March Madness stats: pick a winner!

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast


Right about now, you’re probably sitting at your work desk, filling out a bracket for the NCAA Tournament piece by piece, wondering if you’ll have a chance to turn this annual sports project into some money. If you’re not filling it out yet, you’re definitely thinking about it.

Before you go any further, I’m going to throw some stats your way that might make it easier to select an eventual champion in this year’s Big Dance. Numbers don’t usually lie, but you’re free to go rogue and disregard any of the stats you see in this blog. But remember, you’re doing so at your own peril.

I’m going to use the 1985 tournament as the starting point, because that’s when the field expanded from 32 to 64 teams. That way, you’ll be getting the most accurate trends in the current format (sure, we’re at 68 teams now, but that’s not a big difference from 64).

(Also read: The ACC crown goes through Florida)

Keep this in mind while filling out your bracket:

Don’t pick all No. 1 seeds to go to the Final Four. 96 percent of the time, it doesn’t work out like that. Schedule at least one upset in there.

There’s been no No. 1 seeds in the Final Four in three tournaments (12 percent of the time). So it’s probably good to have at least one top seed in the semifinals.

A No. 1 seed wins the tournament 52 percent of the time. It’s basically a toss-up between them and the field.

No team has ever won the tournament seeded No. 9 or worse. Go with a top-8 seed if you want to have a shot.

The lowest-seeded Final Four team ever was a No. 11 seed. If it happens again, and you pick it correctly, it’s very likely that you’ll make some money.

Never before has a No. 16 seed beaten a No. 1 seed. Don’t get that crazy.

No team seeded lower than No. 3 has won the tournament in the last 15 years. Parity has made lower seeds more competitive, but in the end, the high seeds come out on top.

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Sources: March Madness Statistics, ESPN Stats and Info