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16 Things About This Year’s Sweet 16

Scott Morris | March 28, 2024
NCAA Basketball Championship Look Ahead Line

This year’s Sweet 16 features a strong, top-heavy field that should provide for an exciting NCAA Tournament finish. There were some first-round upsets – Oakland over No. 3 Kentucky, for example – but all four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds remain.

Which team will emerge victorious as the national champions? Will UConn win two straight? Is Purdue able to overcome last year’s disappointment? Which school will qualify for the Final Four for the first time ever?

It’s worth taking a look at history to give us an idea of what may transpire in this year’s Sweet 16. Here are 16 items about the Sweet 16 and beyond that can help us navigate the final two weekends of the NCAA tournament.

  1. Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee, and Creighton have never advanced to the Final Four. The schools have combined to make five Elite Eights. Only one team has ever won the national title in its first Final Four appearance since the NCAA expanded the tournament in 1985. That was UConn in 1999.
  2. Since the NCAA Tournament’s expansion to 64 teams in 1985, this is just the fifth occasion in which all four No. 1 seeds and all four No. 2 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16. A No. 1 seed won the title in three of the four tournaments during those four seasons (1989, 1995, 2009, and 2019).
  3. A No. 1 seed against a No. 4 or No. 5 seed is the typical Sweet 16 matchup in each quadrant, and this year there are four such matchups. In those meetings historically, the top seeds have won 75% of the time, 89-29.
  4. The all-time record for the top seeds in the modern tournament when they play a non-power conference opponent in the Sweet 16 is 44-8 (86%). Although history does not favor either Gonzaga or San Diego State, you might not think of them as mid-majors these days.
  5. A No. 2 seed versus a No. 3 seed is the anticipated Sweet 16 matchup on the opposite side of each quadrant. This year, we have two such matchups. Although it would seem that these matches would be similar to coin flips, that isn’t the case. In this matchup, the No. 2 seeds are 36-22 and have won nearly two out of every three times (62%). As evidenced by the fact that nine of the last 13 meetings have been won by double digits, these games are frequently not very close.
  6. Against No. 11 seeds, No. 2 seeds have been dominant, as you might expect. Of the 19 such matches, they have won 16 (84%). Strangely, only four of the previous 12 No. 2 seeds to draw an 11-seed in the Sweet 16 advanced to the Final Four, and none of them went on to win the championship.
  7. No. 2 Arizona will take on No. 6 Clemson in a Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday. At 23-6 all-time (79%), the No. 2 seed has dominated this matchup, taking 21 of the previous 23 games. Though 11 of the previous 19 No. 6 seeds have won, forced overtime, or lost by a single possession, proceed with caution when placing an ATS wager.
  8. UConn is the top overall seed and the reigning champion. Of the past nine overall No. 1 seeds, only one has made it to the Final Four and not one has won the championship in the previous 11 years.
  9. San Diego State is the final remaining Mountain West team. In conference history, the MWC has only made it past the Sweet 16 once and has only had two upset victories since 2007. Both of those marks came from the Aztecs, who in precisely this same situation last year upset No. 1 overall seed Alabama while seeded No. 5.
  10. The AP Poll’s preseason rankings did not include Iowa State. Not a single one of the 36 top-two seeds who finished in the top 10 but were unranked by the AP at the beginning of the season advanced to the Final Four. Actually, the Cyclones have already surpassed those expectations. On opening weekend, 15 out of 23 similar No. 2 seeds lost.
  11. Since 1987, Duke has only been a No. 4 seed or lower five times. Those teams have advanced to three Sweet 16s but never higher. History indicates that Duke has either been a No. 1 seed or not good enough to get to a Final Four.
  12. Despite being a top-three seed, Purdue has lost to the Nos. 6, 8, 10, 11, 15, and 16 seeds in 11 of its last 12 appearances, failing to live up to seed expectations. The Boilermakers have suffered as many tournament upset losses to seeds 13 or worse (3) than they have all-time Elite Eight appearances. Matt Painter is 1-5 SU and ATS in the Sweet 16. However, they have a 7-0 record this season against teams that are still in the running, including victories over Tennessee, Gonzaga, and Marquette—possibly their next three opponents.
  13. Tennessee has finished as a top-four seed eight times, but they have never advanced to the Elite Eight and have always been upset. In the NCAA Tournament, Rick Barnes is currently 10-22 ATS lifetime (31%), having covered only four of his past 20 games since 2009.
  14. The most frequent Elite Eight matchups pits the top seed against the second or third seed, but history indicates that these matchups are not at all equal. With a record of 22-14 against the No. 3 seed, the top seeds have won 14 of the previous 17 meetings. Eleven of those victories came by a margin of at least seven points. However, No. 2 seeds are 24-23 overall against No. 1 seeds.
  15. In the event that the top seed loses in the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight matchup will probably pit a No. 4 or No. 5 seed against a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Though history indicates the exact opposite, you probably assume the better seed is the favorite there. However, the favorite is only 8-13 SU. The last three No. 3 seed favorites lost by 16, 20, and 28 points. Nine of the last No. 2 seeds in that position lost as well.
  16. The lowest seed to enter the Final Four did not win a game in 15 of the previous 17 Final Fours. Even in the Final Four, seeds still matter. Twelve of the previous 16 winners were actually the top seeds, and two of the other winners were the top seed remaining in that Final Four. On Final Four weekend, the top seeds are currently 40-15 against non-top seeds (73%), and they have won 23 of the previous 26 games.

Bet on March Madness at any one of these sportsbooks and know you will be betting with confidence.

 

 

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