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Should You Ever Bet The No. 16 Seed To Beat a No. 1?

March Madness Betting Trends #1 vs #16

A 16th seed has never beaten a top-seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The top seeds are a top seeds for a reason. 16 seeds are 16 seeds for a reason. Some 16 seeds have gotten close. Coach Pete Carril almost led the Princeton Tigers to an upset of the Georgetown Hoyas in 1989 in a 49 to 50 loss. Also in 1989, 16 East Tennessee State lost by a point to 1 seed Oklahoma. Neither Princeton nor East Tennessee State could close the door on their 1 seed opponent.

But although no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed, that doesn’t mean that 16 seeds haven’t had success against the spread versus 1 seeds. In fact, ATS success for 16 seeds versus 1 seeds might be an actual trend. Below, I dig deeper!  

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The Betting Trends Tell Us That Number One Seeds Always Blowout Number 16 Seeds

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that 1 seeds will always blow out the 16 seed. 1989 notwithstanding, in most years the 16 loses by at least 20 points to the 1 in every single NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The average score when a 1 plays a 16 is 84 to 60. That’s 24 points.

But, a Blowout Doesn’t Always Equate to a Cover Betting Spread

Even though 16 seeds routinely lose by 20 or more points, it doesn’t mean that 1 seeds always cover the spread. In 2013 and 2014, 16 seeds went a combined 6 and 2 ATS. That’s a very good record.

At first, it looked like 2015 was going to follow the trend. The top ranked team in the NCAA Tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats, was favored by 34 points over 16 Hampton. The Wildcats could only beat Hampton by 23 in a 79 to 56 win.

But, the trend appeared soft after 1 Villanova covered as a -22 point favorite when playing 16 Lafayette. The Villanova Wildcats beat Lafayette 93 to 52. The 1 Duke Blue Devils also covered. The Blue Devils beat 16 Robert Morris 85 to 56 as a -22.5 point favorite. Finally, the trend reverted back to 16s beating 1s ATS when Wisconsin could only beat Costal Carolina by an 86 to 72 score as a -20 point favorite.

Should You You Bet The 16th Seeds Plus The Points In 2016?

Counting 2015, the ATS record of 16 seeds over 1 seeds is 8 and 4 in the past three seasons. By all accounts, the trend could continue in 2016. At this point, Kansas, Michigan State, Villanova and Virginia have the inside track to the 1 seeds. As of Feb. 6, Kansas is 25-4, Michigan State 24-5, Villanova 25 and 4 and Virginia is 22 and 6. There’s a good chance that we might have a 6 loss 1 seed in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If that happens and 1 seeds are overvalued like they almost always are every college hoops season, expect at least two 16 seeds to win against the spread in Round 1. Winning straight up? That might be difficult!