March Madness has finally arrived!
After the unveiling of the brackets, millions of fans began filling them out in NCAA Tournament pools. Sports bettors started examining the matchups and placing bets soon after the sportsbooks released the lines.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and now includes 68 teams, the year-end conference tournament champions from 32 Division 1 conferences are awarded automatic bids.
The remaining 36 spots are at-large teams, and the NCAA Tournament committee seeds the field of 68 teams and places them into the championship bracket. The committee selects teams based on a number of criteria, and the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) was added before the 2019 tournament.
The NET relies on the following to determine the NCAA Tournament teams and seedings:
- Game results
- Strength of schedule
- Scoring margin
- Net offensive
- Defensive efficiency
- Game location
- Quality of wins and losses
The No. 4 seeds are often those teams ranked between 12-20 in the final Associated Press poll. They are often teams from the power conferences or the best teams from the next tier of conferences.
The No. 13 seeds are almost always from the smaller or non-power conferences, and most of them earned an automatic bid by winning their conference tournaments.
2021 NCAA Tournament: 4 vs. 13 seeds
South – No. 13 North Texas vs No. 4 Purdue
North Texas (17-9) gets a tough draw and defense in Purdue (18-9), but the Mean Green play at a very slow pace and rank top-20 in effective FG% defense and No. 42 in defensive efficiency. Purdue, however, comes from the No. 1 rated conference in the Big Ten, and the Boilermakers KenPom ranking in No. 23 in both offense and defensive adjusted efficiency. Purdue junior forward Trevion Williams leads the team in scoring and rebounding. North Texas senior guard Javion Hamlet was the Conference USA Player of the Year. North Texas is a top 3-point shooting team, but Purdue is top-3 in Big Ten 3-point defense and overall FG defense. North Texas lost their last three regular season games before sweeping through the Conference USA Tourney going 4-0 SU/ATS to land the automatic bid. Purdue finished 4th in the rugged Big Ten and went 5-0 SU/ATS to close the season before losing in overtime to Ohio State in the Big Ten tourney.
This game is Friday night, March 19 at 7:25 p.m. ET with TNT carrying the coverage from the North court at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Midwest – No. 13 Liberty vs No. 4 Oklahoma State
Viewers can watch one of the best players in the country and top-2 NBA pick in Big 12 Freshman and Player of the Year Cade Cunningham. The all-tool guard leads a Cowboys team that is stronger defensively (No. 22 KenPom efficiency) but can score with his more than 20 points and 6 rebounds plus 3.6 assists per game. Oklahoma State (20-8) was a money-maker at 17-10 ATS, and the Cowboys have beaten all the best teams in the Big 12 including top-seed Baylor in the conference tournament. Liberty (23-5) was the best team in the Atlantic Sun, and still outperformed the oddsmakers going 16-8 ATS. The Flames play at a snails pace, yet are No. 4 in the country in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings. Liberty values and protects the basketball significantly better than Oklahoma State, but now steps way up in class as they try to win their 13th straight game. This team makes shots at a high rate, and junior guard Darius McGhee (15.6) is the teams top scorer with the Flames top-3 guards all marksmen hitting better than 39% from beyond the arc.
This game tips off at 6:25 p.m. ET on Friday, March 19 with TBS covering the action from Farmers Coliseum.
West – No. 13 Ohio vs No. 4 Virginia
The NCAA Committee has tried to slow Ohio (16-7) and the Bobcat’s 80 points-per-game offense. The Bobcat’s can really shoot the basketball and rank top-15 in field goal efficiency and 2-point shooting. Ohio was fifth in the MAC before sweeping through the conference tournament scoring 85 points per game to earn the NCAA automatic bid. Junior guard Jason Preston scored 23 PPG in the tourney after averaging more than 15 points during the season and really sharing the basketball with 7.6 assists per game. He poured in 31 points against No. 1 NCAA seed Illinois in a 77-75 loss back in late November. Virginia (18-6) is annually a top-scoring defense under terrific coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers play super slow but always efficient and smart with shots, ranking No. 12 in the country in offensive efficiency while protecting the basketball. The Cavaliers are one of the very best free throw shooting teams in the country, and while the defense is not elite level this season, they still rank No. 35 in efficiency and often control the game tempo and flow. Forwards Sam Hauser and Jay Huff lead the team in scoring and rebounding. But follow along as the Cavs have COVID issues which took them out of the ACC Tourney after winning the regular season title. The 2019 and defending NCAA Tourney champs try to make another March Madness run, and will be Ohio’s toughest tournament test.
