If you’ve ever watched college basketball, you may be wondering: What does seed mean in basketball? You may have heard that a No. 1 seed has an almost 95 percent chance of winning. If you’ve watched college basketball long enough, you know that a No. 2 seed has a 94 percent chance of winning. In fact, there are over 20 national championships won by a No. 1 seed.
No. 2 seeds have a 94.3% chance of winning
If you’re a fan of NCAA Tournament history, you know that no. 11 seeds have a low probability of making it past the first round. In fact, there have only been two No. 11 seeds that have ever made it past the first round. The most recent upset of this type happened in the 2021 tournament, when No. 13 seed Abilene Christian beat No. 2 seed Ohio State.
While No. 8 seeds aren’t exactly invincible, they have a better chance of making the Sweet 16 than any other seed in the field. Teams on the No. 7 line have gone to the Elite Eight at a 46 percent clip. And while they’ve made the Sweet 16, just once, only two have made it to the title game. A few other teams have made it to the Elite Eight, but not many have gone all the way.
No. 2 seeds have an excellent shot of making the Sweet 16 but have failed to do so in the past five seasons. That’s not too surprising considering that four No. 2 seeds have never made it to the Sweet 16 and only made it five times since 1985. Two of them, Iowa and Ohio State, were eliminated early in the NCAA Tournament this year. The other two teams are UAB, Indiana, New Mexico State, and Richmond.
While a No. 8 seed has a low win percentage, a No. 9 seed has a 94.3% chance of making the Sweet 16 in the past 35 years. In fact, in the last five years, the No. 12 has won at least one game against a better seed. In 2000, 2006, and 2015, the better seed didn’t lose against a No. 12 seed. In 2013, ‘March Mayhem’ gripped the brackets, as three No. 12 seeds advanced to the second round.
This is an incredible feat of mathematics. In fact, there are more possibilities than Doctor Strange’s power in Avengers: Infinity War. And with nine bids from the Big Ten, there are nearly as many possible outcomes as there are No. 1 seeds. The chances of a No. 2 seed playing in a regional final are roughly 45.0 percent. If the Aztecs have a high chance of making the Sweet 16, they should focus their efforts on that.
Historically, a No. 2 seed has a 93.3 percent chance of winning the tournament. In the past decade, two teams with that seed have been runner-ups in the NCAA Tournament. However, they never won the championship. This is due to the expansion of the tournament. The NCAA Tournament has expanded from 64 teams to 68 teams, and teams with pre-2011 seeds became a 16 and a 15 seed. In other words, it has improved the quality of teams at the bottom of the seed list.
No. 1 seeds have won over 20 national championships
Since the NCAA tournament’s inception, No. 1 seeds have won at least two national titles. That number has grown to more than 20 since 1985, when 64 teams were allowed. Last year’s rout of Gonzaga by Baylor was the fourth straight title for a top seed. Those victories were the most in the tournament since the field was expanded to 64 teams. While a number of top seeds have gone on to win the national championship, no seeds have won a majority of those games.
The women’s tournament is much more dominant than the men’s tournament. Since 1994, there has been no lower seed than a No. 5. Since 2000, women’s teams have had fewer No. 8 seeds in their field, but they are just as likely to make the Sweet 16. The 2014 UConn Huskies, led by Shabazz Napier, were the lowest seeded team to win the NCAA tournament.
The Big 12 has two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga won the national championship in 2003 and was the third No. 1 seed in 1985. Besides these two teams, Texas Tech, Indiana, Iowa State, and TCU were all at-large selections. The Big 12 will also have two No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament in 2022. It’s hard to imagine a team winning the tournament without a No. 1 seed.
No. 1 seeds haven’t had an easy time winning the NCAA Tournament, as evidenced by the lack of No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight in recent years. Last year, Connecticut was the only top seed to advance to the Final Four. Despite their loss to the No. 3 seed in the Elite Eight, the team won the national championship against top-seeded Louisville. And in 2016, Louisville, LSU, and Kentucky were the only four seeds in the field.
LSU has a long history in the NCAA tournament, with notable players such as Shaquille O’Neal and Pete Maravich. However, the Tigers last advanced to the Elite Eight in 2006. Meanwhile, the Georgia Bulldogs haven’t been in the tournament since 1997. One of the most notable alumni of this school are Gordon Hayward and Matt Harping. A finals appearance by the Bulldogs in 2010 will make history.
Despite losing conference tournaments, No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four. In 2015, Arizona lost to No. 2 seed Texas A&M 82-80. In the 2022 Final Four, No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels will take on No. 1 seed Duke. The winner will face Arkansas in Saturday’s West regional championship. If Duke is unable to win the title, they will be eliminated from the tournament.
No. 2 seeds are most likely to lose to a No. 3
In recent years, the most likely team to lose to a No. 2 seed in basketball has been Alabama. But that’s all changed with the emergence of the Big Ten Tournament. Alabama defeated Auburn in the semifinals and now sits atop the South Atlantic Conference. The Vols, meanwhile, defeated Duke in the conference title game. But while Alabama may have been the favorite to win the title this year, its record against the No. 2 seed has been more impressive. In addition to beating Duke, Tennessee defeated Michigan State on Sunday, bringing them to the NCAA Tournament.
While the two-seeds are equally likely to lose to the three-seeds, it’s still possible for a No. 2 seed to pull off the upset this year. In the past decade, no less than five No. 2 seeds have won the NCAA Tournament. That number includes the 2014 UConn Huskies, who won the tournament despite being seeded lower than third.
This season, the No. 5 seed lost to Oregon State, an 8.5-point underdog. Moneyline backers were delighted. Similarly, over the last 25 years, the better seeds have won at least one game against the 12-seed. The better seeds haven’t lost to a 12-seed in five of the last six years: in 2000, 2007, 2015, and 2018. During the ‘March Mayhem’, three No. 12 seeds reached the second round in 2014.
Since 1985, only nine No. 15 seeds have advanced beyond the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In the same period, the No. 15 seed won twice, and Ohio State won against a No. 2 seed in the 2021 tournament. But in the last three decades, no. 2 seeds have a greater chance of advancing than a No. 15 seed.
Last season, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a No. 16 seed, upset No. 1 Virginia in the first round. The two teams tied at halftime before a 74-54 victory. That upset was the first No. 16 upset since 1985. And as of the 2022 tournament, No. 1 seeds are 143-1 against No. 16 seeds in basketball.
During the past 36 years, two No. 2 seeds have made the Final Four at least once, which means that the odds of two No. 1 seeds meeting in the Final Four are about 50-50. Unlikely. This year, it’s possible that two No. 1 seeds will meet again. But if two No. 2 seeds meet in the Final Four, the odds are better.