Madness: Picking Double Digit Seeds

Selection Sunday is only a few days away and the mayhem is about to begin. It’s time to get your bracketology on and start searching for some upsets. While we don’t even know who the potential bracket busters are yet, history tells us they will likely be an 11 or 12 seed.

Picking a double digit seed for the upset can make you look like a genius. But not all double digit seeds are created equally. Looking at the past 15 tournaments, both 11 and 12 seeds have fared much better than 13 through 16 seeds and even have a better first round win percentages than 10 seeds. In fact, 12 seeds have won 32 games over the past 15 tournaments which is more games than 13 through 16 seeds have won combined. 11 seeds have won 42 games over the past 15 tournaments, which is more wins than 9 and 10 seeds have.

It appears that even the odds makers can’t get it right when it comes to the 11 and 12 seeds. In the first round, 11 seeds have beat the spread in 54 percent of their games over the past 15 years and 12 seeds have done even better, beating the spread 58 percent of the time.

While it could simply be that the success of 11 and 12 seeds has been to entirely due to luck over the past decade and a half, there is a logical explanation. We have to remember who the 11 and 12 seeds are. They are often the last at large teams to make the tournament due to double digit losses. However, time and time again it’s been shown that teams with close losses against good teams fare better in the future than teams with big wins against bad teams. These battle tested 11 and 12 seeds are ready to play come tournament time. The power numbers back these claims as 10 through 12 seeds are superior to 13 through 16 seeds. So when looking to pick that upset keep your eyes on the 11 and 12 seeds.

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About Jordan Sundheim 154 Articles
Jordan Sundheim is a veteran of the sports analytics field with a background in both athletics and statistics. He earned his master's at Duke, coached football at Stanford, and is currently a sports analytics consultant.