It’s the most wonderful time of the year, like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournamentaffectionately known as “March Madness” by most, begins this week.
The first four will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the round of 16 will be played on Thursday and Friday. This will be the tournament’s 84th overall and 38th since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Given the plethora of upsets over the years, FOX Sports Research dug into the numbers to give you the insight you need. to make some successful bets during the first week.
We analyzed team performance against the spread (ATS) and straight up (SU) to find you the best betting trends.
Let’s dive in.
The underdogs have a slight edge ATS in the round of 64
If it’s felt like the underdogs have dominated the first round in recent years, that’s because they have, especially from a game perspective. Since 2015, they have gone a whopping 122-97-2 ATS (55.7%). Fifty-nine of those underdogs won their respective SU games, which is a significant amount considering the number of mid-sized and small programs competing.
If you look at just the previous three tournaments, they cover at an even greater rate, going 54-40 ATS (57.4%) and 31-63 SU (33%). Here’s how the underdogs have performed historically since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985:
- Underdogs are 583-559-24 ATS (51.1%) and 292-874 SU (25%) in the round of 64 all-time.
- Double-digit underdogs are 235-227-6 ATS (50.9%) and 34-434 SU (7.3%) in the round of 64 all-time.
- Currently, the only top 20 points distributed in the round of 64 are the Kansas Jayhawks against him Howard Bison.Since the tournament expanded in 1985, this will be the fewest differentials of more than 20 points in the round of 16.
- This will be the fewest spreads of more than 20 points in the Round of 16 since the tournament expanded in 1985.
Specific seed vs. seed matchups in the Round of 64
Expanding a bit further into the first round, here’s a breakdown of some interesting trends when it comes to double-digit seeds. You might be surprised at how successful lower seeds have been in recent years:
- A 12-seed has won 53 first-round games since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
- In eight of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments, at least one of the 13 seeds has defeated a 4 seed.
- In five of the last nine NCAA Tournaments, a 14-seed has won one of three.
- In six of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments, a 15-seed has won one of two.
- Double-digit seeds are 507-507-21 ATS (50%) and 232-803 SU (22.4%) in the round of 64 since 1985. Excludes Oregon Ducks.VCU Rams game in 2021 when Oregon advanced due to COVID-19 issues.
- Excludes Oregon Ducks-VCU Rams game in 2021 when Oregon advanced due to COVID-19 issues.
That said, it would be unfair not to point out some of the glaring losses that many of the smaller conferences have, as those are the schools that usually get those double-digit seeds.
- Horizon League schools are 0-10 in the round of 16 since 2012, with Butler (now in the Big East) last winning in 2011. The 16th seed nordic from northern kentucky is the only Horizon League team in this year’s tournament. They face the Houston Cougarsthe No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
- The 16th seed nordic from northern kentucky is the only Horizon League team in this year’s tournament. They face the Houston Cougarsthe No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
- Northeast Conference schools are 0-31 all-time in the round of 64, and 3-6 in the first four. The 16th seed Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson are the only Northeast Conference school in this year’s tournament, playing in the first four against the South Texas Tigers.
- The 16th seed Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson are the only Northeast Conference school in this year’s tournament, playing in the first four against the South Texas Tigers.
- Colonial Athletic schools are 0-9 in the round of 16 since 2013, with VCU (now in the Atlantic 10) last winning in 2012. The 12th seed Charleston Cougars is the only Athletic Colonial team in the field this year, facing the fifth seed San Diego State Aztecs.
- The 12th seed Charleston Cougars is the only Athletic Colonial team in the field this year, facing the fifth seed San Diego State Aztecs.
- Big South schools are 1-26 in the round of 64, with Winthrop’s only win coming in 2007. The only Big South school in this year’s tournament is the 15th seed. UNC Asheville Bulldogswho take the second seed UCLA Bruins
Someone to note is 6-foot-11 forward Drew Pember, who spent two seasons as a Tennessee Volunteer before transferring to Asheville in 2021. He won Big South Player of the Year this season and repeated as Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Pember is averaging 21.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game this season on 37 percent 3-point shooting and won Big South Tournament MVP.
