Seed-by-seed matchups in NCAA Tournament
We know a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the men's NCAA Tournament. But Peter Tiernan breaks down the other seed matchups.
- A top seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the history of the men's NCAA Tournament. But what about the other seed matchups? Round 1
1 vs. 16 | 84-0, 1.000
There's only one slam dunk in the men's tournament: Top seeds have never lost to 16-seeds in the opening round. An upset's bound to happen one of these years, but it never will be worth predicting.
Near misses: Purdue 73, Western Carolina 71 (1996). Michigan State 75, Murray State 71 OT (1990). Oklahoma 72, East Tennessee State 71 (1989). Georgetown 50, Princeton 49 (1989). (Tiger partisans still insist Alonzo Mourning's last-second block was a foul.)
2 vs. 15 | 80-4, 0.952
Once every five years or so, a 15-seed manages to knock off a 2-seed. The last victim was Iowa State five tourneys ago. The time might be right for another upset, but don't pencil it into your bracket.
Upset watch: All the 15-seed Cinderellas came into the tourney winning nine of their last 10 games and at least three in a row. They all have regular-season records no higher than .800, indicating that they've played their share of tough teams. And they all got balanced scoring from the back- and frontcourt, averaging between 37 percent and 58 percent of their scoring from guards. No. 15 seeds satisfying these three attributes are 4-8 against their No. 2 seed opponents. The rest of the No. 15 seeds are 0-72.
Recent upsets: Hampton over Iowa State, 2001. Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997. Santa Clara over Arizona, 1993. Richmond over Syracuse, 1991.
3 vs. 14 | 70-14, 0.833
Two out of every three tourneys are bad news for 3-seeds. Kansas can vouch for that. No. 3 seeds are three-and-a-half times more prone to first-round upsets than 2-seeds. Heck, they're less likely to win one game in the tourney than the top seeds are to win two. With all due respect to Bucknell, however, it still doesn't make any sense to pick 3-seeds to lose. Too many have won championships to eliminate them early.
Upset watch: No. 14 seeds most likely to spring upsets are high-scoring squads, averaging more than 77 points a game. They're 11-22 (.333) while their lower scoring counterparts are just 3-48 (.058). The telltale sign of a 3-seed victim is a tight margin of victory. No. 3 seeds that beat opponents by an average of less than 12 points are five times more prone to upsets (12 losses in 45 tries for a 26.7 percent upset rate) than 3-seeds that win by a comfortable margin (only 2 losses in 39 tries for a 5.1% upset rate).
Recent upsets: Bucknell over Kansas, 2005. Weber State over North Carolina, 1999. Richmond over South Carolina, 1998.
4 vs. 13 | 67-17, 0.798
No. 4 seeds perform almost as solidly as No. 3 seeds -- and far better than 5-seeds. With nearly 80 percent of 4s advancing to round two and less than one per tourney getting upset, it's too risky to pick a 13-seed in round one.
Upset watch: The biggest indicator of a 13-seed Cinderella is frontcourt scoring. No. 13 seeds that get between 53 and 63 percent of their points from forwards and centers -- like Vermont last year -- are 10-13 (.434). That's almost four times better than more guard-oriented squads (7-54, .115). Ironically, 4-seeds are more apt to be victimized when they can't neutralize 13-seed frontcourts with solid backcourt scoring punch; 4s that get less than half their scoring from guards are upset 28 percent of the time (14 of 50 games); those with better backcourt scoring have only been upset three times in 34 matchups.
Recent upsets: Vermont over Syracuse, 2005. Tulsa over Dayton, 2003. UNC Wilmington over USC, 2002.
5 vs. 12 | 57-27, 0.679
The 5 vs. 12 matchup marks the point in round one when it no longer pays to give higher seeds a free pass in your bracket. Over the last five years, 5-seeds are just 11-9 against their lower-seeded opponent. And when you consider that 12-seeds are over .500 in round two, it isn't wise to dismiss them without first considering the factors that contribute to their opening round success.
Upset watch: The two factors that matter most in identifying 12-seed spoilers are team experience and frontcourt scoring. Twelfth-seeded teams that have been to the tourney the previous year are 13-11 (.542) against 5-seeds; all others are 14-46 (.200). More significantly, 12-seeds that get 55 to 75 percent of their scoring from forwards and centers are 18-12 (.667); the rest are 8-44 (.154) -- more than four times worse.
Recent upsets: UW-Milwaukee over Alabama, 2005. Manhattan over Florida, 2004. Pacific over Providence, 2004.
6 vs. 11 | 59-25, 0.702
The odds are better that a 6-seed will advance to round two than a 5-seed, but that doesn't mean you automatically should ink them into your bracket. Sure, 6-seeds are 14-6 in the last five tourneys, and they're notorious 3-seed killers in round two. Still, tourney pool success usually comes from accurately identifying the 11- and 12-seed surprises.
Upset watch: Offensive punch and victory margin are the two keys to success for 11-seeds. Teams that score more than 75 points a game and beat their opponents by at least six points on average are 16-15 (.516). All other 11-seeds are three times worse at 9-44 (.170). Sixth-seeded upset victims tend to be high scoring and riding false momentum; 6-seeds that average more than 75 points a game and have won at least seven of their last 10 games are just 12-14 (.462) in round one; the rest are 47-11 (.810).
Recent upsets: Alabama-Birmingham over LSU, 2005. Central Michigan over Creighton, 2003. Southern Illinois over Texas Tech, 2002. Wyoming over Gonzaga, 2002.
7 vs. 10 | 51-33, 0.607
As close as these seeds are, it's surprising that 7-seeds have been so dominant in the matchup. While No. 7 seeds win more than 60 percent of the time, 10-seeds still win one or two games per tourney. The trick is to figure out the right ones to advance, as picking wrong one can make this a very damaging matchup. Anyone who picked Creighton over West Virginia last year can attest to that.
