There is any number of different ways to bet the NCAA tournament. You can back the higher seeds, play a bunch of underdogs, play on or against hot or cold teams. This and at least a dozen other ways you can go against sportsbooks odds and try to win money.
In theory, none are wrong, but each year is different and if you are a basketball bettor this time of year, they don’t call in March Madness because it sounds cool.
However, here is something else to ponder, bet on history examining seeds in the early rounds. (This does not include the First Four). This does not mean to bet them blindly, you should still know the numbers on the teams and the matchup, nonetheless, there are still reasons why certain seeds do better than others. Let’s look into who’s and why’s.
The go-to first matchup is the four 5 vs. 12 games. Since the NCAA Tournament was expanded to four 16-team brackets, the No.5 seed has won outright just over a third of the time. That is at least one winner per year and often enough we see more than that. Here is the reason why.
At least three of the 5-seeds fall to the at slot, as opposed to moving up to it. These clubs did not play as well in the last month of the season and fell out of the Top 16. Virtually every 12-seed is a conference champion from smaller leagues or a bubble team that did enough to close the season and receive the invite. Take lower seed with something to prove against an opponent who two weeks earlier was Top 16 material and that is how upsets happen.
For years the 7 vs. 10 contests were money-makers for the lower seed and still is, it’s just cooled a little. The 10-seed wins outright about 38 percent of the time. From the late 1980’s up to 2000, the lower seed was covering better than 50 percent of these matchups and winning nearly as many. Sportsbooks caught on and spreads that had favorites of 6 to 9 points in the past are more in the 3 to 5 point-range these days. How these teams are seeded has also changed. Previously it was a mix of power conference vs. smaller conference clubs doing battle, now it’s more of the former and the differentials are less.
This has led to the 6 vs. 11 confrontations slowly taking the place of the 7v10 contests where underdogs have a real chance. The 11’s have moved up to 37% chance of winning and it has to do with the matchups. While a six-seed is nominally better than a seven-seed, No. 11’s are either conference champs or teams that did not reach their potential. However, in any “one and down” scenario, they are extremely dangerous.
The discrepancy between a two-seed and three-seed losing is nine percent, the largest differential any of the Top 8 seeds who are likely favored. The difference is two-fold for this occurring. Going into the tournament, there was a reason why each team became a two or a three seed and usually relates how they finished in the last month. A 15-seed is a conference champion, but usually plays in a league without that does not come close to what they will face talent-wise.
However, in 3 vs. 14 matchups, about half of the 14’s in a given year have a specific talent, be it speed, ability to make three’s, an NBA-type guard who is 6’5 or a big forward with an inside/outside game who causes matchup problems. That explains why 14’s have more success than those one spot lower.
In Saturday/Sunday action, the 10 vs. 2 conflicts are far more dangerous for the higher seed than taking on No.7. The 10’s win roughly 44% of the time, which is nearly 30 percent more than the 7’s. As to why it would seem how the players view it. A two-seed see’s an inferior double-digit seed as compared to almost assuredly a power conference foes and they view one as a threat and the beatable.
For the most part, a 10-seed has already won one more game than anticipated and now with a chance to reach the Sweet 16 and become famous for beating a 2-seed and they have laser focus. If the two-seed has not played well for 30+minutes, they might be a little panicky and is now facing an opponent whose mindset has gone from hoping, to “believing” they can win.
Other than that, the higher seeds usually advance and where the upsets occur or with what frequency against the spread are in shorter periods with more randomness involved.