- The only Big South school in this year’s tournament is the 15th seed UNC Asheville Bulldogswho take the second seed UCLA Bruins
- Someone to note is 6-foot-11 forward Drew Pember, who spent two seasons as a Tennessee Volunteer before transferring to Asheville in 2021. He won Big South Player of the Year this season and repeated as Big South Defensive Player of the Year.
- Pember is averaging 21.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game this season on 37 percent 3-point shooting and won Big South Tournament MVP.
Bet on these coaches to cover the round of 16
It could be argued that coaching is more important in college basketball than in any sport, and that notion is further emphasized in the tournament. There are five managers in this year’s tournament who rank in the top 18 all-time in cover rate for Round of 64 games (minimum 10):
- Matt Painter: 11-3 ATS (78.6%) in round of 16, best coach of all time (minimum 10 games). The Purdue boiler room will face the winner of Fairleigh Dickinson and Texas Southern and will likely be a double-digit favorite as the top seed.
- Bob Huggins: 16-9 ATS (64%) in Round of 16, 8th best all-time (minimum 10 games). The ninth seed West Virginia Mountaineers take the eighth seed Maryland Terrapinswith Huggins’ team a two-point favorite at FOX Bet.
- Bill Self is 14-8-1 ATS (63.6%) in Rounds, ninth best all-time (minimum 10 games). The No. 1 Jayhawks will face the 16th-seeded Bison as a 21.5-point favorite, according to FOX Bet.
- Fran McCaffery is 6-4 ATS (60%) in Rounds, 15th best all-time (minimum 10 games). The eighth seed Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the ninth seed Auburn Tigers with McCaffery’s team currently listed as one-point underdogs at FOX Bet.
- Rick Pitino is the last manager on that list, going 11-9-1 ATS (55%) in the round of 18, 18th best all-time (minimum 10 games). The 13th seed Iona Gaels are 9.5 points behind the fourth seed. UConn Huskies.
The first-place finishers dominate the round of 16 and the national championship
While we’ve focused on the round of 16, we also wanted to give you a quick overview of what the national champions display.
Since seeding began in 1979, 26 No. 1 seeds have won national championships, the most of any seed. The rest of the other seeds have combined for just 17 titles. That means 60% of the national champions since 1979 were top seeds. In fact, the last five national title winners and 12 of the last 15 champions were No. 1 seeds.
In the round of 64, they are nearly perfect, going a whopping 147-1 SU (99.3%) and 76-70-2 ATS (52.1%) since 1985. The only 16 seeds to defeat a first seed are UMBC. Retrievers, who defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2018 tournament.
KenPom has become one of the most respected college basketball analytics tools since its public debut in 2002. The site takes into account several metrics to measure the offensive and defensive efficiency of each Division I basketball team Looking at the pre-tournament KenPom data, there are some interesting trends.
First, every national champion since 2002 has ranked in the top 44 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Nineteen of those 20 title winners in that span also ranked in the top 21 in adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
The only exception was UConn in 2014, which ranked 57th in the offensive category despite ranking 19th in defense. So, using the 2023 pre-tournament KenPom rankings, here are the eight teams that fit the rankings between the top 21 offense and top 44 defense:
Houston +500 (bet $10 to win $60)
Alabama Crimson Tide +800 (bet $10 to win $90)
UCLA +1400 (bet $10 to win $150)
Kansas +1000 (bet $10 to win $110)
Texas Longhorns +1600 (bet $10 to win $170 total)
UConn +2200 (bet $10 to win $230)
Creighton Bluejays +3300 (bet $10 to win $340)
Saint Mary’s Gaels +3500 (bet $10 to win $360)
Again, this isn’t a strict measure, as teams can get hot, like the 2014 Huskies mentioned above. But it’s a good indicator of which teams might be worth a value bet before the tournament starts.
Houston is the favorite to win it all at +500, but it’s worth noting that only three other pre-tournament favorites have had higher odds. Two of those three won the title, with the 2018 Villanova Wildcats and the 2017 North Carolina Tar Heels, while the 1994 Tar Heels lost in the second round.
It’s also worth noting that all 20 national champions in the KenPom era (since 2002) ranked in the top 25 in overall adjusted efficiency. All eight teams above are ranked in the top 13 in KenPom data prior to this year’s tournament.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to FOX Bet and place some bets on the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament!
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