Upset watch: Surprisingly, inexperience tends to level the playing field in the 7 vs. 10 matchup. Tenth-seeded teams that have gone to the Dance less than three years in a row with coaches who've made fewer than five tourney trips are 21-20 (.512); all other 10-seeds are 12-31 (.279). The most victimized 7-seeds lack offensive punch and backcourt scoring. Squads that score fewer than 76 points a game and get less than half their points from guards are just 7-16 (.304); the rest of the seven seeds are 44-17 (.721).
Recent upsets: North Carolina State over Charlotte, 2005. Nevada over Michigan State, 2004. Auburn over St. Joseph's, 2003. Arizona State over Memphis, 2003.
8 vs. 9 | 38-46, 0.452
The 8 vs. 9 matchup is the closest thing to a "pick-'em" contest in the opening round. In fact, it's the only matchup in which the lower-seeded team prevails more often. At first blush, it would seem that favoring nine seeds is the way to go, but their abysmal 3-43 record against top seeds in round two is a pretty significant deterrent. Of course, nobody's going to predict either of these seeds to knock off a top seed so the value of correctly predicting this matchup is usually restricted to four points in the first round.
Toss-up tips: The key performance indicator for this matchup is team experience and victory margin. 8-seeds that have been to the tourney the previous year are 26-21 (.553); those that haven't are 12-25 (.324). On the other hand, 9-seeds with fewer than three straight tourney trips that beat their opponents by an average of less than seven points are 10-16 (.385); the rest are 36-22 (.621).
Round two is made up of four gateway matchups to the Sweet 16. The 1 vs. 8 and 9 vs. 16 bracket is easily the most predictable. Top seeds advance an astounding 86 percent of the time. No. 8 and 9 seeds pull off upsets a little more often than every other tourney, but not so often that it's worth picking them in your bracket. If you want to test this theory, you're much better off picking an eight rather than a 9-seed upset.
1 vs. 8 | 29-9, 0.763
Unlike 9-seeds, 8-seeds do offer up a measure of resistance against top seeds in round two. In eight of the last 21 tourneys, at least one 8-seed has made it to the Sweet 16 (two made it in 2000 -- North Carolina and Wisconsin). What are the characteristics of these eighth-seeded giant killers? They're experienced, having gone to the tourney the previous year, and they're battle-tested, with an average victory margin less than six points. No. 8 seeds satisfying these conditions are 7-8 (.467); all the rest are 2-21 (.087). The most likely 1-seed victims are inexperienced and offensively challenged. Top seeds that didn't go to the Dance the year before and that score fewer than 78 points a game are just 12-7 (.632), while their counterparts are 18-2 (.900).
Recent upsets: Alabama over Stanford, 2004. UCLA over Cincinnati, 2002. North Carolina over Stanford, 2000. Wisconsin over Arizona, 2000.
1 vs. 9 | 43-3, 0.935
Can you say "lambs to slaughter"? When you consider that there are fewer 9-seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 than 15-seeds upsetting 2-seeds in round one, you're talking about an extreme pushover performance. It would be beyond foolish to advance a 9-seed in your bracket, but if you happen to get in a debate over which 9-seed is most likely to knock off a top seed, pick a high-scoring inexperienced team that beats its opponents by a comfortable margin. No. 9 seeds that didn't go to the tourney the year before, score more than 73 points and win by more than seven points a game are 3-10; the rest are a big, fat 0-33.
Recent upsets: Alabama-Birmingham over Kentucky, 2004. Boston College over North Carolina, 1994. UTEP over Kansas, 1992.If you look no further than round two, this is the most difficult of the Sweet 16 gateway brackets to predict. But the pressure is relieved by the fact that anyone coming out of this bracket plays the top seed in round three, and consistently takes it on the chin (losing 80% of the time). Still, getting this bracket right helps you gain early-round points that might make the difference in a tight office pool. The problem is, no other bracket has 3-seeds so evenly matched. The No. 4, 5 and 12 seeds all have records above .500 (and below .600) in round two.
4 vs. 5 | 25-20, 0.556
While 4-seeds have held the advantage in this matchup since 1985, 5-seeds have actually won five of the last six games. Bench play and scoring offense are the two keys to determine who will prevail. 4-seeds that get at least 18 percent of their scoring from the bench are 20-9 (.690); those that rely more on starters are 5-11 (.312). No. 4 seeds that score more than 77 points a game are 17-9 (.654), while less prolific squads are 8-11 (.421). The same rule is a key indicator of 5-seed success. Those teams that average more than 77 points per game are 12-8 (.600); the rest are 8-17 (.320).
Recent matchups: Louisville (4) over Georgia Tech (5), 2005. Villanova (5) over Florida (4), 2005. Syracuse (5) over Maryland (4), 2004. Illinois (5) over Cincinnati (4), 2004.
4 vs. 12 | 12-10, 0.545
This matchup is closer than the disparity in seed positions indicates. The most reliable 4-seeds come from the Big Six conferences and have coaches with at least four years of tourney experience. They're 10-4 (.714), while other 4-seeds are 2-8 (.200). The most surprising 12-seeds also come from the Big Six or are mid-majors with less than nine wins in their last ten games. They're 9-4 (.692); other 12-seeds are 1-8 (.111).
Recent upsets: UW-Milwaukee over Boston College, 2005. Butler over Louisville, 2003.
5 vs. 13 | 10-2, 0.833
Unlike 4-seeds, five seeds have little trouble in their Cinderella mismatch against 13-seeds. There's little reason to pick against them, particularly if their backcourt shoulders more than 38 percent of the scoring load. Guard-dominant 5-seeds have never lost in this matchup (9-0), while more frontcourt-oriented 5-seeds have struggled (1-2, .333).
