It’s that time of year again. College basketball teams are preparing to make a deep run in one of sports’ most exciting tournaments: March Madness. We’ll be taking a closer look at the Cinderella teams of the Big Dance; schools that enter March Madness without much attention as lower seeds, but end up busting many brackets.
It’s interesting to think about how little faith the public has in the ability of certain low-seeded teams. For example, UMBC was a 20.5 underdog to the University of Virginia during 2018’s March Madness tournament. Many didn’t have confidence that they could keep the game close, let alone defeat one of the best teams in the country. UMBC was a sixteen-seed, while Virginia was the number one seed in their region.
According to research, twelve-seeds or lower have virtually no chance of making the Final Four in a given year. In fact, only teams seeded one through three have more than a 10% chance of qualifying for the final slate of games.
Nonetheless, ten- through twelve-seeds have historically made the Sweet 16 at a higher clip than eight- and nine-seeds, so it might be worth keeping an eye on teams in that range as they could just win a game or two.
Lower-seeded teams have had success during March Madness. An AT&T commercial during last year’s tournament even commented on how it seems like every year, a five-seed is surprised by a twelve-seed. The ability of teams to put it all together for one game against a superior opponent gives fans of every school hope.
We don’t need to look too far in the distant past to find examples of lower-seeded teams that made a deep run during March Madness. During the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the St. Peter’s Peacocks were a fifteenth seed heading into the Big Dance. For the most part, teams seeded that low are expected to be used for a “tune-up game” by one of the more heavily favored schools, without much hope of progressing in the competition.
St. Peter’s squared off against the mighty Kentucky Wildcats in the first round. The Peacocks shocked fans, beating the blue blood program. Their run would continue with victories against seventh-seeded Murray State, and third-seeded Purdue. The Peacocks made it to the Elite Eight last year, before losing to North Carolina.
The lowest-seeded team to ever win March Madness was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. They cut down the nets as an eight-seed.
There are varying degrees to which something is considered an upset during the NCAA Tournament. By definition, if a lower-seeded team defeats a higher-seeded team, that result can usually be considered an upset.
However, lower-seeded teams can have those designations for reasons that do not reflect how well they have been playing heading into the NCAA Tournament. For example, if a team dealt with a lot of injuries early on in the season, or is just finding their rhythm, they may be seeded lower than if they had been healthy for the entire campaign.
Additionally, even higher-seeded teams have weaknesses. It is entirely possible that a lower-seeded team can highlight those shortcomings in a particular game due to how well their players can exploit them. These individual game details can also justify why a favorite might not have the type of advantage many people think.
Certainly, the relative seeding of teams can also help gauge the level of an upset. If a nine-seed defeats an eight-seed, or a ten-seed defeats a seven-seed, the outcome isn’t considered to be shocking. However, as the difference between seeds grows, the upset can be deemed colossal. Fifteen-seeds defeating a two-seed or a sixteen-seed defeating a one-seed are historically recognized.
One of the greatest things about the NCAA Tournament is that there are surprises and unexpected outcomes each and every year. Even the most accomplished college basketball analysts can make predictions about what will unfold in March and April, only to find out they were way off when the Final Four rolls around.
It may not be wise to allocate a large portion of your wagering budget to lower-seeded teams, but it’s certainly worth highlighting a couple of teams that may be generally overlooked due to their rank. Make sure that you have sound reasoning for placing bets on these teams, rather than relying on blind luck.
For example, it might be wise to analyze the profile of double-digit-seeded teams. How did they fare in their conference Tournament? Does their rotation consist of upperclassmen who have played in the NCAA Tournament before? Are their first and second round games relatively close to campus?
For deeper-pocketed bettors, a more balanced approach can provide some insurance. It can certainly be attractive to invest a large amount into lower-seeded teams, but it might also be smart to put money down on a few favorites. This can help mitigate some of the riskier bets made on teams who have the potential to shock the nation, but could equally lose their very first game.
There are a few great sportsbooks fans can check out in order to place a wager during March Madness. Popular options like PointsBet, BetMGM, DraftKings, and BetRivers are all solid places to go for college basketball betting during the biggest games of the year.
If you are relatively new to sports betting, it might be worth shopping around for the platform with the best introductory offer. It’s possible that, as a new member, you can receive free bets or more flexible odds for joining, which might make the experience that much more exciting.
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
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