This game is at Assembly Hall at 7:15 p.m. ET with truTV covering the action Saturday night.
East – No. 13 UNC Greensboro vs No. 4 Florida State
Florida State (16-6) has been consistently strong in recent seasons and the Seminoles went 11-4 in the ACC and 11-8 ATS this season. Coach Leonard Hamilton has his critics, but he has coached up a very efficient and versatile offense ranking top-10 in the country in KenPom’s efficiency ratings. They have balanced scoring across the board with guard M.J. Walker a 44% sharp shooter from long range. The Seminoles are long and athletic, and its defense is up to snuff again with a high-rate pressing style. That makes it tougher on Southern Conference champs UNC Greensboro (21-8), who also presses on defense and has a solid, unknown coach in Wes Miller that has led UNCG to five straight 20-win seasons. The Spartans did not play a top-tier team out of conference, but star senior guard Isaiah Miller is one to watch as a top scorer (19 PPG) and rebounder. He’s top-10 in the country in steals and takes more shots than any player in college basketball. Miller was the Southern Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.
This is a Saturday tipoff at 12:45 p.m. ET on truTV from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Bracket and odds
Click on any of the matchups for a full betting preview.
What happened last time?
The biggest opening round upset by seeding in the 2019 NCAA Tournament came in the 4 versus 13 match-up. In the South Region, Big West Conference champ and 13 seed UC Irvine (+3.5) took out Big 12 regular season co-champion Kansas State, 70-64. It was the Anteaters 17th straight win and 31st of the season. The other three No. 4 seeds won with two point spread covers. Kansas (-7) from the Big 12 rolled over CAA’s Northeastern, 87-53. Two teams from the ACC were winners with Virginia Tech (-10) beating Atlantic 10 entrant St. Louis, 66-52. Florida State (-8.5) held off American East champion Vermont, 76-69.
The No. 4 seeds went 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS.
Virginia Tech and Florida State beat two No. 12 seeds in the Round of 32. Kansas lost by double digits to No. 5 and future Final Four entrant Auburn. And Cal Irvine was also a double-digit loser to No. 12 Oregon.
Both Virginia Tech and Florida State lost to No. 1 seeds in the Sweet Sixteen. Duke escaped at the buzzer to beat Virginia Tech 75-73, and Florida State was no match for Gonzaga, 72-58.
Recall that the 2018 NCAA Tournament produced a pair of big upsets in the 4 vs. 13 match-up. Buffalo (+9) destroyed Arizona 89-68 and Marshall (+13.5) toppled Wichita State 81-75. The No. 13 seeded underdogs went 4-0 ATS.
History since 2000
No. 4 seeds are 63-17 versus No. 13 seeds since 2000. The average margin of victory in all those games is 11.55 points.
The biggest blowout came in 2013 when No. 4 seed Syracuse man-handled Montana 81-34 as a 13-point favorite.
The biggest margin upset by the underdog was in 1985 when David Robinson and No. 13 seed Navy crushed LSU 78-55. The other two blowout winners by 13th-seeded teams were Buffalo’s 2018 win over Arizona 89-68 and No. 13 Siena’s shocker over Vanderbilt 83-62 in 2008.
One of the most memorable moments in Nos. 4 versus 13 seeds in NCAA Tournament history was the buzzer-beater by No. 13 seed Valparaiso in 1998. Trailing 69-67 with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Valpo inbounded the ball from its own baseline past midcourt. That player tapped the ball to guard Bryce Drew, the coach’s son, who nailed a 23-foot 3-pointer for the miraculous win.
The success of 4 and 13 seeds in March Madness
Since 1985, there have been 29 upsets of No. 13 seeds over No. 4 seeds with a record of 29-111 (20.7%). Six times a 13th-seeded team has advanced to the Sweet 16; most recently was LaSalle (2013) and Ohio (2012), who both lost.
There has never been a No. 13 seed advance to the Elite Eight.
In 1997, the Arizona Wildcats won the National Championship as a No. 4 seed and beat three No. 1 seeds to take the title. Two other No. 4 seeds have advanced to the National Championship game but lost.
No. 4 seeds have advanced to the Elite Eight 21 times and won 13, but those 13 No. 4 seeds are 3-10 when reaching the Final Four.