Upsets: Oklahoma over Charlotte, 1999. Richmond over Georgia Tech, 1988.
12 vs. 13 | 4-1, 0.800
The longshot seeds in this bracket have squared off against each other more often than any other longshot pairing (9 vs. 16, 10 vs. 15, 11 vs. 14) in the second round. Surprisingly, 12-seeds treat 13-seeds like pushovers, prevailing 80 percent of the time. What did the one 13-seed victor have that the victims didn't? Team experience. Valparaiso had been to the tourney three straight years when it knocked off Florida State in 1998. The four 13-seed losers had not been to the previous year's tourney.
Matchup history: Gonzaga (12) beat Indiana State (13), 2001. Valparaiso (13) beat Florida State (12), 1998. George Washington (12) over Southern University (13), 1993. New Mexico State (12) over Southwest Louisiana (13), 1992. Eastern Michigan (12) over Penn State (13), 1991.
3 vs. 6 | 24-24, 0.500
This is the most hotly contested matchup of the second round. It's also probably the one bracket pool players ponder the longest, considering that one and 2-seeds usually get automatic passes to the Sweet 16, and the 4 vs. 5 game doesn't warrant much scrutiny since winners are served up to top seeds in round three anyway. Coaching inexperience actually helps 6-seeds in this matchup. Sixth-seeded teams with coaches who've been to the Dance fewer than six times are 15-7 (.682). That compares well to a 9-17 (.346) record for sixes with more veteran coaches. Meanwhile, less experienced 3-seeds hold serve better than tourney-grizzled squads. Third-seeded teams who've been to the Dance fewer than five times in a row are 19-13 (.594); the rest are 5-11 (.312).
Recent upsets: Texas Tech over Gonzaga, 2005. Utah over Oklahoma, 2005. Vanderbilt over North Carolina State, 2004.
3 vs. 11 | 15-7, 0.682
It isn't exactly a "gimme" when 3-seeds square off against 11-seeds in round two. And the credit, or blame in this case, lies mostly with the 3-seeds. There is no clear performance indicator to explain why 11-seeds beat 3s. But there are two tell-tale signs of faltering 3-seeds: Bench play and team experience. No. 3 seeds with thin benches (no more than 20 percent of their scoring from nonstarters) are 7-7; deeper 3s are undefeated at 8-0. No. 3 seeds that either didn't go to the tourney the previous year or are tourney fixtures (more than six straight appearances) are 8-0; all others are 7-7.
Recent upsets: Southern Illinois over Georgia, 2002. Temple over Florida, 2001. Loyola- Marymount over Michigan, 1990.
6 vs. 14 | 9-2, 0.818
If you advanced a 14-seed into the second round, you'd be smart to eliminate them in round two. But then again, logic would've dictated that you never advance a 14-seed in the first place. So if you're still feeling reckless with this matchup, take the 14-seeds that beat their opponents by more than 12 points per game. They're 2-0 against 6-seeds; the rest of the 14-seeds are 0-9.
Recent upsets: Tennessee-Chattanooga over Illinois, 1997. Cleveland State over St. Joseph's, 1986.
11 vs. 14 | 3-0, 1.000By all rights, the 2 vs. 7 and 10 vs. 15 bracket should be a no-brainer, and most bracket pool players pick it that way, giving 2-seeds an automatic pass to the Sweet 16. But 2-seeds aren't nearly as reliable as top seeds in advancing beyond the second round. On average, one or two 7- or 10-seeds per tourney will take the place of 2-seeds. You can go the safe route, cross your fingers and advance all the 2-seeds. Or you can observe the telltale signs of 7- and 10-seed Cinderellas and go out on limb. 2 vs. 7 | 37-13, 0.680
Anyone who's contemplating an 11 vs. 14 matchup in their bracket probably isn't reading this article to begin with and doesn't care that 11-seeds have never lost to 14-seeds in the second round. Washington beat Richmond in 1998, Connecticut handled Xavier in 1991 and Minnesota stopped Siena in 1989.
Despite being the closer competitor by seed position, 7-seeds are surprisingly more prone to getting beat by two seeds than 10-seeds are. The 7-seeds that offer the stiffest resistance are tourney-tested, having been to the previous year's Dance and have beaten their opponents by more than six points a game. These 7-seeds are a respectable 9-10 (.474); others are 4-27 (.129).
Recent upsets: West Virginia over Wake Forest, 2005. Xavier over Mississippi State, 2004. Michigan State over Florida, 2003.
2 vs. 10 | 16-14, 0.533
Amazingly, 10-seeds nearly break even with two seeds in the second round. Of course, the odds of a 10-seed winning its first two games are still just 19 percent, so it's not worth getting too excited about their propensity to topple two seeds. That said, the 10-seeds with the best odds of reaching the Sweet 16 come from the Big Six conferences (the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC). They're 8-4 (.667), while mid-major 10-seeds are half as reliable at 6-12 (.333).
Recent upsets: North Carolina State over Connecticut, 2005. Nevada over Gonzaga, 2004. Auburn over Wake Forest, 2003.
7 vs. 15 | 1-0, 1.000
A 7-seed has only played a 15-seed once in round two. In 1993, No. 7 Temple beat 15-seed Santa Clara.
10 vs. 15 | 3-0. 1.000
No. 10 seeds have pushed their round two record over .500 by beating 15-seeds in all three of their matchups. Georgetown beat Hampton in 2001, Texas beat Coppin State in 1997 and Temple handled Richmond.
