Sweet 16: How Have The No. 1 Seeds Fared?

No. 1 seeds have rolled through the Sweet 16 in the last 5 years

The No. 1 seeds are often the strongest teams, and have the keys to NCAA Tournament success. Still, even the strongest teams can bet beaten earlier than expected, which is what Illinois found out to misplaced No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago in the Round of 32. But history for No. 1 seeds since 1985 shows them going 85-23 SU in the Sweet 16. That includes 70-23 SU vs. teams seeded No. 4 or No. 5.

Until 2015, No. 1 seeds were getting bounced out of this round going back to 2010, but in the last five editions (not including 2020 with no tournament) No. 1 seeds are 15-1 SU and 11-5 ATS (or 11-4-1 as Gonzaga line closed -3 in 2017).

In the last tournament in 2019, all four No. 1 seeds made the Sweet 16 and three played 4 or 5 seeds (2-1 SU/1-2 ATS). North Carolina lost badly as a favorite to Auburn. Gonzaga went on to lose in the Elite 8 along with Duke, while Virginia needed overtime to hold off Purdue. Virginia won in the national semifinals in a controversial one point win over Auburn, and then won the thrilling finish in overtime over Texas Tech to capture the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship – and cost me a pretty big payday on Texas Tech at +7500 (I hedged some in championship).

No. 1 seeds

2019
#1 Virginia (-8.5) beat #12 Oregon 53-49
#1 Duke (-7) beat #4 Virginia Tech 75-73
#1 Gonzaga (-7.5) beat #4 Florida State 72-58
#1 North Carolina (-5.5) lost to #5 Auburn 97-80

2018
#1 Villanova (-5) beat #5 West Virginia 90-78
#1 Kansas (-5) beat #5 Clemson 80-76

2017
#1 Kansas (-5) beat #4 Purdue 98-66
#1 North Carolina (-7) beat #4 Butler 92-80
#1 Gonzaga (-3.5) beat #4 West Virginia 61-58

2016
#1 Kansas (-5.5) beat #5 Maryland 79-63
#1 North Carolina (-5) beat #5 Indiana 101-86
#1 Virginia (-6) beat #4 Iowa State 84-71
#1 Oregon (-3) beat #4 Duke 82-68

2015
#1 Kentucky (-13.5) beat #5 West Virginia 78-39
#1 Duke (-4.5) beat #5 Utah 63-57
#1 Wisconsin (-6) beat #4 North Carolina 79-72

There is another statistical profile that points to No. 1 seeds being more vulnerable to losing to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Sweet 16. It’s a solid situation that uses scoring margin as another criteria in pointing to Sweet 16 winners. Top No. 1 seeded teams with a scoring margin of less than 14 points per game are more likely to get knocked off by a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, which makes Michigan most vulnerable.

Gonzaga (+23.4)
Baylor  (+18.0)
Michigan (+10.9)

Gonzaga, Baylor, Houston (+19.5) and Loyola Chicago (+15.7) were the top four college basketball teams in scoring margin this season. Gonzaga is averaging a remarkable 92.1 points per game this season, and the Bulldogs remain the prohibitive favorite (+150) to win the national championship as the Sweet 16 begins. Baylor (83.8), Arkansas (82.0) and Oral Roberts (81.5) are the other tournament teams averaging at least 80 points per game this season including through the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga’s scoring margin heading into the 2019 Sweet 16 was +23.9. They beat FSU, but lost in the Elite 8 to a top defensive team in Texas Tech.

Author: FairwayJay is a leading national sports betting analyst, writer, handicapper and sports betting insider providing insight and information you can bet on for nearly two decades from Las Vegas. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events for leading media and sports betting sites and companies. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay