Top 10 NCAA March Madness Tournament Facts and Trends

So you want to fill out a bracket. Whether you like college basketball or not this is something anybody can do. You could just pick based off mascots if you wanted to. The name of the game is anything can happen. Sometimes the more you know the worse off it is for you. Don’t over think it, but here’s what the historical trends say whether you trust the numbers or roll the dice and wing it that’s up to you.
The Top Ten
1 #5 seeds win 64% of games against #12 seeds

A 5 vs. 12 matchup is a common upset pick. Most people are too shy to pick against the top four seeds, so this is where they usually start with upsets. The 2019 tournament marked the third time in the past seven tournaments that No. 12 seeds won three of the four meetings. In that same seven-year span, No. 5 seeds have swept the four matchups twice, though.

Some No. 12 seeds I like as upsets this year are Georgetown and Winthrop.

2 6 of the last 8 games between #6 seeds and #11 seeds were decided by 5 points or less

This has been another trendy upset pick for a lot of people. In the first 25 years of the modern tournament era, No. 6 seeds won 69% of the time. But in the past 10 tournaments, they have won just 47.5% of meetings.

The last time all four No. 6 seeds won was in 2004, and 1989 was the last time all No. 11 seeds won. So it's unlikely that we see a sweep. The best bet would be to pick at least one No. 11 seed to advance.

3 #1 seeds are 139-1 against #16 seeds

If you're going by history, you can almost certainly pick all four of the No. 1 seeds in the first round. They are nearly perfect, and most of the time the games aren't even close. The only 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed was UMBC defeating Virginia in 2018.

In the past five tournaments, all 20 matchups have been decided by 14 points or more, including UMBC's amazing 20-point shocker against Virginia. Dating back to 1998, only four of 88 matchups have been decided by single digits, all of which came in a three-year span (2012-14).

4 #15 seeds only have 8 wins against #2 seeds

So, basically, you can feel comfortable picking the No. 2 seeds here. Three of those wins came in 2012 and 2013. In the six tournaments since, No. 2 seeds are 23-1, with the only upset being Middle Tennessee over Michigan State in 2016.

Most games haven't been close, either, as 21 of those 23 wins by No. 2 seeds came by double figures. In 2019, the Tennessee-Colgate game, which the Vols won by seven, was the closest 2/15 game since 2012.

5 #3 seeds have won 85% of games against #14 seeds

You can feel comfortable picking a No. 3 seed to win here. They have swept all four matchups in each of the last three tournaments. However, at least one 3/14 matchup has been decided by single digits in each of the past 10 tournaments.

In 2019, LSU held off an upset bid by Yale to win by five in Jacksonville. Also, something to note: The past three No. 3 seeds to lose in the first round all came from the Big 12: West Virginia (2016), Baylor (2015), and Iowa State (2015). Guess what? There are not one, not two, but three Big 12 teams as No. 3 seeds this year: Kansas, Texas, and West Virginia.

6 #13 seeds have won at least 1 game in 25 of the last 35 years

No. 4 seeds win between 75-80% of the time, but the games are generally much more competitive than the rate would suggest. In the past 10 tournaments, more than half of the meetings were decided by single digits. In the past two tournaments, five of the eight matchups were single-digit affairs.

It's not unreasonable to pick at least one No. 13 seed to win.

7 #7 seeds have won 3 of 4 against #10 seeds in 5 of the last 6 years

This one is a bit of a toss-up. However, in 2019, No. 10 seeds won three of four games against No. 7 seeds for the first time since 2010 and just the fifth time ever.

8 #9 seeds have won 7 of the last 8 games against #8 seeds

In 2019, No. 9 seeds won all four meetings for the first time since 2001 by an average margin of 16 points. They are 7-1 in the past two tournaments.

I know it's better not to read too much into this, but it's fun to look into these things regardless. So maybe lean towards the No. 9 seeds because this isn't the toss-up you'd expect.

9 The top 4 seeds in a region have reached the Sweet 16 only 19 of 140 times

Essentially, that means it happens about once every two years on average. This means it's not unreasonable to pick a lower seed to make the Sweet 16. Just don't go too crazy with that, however.

10 At least one double digit seed has made the sweet 16 33 out of the last 35 tournaments

You can expect at least one team seeded 10th or worse to advance to the second week of play, including 12 straight since the field expanded to 64 teams. There has never been an Elite Eight without a No. 1 seed present.

Thirty-two of 35 Elite Eights have featured at least two top seeds (2000, 2011, and 2013 are the only tournaments with just one No. 1 seed). In case you're wondering, all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Elite Eight on eight occasions, although that has happened only once in the past 10 tournaments (2016).

There have been multiple teams seeded worse than fourth in the Elite Eight in 18 of 35 years. In four of the past six tournaments, there have been multiple teams seeded 6th or lower in the Elite Eight.

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