1 vs. 4 | 21-9, 0.700
On the top seed side of the Sweet 16 bracket, the most frequent matchup pits the two highest seeds against each other. No. 1 and 4 seeds are involved in 36 percent of the games, with top seeds winning 70 percent of the time. That might sound like a lock, but it's the worst performance by a 1-seed in any of its matchups over the first three rounds. Top seeds are more reliable when they boast a preseason All-American on a squad that went to the tourney the previous year. These teams are 17-4 (.810); inexperienced and "starless" top seeds are just 4-5 (.444). No. 4 seeds thrive when they beat their foes by more than 10 points per game. They're an even .500 at 6-6; less dominant 4-seeds are 3-15 (.167).
Recent matchups: Louisville (4) over Washington (1), 2005. St. Joseph's (1) over Wake Forest (4), 2004. Kansas (1) over Illinois (4), 2002. Maryland (1) over Kentucky (4), 2002.
1 vs. 5 | 22-5, 0.815
Given their seed proximity, you'd think that 5-seeds would do nearly as well against top seeds as 4-seeds. Instead, they tend to be an easy mark for the big boys, pulling upsets less often than 8-seeds do against 1-seeds in the second round. What distinguishes the five top seeds that get upset? Interestingly, it's the tourney fixtures that tend to fare worse in this matchup, maybe because they're complacent. No. 1 seeds that have been to the tourney at least five times are just 12-4 (.750); the less experienced top seeds are 10-1 (.909). On the other hand, 5-seed Cinderellas get more than 20 percent of their scoring from the bench and are from the Big Six conferences. These teams are 4-9 (.308); their counterparts are 1-13 (.071).
Recent matchups: Michigan State (5) over Duke (1), 2005. North Carolina (1) over Villanova (5), 2005. Duke (1) over Illinois (5), 2004.
1 vs. 12 | 13-0, 1.000
Given how dominant 1-seeds are in the first three rounds of the tourney, it's not surprising that they're a perfect 13-0 against 12-seeds. It is a little eye-opening, however, that they handle their underdog opponents so easily. No. 1 seeds have beaten 12-seeds by an average of 13.1 points, with only four of the 13 games getting settled by single digits. Ball State came the closest to springing an upset in 1990 when the Cardinals lost to UNLV 69-67, which went on to massacre Duke in the finals 103-73.
Recent matchups: Illinois over UW-Milwaukee, 2005. Oklahoma over Butler, 2003. Michigan State over Gonzaga, 2001.
1 vs. 13 | 2-0, 1.000
In the two Sweet 16 matchups between these seeds, the top seed has held serve against its long-shot opponent. Temple dispatched Dick Tarrant's pesky Richmond Spiders in 1988, and Michigan State took care of Oklahoma in 1999.
4 vs. 8 | 2-3, 0.400
Once every five years or so, a No. 4 and 8 seed go head-to-head in the Sweet 16. The Cinderella 8-seeds are tough teams that keep the score low and close, averaging less than 80 points a game and winning by no more than eight points. Teams with these qualities are 3-0. The other two 8-seeds have fallen to their fourth-seeded foes.
Recent matchups: North Carolina (8) over Tennessee (4), 2000. Wisconsin (8) over LSU (4), 2000. Syracuse (4) over Georgia (8), 1996.
4 vs. 9 | 2-0, 0.000
The only two times these seeds have met in the Sweet 16, the favored 4-seeds have prevailed. Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks beat Mike Anderson's UAB Blazers in 2004, while Cincinnati defeated the UTEP Miners in 1992.
5 vs. 8 | 0-2, 0.000
No. 8 seeds have upset 5-seeds both times that they've squared off against each other. Mark Gottfried and his Alabama Crimson Tide were the most recent school to do the trick, toppling Jim Boeheim's defending champion Orange in 2004. And the first upset came in the very first year of the modern 64-team era, when Rollie Massimino masterminded an upset of Lefty Driesell's Maryland Terps on his was to the 1985 championship.
5 vs. 9 | 0-1, 0.000
The 1994 Boston College squad, coached by Jim O'Brien, has the distinction of being the only 9-seed to reach the Elite Eight. It achieved the feat by knocking off Bobby Knight's fifth-seeded Hoosiers.
8 vs. 12 | 0-1, 0.000
In 2002, Quin Snyder's Missouri Tigers upset Steve Lavin's UCLA Bruins in the only 8 vs. 12 matchup of the modern tourney era.
8 vs. 13 | 1-0, 1.000On the 2-seed side of the Sweet 16 bracket, the competition is much more balanced than its counterpart, where top seeds advance nearly 70 percent of the time. While 2-seeds are the most common winners, claiming 45 percent of the Elite Eight positions, the likelihood is that some other seed will advance. No. 3 and 6 seeds prevail in 37 percent of the matchups. In the other bracket, the four and five seeds only get to the quarterfinals 21 percent of the time. Even the No. 7, 10 and 11 seeds get into the act, advancing 15 teams, nearly twice as many as the No. 8, 9 and 12 seeds in the other bracket. On the other hand, 2-seeds are the only seed on this side of the Sweet 16 bracket with a winning record. Go figure. All this makes for one big bout of bracket-picking anguish.
The only matchup pitting these seeds against each other occurred in 1998 when Jim Harrick's Rhode Island Rams beat Cinderella Valparaiso, led by coach Homer Drew and his son, guard Bryce Drew.
2 vs. 3 | 15-9, 0.625
Of all the matchups with a single seed position difference in the first three rounds (8 vs. 9, 4 vs. 5, 6 vs. 7 and 12 vs. 13), this one is the second-most lopsided, behind only 12 vs. 13 (4-1). It gets more lopsided if you concentrate only on 2-seeds that get imbalanced scoring, more than 60 percent of their points from either the backcourt or frontcourt. These squads are 11-2 (.846); the more balanced-scoring two seeds are just 4-7 (.364). If your heart is set on picking a 3-seed, go with one that has a coach who isn't a rookie to the tourney but has fewer than 10 trips to the Dance. These 3-seeds are 7-4 (.636), while their counterparts are 2-11 (.154).
