The NCAA Tournament excitement builds as the college basketball season progresses. The anticipation of March Madness is unlike any other postseason in sports.
After the unveiling of the brackets, millions of fans begin filling them out in NCAA Tournament pools. Sports bettors start examining the matchups and placing bets soon after the sportsbooks release 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 nonpower conferences, and most of them earned an automatic bid by winning their conference tournaments.
What happened last year?
The 2018 NCAA tournament produced a pair of upsets in the Nos. 4 versus 13 matchups.
Buffalo (+9) destroyed Arizona 89-68, and Marshall (+13.5) toppled Wichita State 81-75. The other two underdogs went down swinging as Auburn (-9.5) held off Charleston 62-58, and Gonzaga (-12.5) was also a 4-point winner over UNC Greensboro 68-64.
The No. 13 seed underdogs went 2-2 SU and 4-0 ATS.
In the previous four NCAA Tournaments, fourth-seeded had gone 15-1 SU. That one loss was by short-handed California, who was defeated by No. 13 seed Hawaii for the Warriors first-ever NCAA Tournament win. From 2008-2013, a 13th-seeded team won at least one first-round game against a fourth-seed.
History since 2000
No. 4 seeds are 60-16 versus No. 13 seeds since 2000. The average margin of victory in all those games is 11.34 points.
The biggest blowout was 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 28 upsets of No. 13 seeds over No. 4 seeds with a record of 28-108 (20.6 percent). 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.