The 11 March Madness Betting First-Round Trends You Need to Know

August 18, 2023

March Madness, the annual spectacle of college basketball’s premier tournament, captivates sports enthusiasts and bettors. This thrilling event is synonymous with heart-pounding upsets, jaw-dropping buzzer-beaters, and chaos that could rival a Shaka Smart defense on overdrive. 

Amidst the echoes of iconic moments like #15 Lehigh’s historic victory over #2 Duke, it’s crucial to sift through the glamour and uncover the trends shaping the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament. This comprehensive analysis delves into 11 key trends, providing a deeper understanding of the unpredictability, dynamics, and strategies involved in March Madness betting.

Sole #1 Seed to Ever Be Defeated in Opening Round

The dramatic upset of #1 Virginia by #16 UMBC in 2018 reverberated through the annals of college basketball history, forever etching its mark. This historic occurrence marked the first time a #1 seed fell in the opening round. To put this in perspective, a mere two instances of #16 seeds losing by a narrow margin had previously occurred, underscoring the sheer dominance of top seeds with an astounding 143-1 record against #16 seeds.

#1 Seeds Maintain a Two-Game Victory Rate of 86%

Following their commanding victories over the #16 seeds, the #1 seed continue to assert their dominance in the second round. Their remarkable 85.7%-win rate in this stage significantly outperforms the #2 seeds, who maintain a respectable yet lower 67.3%-win rate.

#1 Seeds Maintain Spread Coverage for Margins Under 20 Points 

When the point spread remains below the 20-point threshold, #1 seeds exhibit prowess in matchups against #16. Recent history showcases an impressive 8-2 record for #1 seeds, emphasizing their capacity to navigate tighter contests with calculated efficiency.

#7 Seeds Dominate Matchups Against #10 Seeds

Amidst the tournament’s reputation for shocking upsets, the misconception surrounding #7 vs. #10 matchups becomes evident. Contrary to popular belief, #7 seeds have emerged as resilient contenders, boasting a 60.8%-win rate and a commendable 90-58 overall record against #10 seeds.

Resilient #10 Seeds Demonstrate Staying Power

While the initial track record of #10 seeds might seem underwhelming, a deeper look reveals their resilience. Once they surpass the Round of 64 hurdles, their success rate soars to 42.4%, challenging the notion of early exits and encouraging bettors to consider their potential for deeper tournament runs.

First Four: A Gateway to Success

Since its inception in 2011, the “First Four” has often set the stage for further triumphs in the Round of 64. While this streak was disrupted in 2019, the journeys of teams like UCLA and Notre Dame exemplify the momentum and resilience that can stem from this preliminary bracket.

#9 Seeds Display One-Hit Wonder Performance

The seemingly balanced #8 vs. #9 matchups remain statistically close, with #9 seeds holding a slight 76-72 edge since 1985. Paradoxically, the second-round scenario contrasts, with #8 seeds claiming a 21.1%-win rate while #9 seeds languish at a meager 9.2%.

#8 vs. #9 Seed Matchups: Underdogs Cover in 30 of Last 52 Games

Recent history demonstrates that underdogs often triumph in the clash between #8 and #9 seeds, underscoring the lucrative potential of betting against the odds in this evenly-matched scenario.

#11 Seeds Emerge as First-Round Phenomena

The resilience of #11 seeds against #6 seeds in the first round is remarkable. Over the years, #11 seeds have maintained a competitive record, hinting at their potential for shocking upsets and unexpected runs in the tournament.

The Parity Cutoff at #13: Challenging the Odds

While #12 seeds and #11 seeds exhibit comparable success rates in the Round of 64, the performance of #13 seeds takes a noticeable nosedive, with a paltry 21.5%-win rate that emphasizes the division between contenders and underdogs.

Certain Teams Struggle to Break Their Losing Streak

Certain schools, including Boise State, Nebraska, Belmont, and Eastern Kentucky, face insurmountable odds as they search for their elusive first tournament victory. In stark contrast, established contenders like Gonzaga boast an impeccable Round of 64 record, a testament to their consistent dominance.

As March Madness enthralls fans and bettors alike, understanding these first-round trends can guide betting strategies and decisions. Behind the curtain of legendary upsets and dazzling moments lies a realm of statistical insights that underscore the exhilarating unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament. 

With this knowledge, bettors can better navigate the tumultuous waters of March Madness, armed with the tools to embrace the chaos and make informed wagers.

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