Recent matchups: Arizona (3) over Oklahoma State (2), 2005. Oklahoma State (2) over Pittsburgh (3), 2004. Marquette (3) over Pittsburgh (2), 2003. Kansas (2) over Duke (3), 2003..
2 vs. 6 | 16-5, 0.762
This matchup happens almost as frequently as the 2 vs. 3 matchup, a testament to the resilience of 6-seeds in the first two rounds. Unfortunately, that resiliency doesn't seem to help them against 2-seeds. The 6-seeds that tend to escape defeat are inexperienced schools (less then three straight tourney trips) with solid frontcourts (more than 45 percent of their scoring from forwards and centers). Teams with these two qualities are 5-6 (.455); the rest of the six seeds are 0-10.
Recent matchups: (2) Kentucky over (6) Utah, 2005. (2) Connecticut over (6) Vanderbilt, 2004. (2) Oregon over (6) Texas, 2002.
2 vs. 11 | 7-1, 0.875
This matchup comes around about once every three years and is nearly always won by the 2-seed. The only 11-seed triumph came way back in 1986, the second year of the modern tourney era, when Dale Brown's LSU Tigers knocked off Georgia Tech. What did LSU have that the other 11-seeds didn't? Tourney experience. They're the only 11-seed to square off with a 2-seed that had been to the tourney more than two years in a row. Want a weird little factoid to impress your buddies (and who doesn't)? UConn has been in the last three 2 vs. 11 matchups, twice as a 2-seed and once as the 11-seed.
Recent matchups: Connecticut (2) over Southern Illinois (11), 2002. Connecticut (2) over Washington (11), 1998. Duke (2) over Connecticut (11).
3 vs. 7 | 3-2, 0.600
Four of the five 3 vs. 7 matchups happened in the first decade of the tourney. In the only recent game, seventh-seeded Xavier knocked off 3-seed Texas. All the winning 3-seeds had strong frontcourts that scored more than 60 percent of their team's points. The two 7-seed winners were tourney-tested, having been to the Dance at least three straight years.
Recent matchups: (7) Xavier over (3) Texas, 2004. (7) Temple over (3) Vanderbilt, 1993. (3) Florida State over (7) Western Kentucky, 1993.
3 vs. 10 | 7-3, 0.700
Nearly every other tourney pits a 3-seed against an underdog 10-seed. The best guidance to the outcome of this matchup hinges on the team experience of the Cinderella. The three 10-seeds that are making a return trip to the Dance are undefeated; the seven that didn't go to the previous tourney are winless.
Recent matchups: (3) Georgia Tech over (10) Nevada, 2004. Syracuse (3) over Auburn (10), 2003. Kent State (10) over Pittsburgh (3), 2002.
6 vs. 7 | 3-3, 0.500
This matchup has been a tale of two eras. No. 6 seeds won the first three games, and 7-seeds have won the next three. One dynamic has remained fairly consistent through all six head-to-head battles: The team that allows on average the fewest points per game has a solid 5-1 edge.
Recent matchups: (7) West Virginia over (6) Texas Tech, 2005. (7) Michigan State over (6) Maryland, 2003. (7) Tulsa over (6) Miami-Fla, 2000.
6 vs. 10 | 4-2, 0.667
Since 2000, 6-seeds have asserted their dominance in what was once an even matchup. The telltale sign of a 6-seed winner is team experience. Schools that have been to the tourney more than five straight years are 4-0; the other two schools are 0-2. The mark of a 10-seed victor is scoring punch. Both 10-seeds that scored more than 78 points a game are 2-0, while their more offensively challenged counterparts are winless.
Recent matchups: (6) Wisconsin over (10) North Carolina State, 2005. (6) Purdue over (10) Gonzaga, 2000. (6) Temple over (10) Purdue, 1999. (10) Gonzaga over (6) Florida, 1999.
7 vs. 11 | 0-2, 0.000
No. 7 seeds have had a rough time with 11-seeds in the Sweet 16. They've lost both times the two seeds have gone head to head, once in 1990 when offensive juggernaut Loyola-Marymount upset Alabama and again in 2001 when Temple beat Penn State.
7 vs. 14 | 1-0, 1.000
The only 7 vs. 14 matchup of the modern tourney era came just one year after the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. A Navy squad led by David Robinson held off Cleveland State.
10 vs. 14 | 1-0, 1.000
In the only game pitting these two low seeds against each other, Pete Gillen's 10th-seeded Providence Friars avoided an upset at the hands of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1997.
1 vs. 2 | 15-13, 0.536
More one seeds have their tourney run ended by two seeds in the Elite Eight than by any other opponent in any other round. Considering that only 12 one seeds lose in round two and 14 in the Sweet 16, this matchup is somewhat of a waterloo for top-seeded teams. Still, they manage to eke out a winning record against two seeds, mainly at the expense of inexperienced squads with coaches that lack tourney seasoning. Two seeds with fewer than four straight tourney trips and coaches who've been to the Dance less than four times are 0-12; the more tourney-tested two seeds are 13-3.
Recent matchups: (2) Oklahoma State over (1) St. Joseph's, 2004. (2) Kansas over (1) Arizona, 2003. (1) Kansas over (2) Oregon, 2002. (1) Maryland over (2) Connecticut, 2002.
