We are now just days away from the start of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament, so we went back and analyzed how each seed has done in the first round over the last 10 years.
Play-in Game Trends
We also took a look at the play-in games since 2001, which in the past has been just one game on the Tuesday of the first week between the 64th and 65th seeds in the entire tournament. With the field expanding to 68 teams this year though, there are now four play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The favorites have gone 6-4 straight up in the play-in games the last 10 years, but they are just 4-5-1 against the spread with a slim average winning margin of +2.4 points. Now the play-in winners have never gone on to win in the main bracket of 64 teams, but they have gone a respectable 4-6 ATS vs. the top seeds.
Top Seeds Only 52% ATS
Most people know that a one seed has never lost outright in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and the average winning margin for the 40 top seed winners over the last 10 years has been +26.4 points. However, the top seeds are only 20-18-2, 52.6 percent ATS in Round One obviously due to inflated lines. The closest call for a one seed the last 10 years came when the Pittsburgh Panthers defeated East Tennessee State by 10 points in 2009.
#2 Seeds 45% ATS L10 Years
Two seeds are 39-1 straight up in the first round the past decade, with the only loser coming when Hampton shocked Iowa State back in 2001. The two seeds have been worse bets than the one seeds in Round One, going 18-22, 45.0 percent ATS despite a good average winning margin of +15.8 points. Besides Iowa State’s loss, the narrowest escape by a two seed came in a one-point win by Duke over Belmont in 2008 where the Blue Devils had to overcome a double-digit second half deficit.
#3 Seeds 37-3 L10 Years
Three seeds are 37-3 straight up in the first round with an average winning margin of +10.7 points, bringing the overall record of the top three seeds to 116-4 straight up the last 10 years. Take note that the third three seed to lose in the first round was Georgetown last season, when the Hoyas were run out of the building by the Ohio Bobcats 97-83. Still, three seeds have held their own vs. the number, going 21-18-1, 53.8 percent ATS.
#4 Seeds Upset Targets
The four seeds are a good place to start when looking for first round upsets, as they have double-digit losses at 30-10 straight up since 2001 with an average winning margin of +8.3 points. They are barely over .500 ATS in Round One at 21-19, 52.5 percent, with two of the ATS losses coming last season when Vanderbilt lost outright to Murray State and Wisconsin barely beat Wofford.
Potential First Round Best Bets
The five seeds have been the most vulnerable to upsets, going only 23-17 straight up in the first round since 2001 with an average winning margin of +4.2 points while going 19-21 ATS. The most recent upset was Cornell over Temple last year.
In other notable first round trends, the seven seeds have been the best bet the last 10 years going 24-16, 60.0 percent ATS and the nine seeds have gone 21-19 straight up over the eight seeds.