in 2000.

H.  Since 1990, the highest seed to make the Final Four has gone on to win the championship 16 of 22 times.

Hopefully, you have as much fun with this info as I had compiling it.  Happy Bracketing!

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