1 vs. 3 | 6-6, 0.500
As impressive as the performances of two seeds are against top seeds in the Elite Eight, three seeds do even better. This is the only matchup in the first four rounds of the tourney in which one seeds don't post a winning record. The one seeds that lose in this matchup tend to be sputtering heading into the tourney. Top seeds that have won less than nine of their last 10 pre-Tournament games are 1-4; those that have notched nine or 10 wins are 5-2. The telltale sign of a triumphant three seed is victory margin. Third-seeded teams that win by an average of less than 10 points are 0-4; the rest are 6-2.
Recent matchups: (1) Illinois over (3) Arizona, 2005. (3) Marquette over (1) Kentucky, 2003. (3) Syracuse over (1) Oklahoma, 2003.
1 vs. 6 | 6-2, 0.750
When they're not struggling with two and three seeds, top seeds are 15-3 against the rest of the field, 9-1 if you back out their performance against six seeds. In this matchup, the difference between a top-seeded winner and loser is frontcourt scoring. The six top-seeded victors got at least 50 percent of their points from forwards and centers; the two losers leaned on their backcourt for more than 60% of their scoring. Both the sixth-seed squads that won (Michigan in 1992 and Providence in 1987) were high-scoring teams, averaging at least 78 points a game. The six-seed victims all scored fewer than 78 points per game.
Upsets: (6) Michigan over (1) Ohio State, 1992. (6) Providence over (1) Georgetown, 1987.
1 vs. 7 | 4-0, 1.000
Top seeds have no trouble with seven seeds, but this matchup might be a curse for the favorites. None of the one seeds in this showdown have gone on to win the tourney. The seven seed that came closest to springing an upset was Xavier, which lost by just three points to Duke in 2004.
Matchups: Duke over Xavier, 2004. Texas over Michigan State, 2003. Michigan over Temple, 1993. Duke over Navy, 1986.
1 vs. 10 | 3-0, 1.000
Top seeds have ended the Cinderella stories of three 10 seeds in the Elite Eight. The games have served as a good tune-up for the one seeds; two of the three victors -- Indiana in 1987 and UConn in 1999 -- have gone on to win the tourney.
Matchups: Connecticut over Gonzaga, 1999. North Carolina over Temple, 1991. Indiana over Louisiana State, 1987.
1 vs. 11 | 2-1, 0.667
In what has to qualify as one of the greatest upsets of the modern tourney era, LSU upended top-seeded Kentucky 59-57 to become the only 11 seed to reach the Final Four. What did LSU have that the other two 11 seeds didn't (not that you'd ever pick an 11 seed to advance this far)? They were the only one of the three from a Big Six conference.
Matchups: (1) Michigan State over (11) Temple, 2001. (1) UNLV over (11) Loyola-Marymount, 1990. (11) LSU over (1) Kentucky, 1986.
2 vs. 4 | 2-2, 0.500
About once every five years, a two seed plays a four seed in the Elite Eight. Considering that it hasn't happened since 1996, we're due for this matchup. The outcome of the game usually hinges on coaching experience. The coach with more Elite Eight appearances has won three of the four matchups. The only win by a coach with fewer quarterfinal trips occurred in 1996 when Boeheim's Orange upended Roy Williams' Jayhawks. Even then, Williams only had one more Elite Eight appearance than Boeheim, and he'd made 10 fewer trips to the tourney.
Matchups: (4) Syracuse over (2) Kansas, 1996. (4) Oklahoma State over (2) Massachusetts, 1995. (2) Arkansas over (4) Virginia, 1995. (2) Duke over (4) St. John's, 1991.
2 vs. 5 | 0-2, 0.000
As close as these seeds are, you'd think there would be more than two games over the last 21 years. You'd also think that two seeds would do better. Five seeds have won both matchups, most recently last year when Michigan State upset Kentucky and in 1996 when Mississippi State beat Cincinnati.
2 vs. 8 | 2-1, 0.667
Over the last 19 years, a two seed has squared off against an eight seed only once, when Connecticut held off Alabama in 2004. The other two 2 vs. 8 matchups happened in the first two years of the modern tourney era. Villanova is the only eight seed to come out on top against a two seed. The Wildcats knocked off North Carolina on their improbable run to the 1985 championship. What set Villanova apart from the other two eight seeds was that their coach, Rollie Massimino, had been to the Elite Eight before.
Matchups: (2) Connecticut over (8) Alabama, 2004. (2) Louisville over (8) Auburn, 1986. (8) Villanova over (2) North Carolina, 1985.
2 vs. 12 | 1-0, 1.000
In 2002, No. 2 Oklahoma put an end to the longest tourney run by a 12 seed when the Sooners beat Big 12 rival Missouri.
3 vs. 4 | 2-1, 0.667
On those rare occasions when a three seed goes up against a four seed in the Elite Eight, the older team in terms of class composition has won each time. All three winners -- Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Seton Hall -- had more juniors and seniors in their starting lineup than their opponents.
Matchups: (3) Georgia Tech over (4) Kansas, 2004. (4) Ohio State over (3) St. John's, 1999. (3) Seton Hall over (4) UNLV, 1989.
3 vs. 5 | 1-1, 0.500
Three and five seeds have split their two games against each other in the quarterfinals. In 1989, No. 3 Michigan beat No. 5 Virginia on its way to the championship. In 2000, No. 5 Florida beat No. 3 Oklahoma State, advanced to the finals, then lost to Michigan State.
3 vs. 8 | 1-0, 1.000
Three and eight seeds have met just once in the Elite Eight. In 1998, three-seed Stanford ended Rhode Island's longshot run.
3 vs. 9 | 1-0, 1.000
The only Elite Eight matchup involving a nine seed occurred more than a decade ago, in 1994, when third-seeded Florida beat Boston College.
