Higher seeds are safer bets in the Sweet 16 of the 2016 NCAA tournament.
In the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, some trends remained intact while others were busted worse than all the brackets that picked Michigan State to win the national championship. The perfect run of No. 1 seeds vs. No. 16s continued without any upsets, but Villanova’s run of first-weekend exits ended as the Wildcats rolled past UNC Asheville and Iowa.
With the Sweet 16 upon us, bettors are looking to the past for guidance on the future. How often do 10-seeds beat 11-seeds? Can No. 5 seeds reverse a losing trend against No. 1 seeds? Can 4-seeds continue their upset run against top seeds?
We dug into our database to find the answers.
No. 1 seeds vs. No. 5 seeds
There are two 1-vs-5 matchups this week. Historically, this hasn’t gone very well for the 5-seeds, as they are 5–21 straight up since 1997. Kansas is favored by 6.5 points against Maryland in the South region, and they have been dominant on neutral courts recently.
North Carolina faces Indiana in the East region, with the top-seeded Tar Heels currently favored by 5.5 points at most sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
No. 1 seeds vs. No. 4 seeds
There are also two 1-vs-4 pairings and the underdogs have bitten hard the past three tournaments, winning three times in six tries and going 4–2 against the spread.
Virginia is minus-5 vs. Iowa State in the Midwest, while Oregon gets the least respect from Vegas oddsmakers, as they are minus-3 against Duke.
Top Trends to Reach Elite Elite Eight
When North Carolina makes the Sweet 16, it’s a virtual lock that they will also play in the Elite Eight. Since 1996, the Tar Heels are 9–1 in this round, with the lone loss coming last year to eventual national runner-up Wisconsin.
Gonzaga-Syracuse battle pits an 11-seed vs a 10-seed, and that unusual pairing has happened just twice since 1996. Both times—Dayton over Stanford in 2014, VCU over Florida State in 2011—the 11-seed won and covered the spread.
Iowa State doesn’t create much turbulence as an underdog. The past six times in this role (plus-5 vs Virginia), the Cyclones have lost all six. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have blown away underdogs, covering five in a row when laying 5.5 points or less and are 10–3 against the spread in their final 13 games of the season.
When facing the same seed as they face in 2016 ...
Villanova has only faced a 3-seed once in 20 years, and that game was memorable for the wrong reasons. The Wildcats were favored in 2006 against Al Horford, Joakim Noah and the Florida Gators and they were hammered by the eventual national champions.
After breaking their second-weekend hex, can ‘Nova advance past Miami? They are 16–3 straight up in 19 recent games against teams with winning records. But if regular-season head-to-head history will predict the future, the answer is no. Miami is 7–3 straight up and against the spread in its last 10 games against Villanova.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had their last battle with a 5-seed ended in an 87–58 rout of Syracuse in 2001. KU has won 16 straight overall and covered the spread 13 times in that span.