It’s that time of year again. March — the month of buzzer-beaters, bracket-busters and Cinderella stories. Tens of millions of people fill out brackets each year, whether for organized pools or simple personal enjoyment. And nearly everyone has a “method” to predicting the madness: calculating the ferocity of the mascots, determining the more suave-sounding school names, deciding which team has the more fashionable colors or, occasionally, analyzing the teams’ abilities. The TV networks inundate us with methods based on metrics: RPI, BPI, eFG%, SOS and so on. But let’s throw all of that science aside for a moment. There’s one simple metric that can be very helpful to amateur bracketologists across the world, and it doesn’t require a basketball Ph.D. or a fashion sense.
Yes, that little number etched next to each team’s name can reveal quite a lot.
While I was watching Sunday basketball coverage on CBS last week, one of the analysts, Steve Kerr, was discussing Michigan and mentioned that the Wolverines would be a one or a two seed in the tournament, but in the end “it doesn’t really matter.”
Turns out, it really does matter. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, one seeds have made the Final Four 47 times, which is approximately 40 percent of Final Four appearances. Two seeds? Just 24 times, or roughly 20 percent of appearances.
One seeds are twice as likely to reach the Final Four than two seeds. So, I think seeds matter.
What about three seeds? Since expansion, three seeds have made the Final Four 13 times, or appear in the Final Four roughly 11 percent of the time. Therefore, according to history, one seeds are almost four times more likely to reach the Final Four than three seeds. But please, professional analysts, tell me again that seeding “doesn’t matter.”
Throughout the selection process, almost all attention is given to the high seeds, but the lower seeds have their own important story to tell. Look at the bigger picture: eight seeds have reached the Final Four four times, compared to nine seeds which had never made the Final Four prior to last year. Looking for a true Cinderella to make it to the Final Four by eyeing a 10, 11 or 12 seed?
11 seeds have made the Final Four three times. 10 and 12 seeds have never made it to the Final Four. How about a dark horse to win it all? Each seed, one through six, has had a national champion — except the five seed. Five seeds are 0-3 in national championship games. Take a chance on a three, four, or six seed, but the five seed is probably not your guy.
Bottom line: how do you win your March Madness pool?
I HAVE NO IDEA. But I do know that seeds matter, and you should never let anyone tell you otherwise. Analysts and writers may collectivize one, two, and three seeds into the broad “upper echelon of teams,” but the fact remains that one seeds are dominant in comparison. Averages tell us that approximately two one seeds make the Final Four each year. Don’t feel “unoriginal” if you have a one seed winning it all in your bracket — they’ve won 18 out of 29 national titles since the expansion of the tournament. You might be “boring,” but odds are, you’re right. Don’t brand yourself as a “riverboat gambler” if you pick a four seed or lower to reach the Final Four though. Remember, that happens about once a year.
Now go out and win that $1 billion prize from Warren Buffett.
Connor Maytnier is a freshman in the College.