4 vs. 6 | 2-1, 0.667
Once they slip by top seeds in the Sweet 16, four seeds are a pretty resilient bunch. In addition to going 3-4 against two and three seeds, they're a solid 5-1 against lower-seeded opponents. The only lower seed to win was Kansas in 1988 when the sixth-seeded Jayhawks and Danny Manning beat their rival No. 4 Kansas State and Mitch Richmond. In the other two matchups, No. 4 Georgia Tech vs. No. 6 Minnesota in 1990 and No. 4 Cincinnati versus No. 6 Memphis State in 1992, the higher seed held ground. In all three 4 vs. 6 matchups, the team that allowed the fewest points per game on average prevailed.
4 vs. 7 | 1-0, 1.000
Last year saw the only 4 vs. 7 quarterfinal matchup in the 21 years of the 64-team era when four seed Louisville (actually a one or two seed in disguise) burst seven seed West Virginia's bubble.
4 vs. 10 | 2-0, 1.000
It's been eight years since a four and 10 seed have squared off in the quarterfinals. In 1997, No. 4 Arizona knocked off Gillen's 10th-seeded Providence Friars. Then the Wildcats went on to win their only championship of the modern era. In the other 4 vs.10 matchup seven years earlier, No. 4 Arkansas beat No. 10 Texas.
5 vs. 10 | 1-0, 1.000
A five seed has played a 10 seed only once in the Elite Eight. In 2002, No. 5 Indiana ended No. 10 Kent State's Cinderella run before losing to Maryland in the championship game.
6 vs. 8 | 0-1, 0.000
Here's another matchup that's only happened once: In 2000, eight-seed Wisconsin upended Big Ten rival Purdue.
7 vs. 8 | 0-1, 0.000
In the only Elite Eight matchup between these two middle seeds, eighth-seeded North Carolina beat seventh-seed Tulsa in 2000 -- the same year that eighth-seed Wisconsin beat Purdue in the only 6 vs. 8 matchup. Eerie.
The keys to predicting the like-seeded matchups with 90 percent proficiency are conference affiliation, playing location and winning record. In general, Big Six conference teams with lesser records playing closer to their campuses prevail. For toss-up games, where the seed difference between teams is one or two positions, frontcourt scoring accurately predicts the outcome in 14 of the 19 matchups.
1 vs. 1 | 9-9, 0.500
Of the 42 semifinal games played in the modern tourney, only nine have pitted one seeds against each other, further confirmation that you should think twice before filling your Final Four bracket with too many top seeds. In the two games in which a Big Six conference one seed has played a mid-major one seed, the Big Six has prevailed both times. In the remaining seven games, the team playing significantly closer to their campus (an area within 150 miles) is 3-1. Of the three games in which the two teams were a similar distance from home, the one seed with the lower winning percentage is 3-0. Follow these three rules and you would've been 8-1 in predicting the outcome of 1 vs. 1 semifinal matchups.
Recent matchups: Maryland over Kansas, 2002. Duke over Michigan State, 1999. Kentucky over Minnesota, 1997.
1 vs. 2 | 3-3, 0.500
Just like the 1 vs. 2 matchup in the Elite Eight, the Final Four showdown is hotly contested. The key performance indicator in the six games has been frontcourt scoring. The team that gets a higher percentage of its points from forwards and centers is 5-1. The only exception occurred in 1991, when two seed Duke ruined UNLV's perfect season en route to the championship.
Recent matchups: (2) Connecticut over (1) Duke, 2004. (2) Arizona over (1) Michigan State, 2001. (1) Arkansas over (2) Arizona, 1994.
1 vs. 3 | 1-4, 0.200
The toughest matchup for one seeds in the entire Tournament is in the semifinals when they face three seeds. They've only won once in five tries, when Duke broke the curse in 2001 by upending third-seeded Maryland. The key to this matchup, as with the 1 vs. 2 Final Four showdown, is frontcourt scoring. The team that relies on forwards and centers for the higher percentage of its scoring load is a perfect 5-0.
Recent matchups: (3) Syracuse over (1) Texas, 2003. (1) Duke over (3) Maryland, 2001. (3) Utah over (1) North Carolina, 1998.
1 vs. 4 | 4-1, 0.800
What a difference one seed makes. Whereas top seeds struggle against three seeds, they have little trouble with fours, winning all but one of the five matchups. The only fourth-seeded squad to rain on the one seed's parade was Arizona in 1997, which parlayed a Final Four upset over North Carolina into a national championship. What did the Wildcats have that the other four seeds lacked? An explosive offense. Arizona was the only four seed in this matchup that actually averaged seven points per game more than its opponent.
Recent matchups: (1) Illinois over (4) Louisville, 2005. (1) Connecticut over (4) Ohio State, 1999. (4) Arizona over (1) North Carolina, 1997.
1 vs. 5 | 1-0, 1.000
Last year's North Carolina/Michigan State Final Four game marked the first time that a five seed played a top seed for the right to advance to the championship.
1 vs. 8 | 1-0, 1.000
Michigan State was also involved in the only 1 vs. 8 semifinal game. The top-seeded Spartans beat Big Ten rival Wisconsin on their way to the 2000 championship.
2 vs. 2 | 1-1, 0.500
Amazingly, two seeds have squared off against each other in the Final Four only once in the 21 years of the modern tourney era. It happened in 1995, when Arkansas beat North Carolina. Just like with the 1 vs. 1 matchup, proximity and winning record were reliable guides in predicting the outcome of this like-seeded game. Arkansas was playing closer to home than North Carolina and had a lower winning percentage.
2 vs. 3 | 3-2, 0.600
Surprisingly, the 2 vs. 3 matchup occurs almost as often in the Final Four as a 1 vs. 2 game. Two seeds prevail in the best-of-five series, but by the slimmest of margins. If you took the two seed in every situation except when the three seed was from the ACC or Big East, you'd be a perfect 5-0 in predicting outcomes.
