Ad Blocker Detected
Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.
It’s the most wonderful time of year, as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, affectionately known as “March Madness” to most, starts this week.
The First Four will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Round of 64 following on Thursday and Friday. This will be the 84th overall edition of the tournament and the 38th instance of it since expanding to 64 teams in 1985. Given the numerous amount of upsets over the years, FOX Sports Research took a deep dive into the numbers to give you the information needed to make some successful wagers throughout the first week.
We dissected how teams performed against the spread (ATS) and straight up (SU) to find you the best betting trends.
Let’s dive in.
Underdogs have a slight edge ATS in Round of 64
If it’s felt like underdogs have dominated the first round in recent years, it’s because they have – especially from a gambling perspective. Since 2015, they’ve gone a whopping 122-97-2 ATS (55.7%). Fifty-nine of those underdogs actually won their respective games SU, which is a significant amount considering the number of mid-majors and small programs that compete.
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%). Below, we’ve outlined how 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 20-plus point spread in the Round of 64 are the Kansas Jayhawks against the Howard Bison.Since the tourney expanded in 1985, this will be the fewest 20-plus-point spreads in the Round of 64.
- Since the tourney expanded in 1985, this will be the fewest 20-plus-point spreads in the Round of 64.
Specific seed vs. seed matchups in Round of 64
Expanding a bit more on the first round, here is a breakdown of some interesting trends with regard to double-digit seeds. You might be surprised at how successful the 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 past 12 NCAA tournaments, at least one 13-seed has defeated a 4-seed.
- In five of the past nine NCAA tournaments, a 14-seed has beaten a 3-seed.
- In six of the past 10 NCAA tournaments, a 15-seed has beaten a 2-seed.
- Double-digit seeds are 507-507-21 ATS (50%) and 232-803 SU (22.4%) in the Round of 64 since 1985.Excludes the Oregon Ducks-VCU Rams game in 2021 when Oregon advanced due to COVID-19 issues.
- Excludes the Oregon Ducks-VCU Rams game in 2021 when Oregon advanced due to COVID-19 issues.
That being said, it would be unfair not to point out some of the glaring losing streaks that many of the small conferences hold as these are the schools that usually obtain these double-digit seeds.
- Horizon League schools are 0-10 in the Round of 64 since 2012, with the last win coming from Butler (now in the Big East) in 2011.The 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse are the lone Horizon League team in this year’s tournament. They face the Houston Cougars, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
- The 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse are the lone Horizon League team in this year’s tournament. They face the Houston Cougars, the 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-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson Knights are the lone Northeast Conference school in this year’s tournament, playing in the First Four against the Texas Southern Tigers.
- The 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson Knights are the lone Northeast Conference school in this year’s tournament, playing in the First Four against the Texas Southern Tigers.
- Colonial Athletic schools are 0-9 in the Round of 64 since 2013, with the last win coming from VCU (now in the Atlantic 10) in 2012.The 12th-seeded Charleston Cougars are the lone Colonial Athletic team in the field this year, facing the fifth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs.
- The 12th-seeded Charleston Cougars are the lone Colonial Athletic team in the field this year, facing the fifth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs.
- Big South schools are 1-26 in the Round of 64, with the lone win coming from Winthrop in 2007.
The lone Big South school in this year’s tournament is the 15th-seeded UNC Asheville Bulldogs, who take on the second-seeded 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 as well as repeating as Big South Defensive Player of the Year.
Pember averages 21.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game this season on 37% shooting on 3-pointers and won Big South Tournament MVP.
- The lone Big South school in this year’s tournament is the 15th-seeded UNC Asheville Bulldogs, who take on the second-seeded 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 as well as repeating as Big South Defensive Player of the Year.
- Pember averages 21.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game this season on 37% shooting on 3-pointers and won Big South Tournament MVP.
Bet on these coaches to cover in Round of 64
It could be argued that coaching matters more in college basketball than in any sport, and that notion is accentuated even more in the tournament. There are five coaches in this year’s tournament who rank in the top 18 all-time in cover rate for Round of 64 games (10-game minimum):
- Matt Painter: 11-3 ATS (78.6%) in the Round of 64, the best of any coach all-time (10 games minimum). The Purdue Boilermakers take on the winner of Fairleigh Dickinson and Texas Southern and will likely be double-digit favorites as the 1-seed.
- Bob Huggins: 16-9 ATS (64%) in the Round of 64, the eighth-best all-time (10 games minimum). The ninth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers take on the eighth-seeded Maryland Terrapins, with Huggins’ squad being a two-point favorite at FOX Bet.
- Bill Self is 14-8-1 ATS (63.6%) in the Round of 64, the ninth-best all-time (10 games minimum). The No. 1 Jayhawks will take on the 16th-seeded Bison as 21.5-point favorite, according to FOX Bet.
- Fran McCaffery is 6-4 ATS (60%) in the Round of 64, the 15th-best all-time (10 games minimum). The eighth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the ninth-seeded Auburn Tigers with McCaffery’s squad currently listed as one-point underdogs at FOX Bet.
- Rick Pitino is the final coach on this list, going 11-9-1 ATS (55%) in the Round of 64, the 18th-best all-time (10 games minimum). The 13th-seeded Iona Gaels are 9.5-point underdogs against the fourth-seeded UConn Huskies.
No. 1 seeds dominate the Round of 64 AND national championship
While we’ve focused on the Round of 64, we also wanted to give you a quick overview of what characteristics 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 national champions since 1979 were top seeds. In fact, the past five national title winners and 12 of the past 15 champions were No. 1 seeds.
In the Round of 64, they’re almost perfect, going a whopping 147-1 SU (99.3%) and 76-70-2 ATS (52.1%) since 1985. The only 16-seed to defeat a top seed are the UMBC Retrievers, who took down the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2018 tournament.
KenPom has become one of the most respected college basketball analytical tools since its public debut in 2002. The site takes into account various metrics to measure the offensive and defensive efficiencies of every Division I basketball team. Looking at the pre-tournament KenPom data, there are a few interesting trends.
Firstly, every national champion since 2002 has ranked in the top 44 of adjusted defensive efficiency. Nineteen of those 20 title winners in that span also ranked in the top 21 of adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
The lone 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, below are the eight teams that fit the bill of ranking in the top 21 of offense and top 44 in 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 is a good indicator of which teams might be worth a value bet prior to the tournament starting.
Houston is the favorite to win it all at +500, but it’s worth noting that only three other pre-tournament favorites have had odds higher than that. Two of those three went on to win the title, with the 2018 Villanova Wildcats and the 2017 North Carolina Tar Heels doing so 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) were ranked in the top 25 of overall adjusted efficiency. All eight of the teams above rank inside in top 13 of this year’s pre-tournament KenPom data.
So what are you waiting for? Head to FOX Bet and make some wagers on the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament!
Get more from College Basketball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more