Recent matchups: (3) Georgia Tech over (2) Oklahoma State, 2004. (2) Kansas over (3) Marquette, 2003. (2) Kentucky over (3) Stanford, 1998.
2 vs. 5 | 0-1, 0.000
In 2002, Indiana sprung a mild upset when the fifth-seeded Hoosiers upended Oklahoma in the only 2 vs. 5 matchup of the 64-team era.
2 vs. 6 | 1-1, 0.500
These seeds haven't played each other in the Final Four since 1988 when Kansas and Danny Manning upset Duke on its way to Larry Brown's only NCAA championship. The year before that, two-seed Syracuse staved off Providence.
2 vs. 8 | 0-1, 0.000
The first four years of the modern tourney era saw some of the Final Four's funkiest matchups. Here's another one: In 1985, eight-seed Villanova beat two-seed Memphis State before its date with destiny against Georgetown.
2 vs. 11 | 1-0, 1.000
One year after the improbable Memphis State/Villanova matchup, 11-seed LSU lost to two-seed Louisville, which went on to beat Duke in the 1986 final.
3 vs. 4 | 1-0, 1.000
In 1990, just six years into the 64-team era, the only 3 vs. 4 semifinal matchup saw three-seed Duke holding off Arkansas. Duke's reward for the victory was the privilege of getting steamrolled by UNLV, 103-73, in the finals.
4 vs. 5 | 1-0, 1.000
In 1996, four-seed Syracuse beat Mississippi State in the modern tourney's only 4 vs. 5 semifinal matchup. The Orange lost to Kentucky in the finals.
4 vs. 6 | 0-1, 0.000
In 1992, Michigan's Fab Five, a six seed that could have been a two seed, beat four-seed Cincinnati. The Wolverines got trounced by Duke, 71-51, in the finals.
5 vs. 8 | 1-0, 1.000
2000 marked the only year of the modern tourney era that had two eight seeds in the Final Four. In addition to the 1 vs. 8 matchup between Michigan State and Wisconsin, five-seed Florida squared off against eight-seed North Carolina. The Gators lost to MSU in the finals.
1 vs. 1 | 3-3, 0.500
One in seven tournaments features two heavyweight top seeds going toe to toe. Since it happened last year when North Carolina bumped off Illinois, the law of averages says it won't happen this season. Interestingly, the top seed with the most imbalanced scoring between its front- and backcourt has won each of these showdowns. In 1993, North Carolina used its strong frontcourt (which accounted for 66 percent of its points during the regular season) to knock off Michigan. In 1999, UConn had a scoring mismatch with its backcourt (63 percent of its scoring) and took care of Duke. Last year, it was North Carolina's dominant frontcourt (71 percent of its scoring) that outmanned an Illini squad.
1 vs. 2 | 4-1, 0.800
It's strange that seeding should have this kind of impact between two close seeds in the finals. Top seeds treat two seeds like one of those lowly seeds they face in the early rounds, beating them 80 percent of the time. The only two seed to buck the trend is Louisville, which beat Duke in the 1986 championship game. Actually, a more reliable performance indicator in this matchup is backcourt scoring. The squad that gets a higher percentage of its points from guards is 5-0.
Recent matchups: (1) Duke over (2) Arizona, 2001. (1) UCLA over (2) Arkansas, 1995. (1) Arkansas over (2) Duke, 1994.
1 vs. 3 | 1-0, 1.000
You'd think a 1 vs. 3 championship game would have happened more than once. For Duke fans, once might be enough, considering how soundly UNLV throttled them, 103-73, in the 1990 finals. The Blue Devils would get their revenge the following year when they ruined UNLV's perfect season in the 1991 semifinals.
1 vs. 4 | 1-1, 0.500
The two 1 vs. 4 championship games happened in successive years, and they both involved a top-seeded Kentucky squad. In 1996, Kentucky took care of Syracuse, but the following year, the Wildcats were upset in overtime by fourth-seeded Arizona.
1 vs. 5 | 2-0, 1.000
The two 1 vs. 5 finals matchups came two years apart. Michigan State beat Florida in 2000, and Maryland handled Indiana in 2002.
1 vs. 6 | 1-1, 0.500
If it weren't for Villanova's upset of Georgetown in 1985, Kansas could lay claim to springing the biggest championship upset of the modern tourney era. The Jayhawks beat top-seeded Oklahoma in 1988. Four years later, Michigan's Fab Five tried to duplicate the feat but were thumped by Duke.
1 vs. 8 | 0-1, 0.000
In the first year of the modern tourney era, the championship game saw its most unlikely matchup -- and most surprising outcome. Eighth-seeded upstart Villanova toppled overwhelming favorite Georgetown 66-64, playing a nearly flawless game that included 90 percent shooting in the second half.
2 vs. 3 | 3-1, 0.750
The only 3-seed to beat a 2-seed in the finals is Syracuse, which knocked off Kansas in 2003. (Syracuse also holds the distinction of being the only champion that hadn't gone to the previous year's tournament.) The key to this matchup is scoring balance. The squad with the smallest percentage gap between its frontcourt and backcourt scoring has won all four games.
Recent matchups: (2) Connecticut over (3) Georgia Tech, 2004. (3) Syracuse over (2) Kansas, 2003. (2) Kentucky over (3) Utah, 1998.
3 vs. 3 | 1-1, 0.500
The only other like-seeded finals matchup of the 64-team era besides the three 1 vs. 1 tilts saw Michigan squeak by Seton Hall in overtime in 1989.
Freelance writer Pete Tiernan has been studying the NCAA Tournament for 16 years. E-mail him here.
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