The biggest upset possible in March Madness is a 16 taking down a 1 seed. It was once thought to be impossible, until UMBC (University of Maryland – Baltimore County) stunned the world by upsetting the Virginia Cavaliers in 2018.
As millions of fans fill out their NCAA tournament brackets and prepare to start betting on the biggest tournament of the year, bookmakers are setting lines on NCAA Tournament games with biggest point spreads in the 1 vs. 16 match-ups.
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March Madness 2022: 1 vs. 16 seed
Selection Sunday revealed the No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups, and as usual, we’re looking at some massive odds as far the spread goes. However, they are a little closer this year than most. Here’s a look at which teams find themselves in these games for 2022:
- West: Gonzaga vs. Georgia State
- East: Baylor vs. Norfolk State
- South: Arizona vs. Bryant/Wright State winner
- Midwest: Kansas vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi/Texas Southern winner
Gonzaga Vs. Georgia State
On the backs of title game holdover Drew Timme and freshman phenom Chet Holmgren, the Bulldogs put together by far the best season according to KenPom’s efficiency numbers. The difference between Gonzaga and No. 2 was similar to the difference between No. 2 and No. 14. They lost just three times all year.
Nonetheless, they have to face the strongest of the potential No. 16 seeds in Sun Belt champs Georgia State. So, the line isn’t quite as steep as we sometimes see.
Baylor Vs. Norfolk State
Defending national champs Baylor stumbled in the conference tournament but remain among the strongest teams, ranking fifth in adjusted efficiency. They crushed tournament teams Michigan State and Villanova outside of the conference and tied for the Big 12 regular season title with Kansas.
While Norfolk State dominated the MEAC, they barely cracked above neutral adjusted efficiency. Still, they did well to earn the third program appearance in the Big Dance and now get a chance to make history.
Kansas Vs. TBD
We won’t know Kansas’ opponent until the First Four game between Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Texas Southern concludes. Read more about this matchup and find out the odds here.
Arizona Vs. TBD
Arizona finds itself in a similar spot as Kansas, awaiting the winner of Bryant vs. Wright State. Read more about this matchup and find out the odds here.
Bracket and odds
The 2022 bracket will be posted on Selection Sunday. Check back here for an updated bracket with game lines.
Who usually gets placed in the 1 vs. 16 game?
The NCAA committee selects NCAA Tournament teams based on a number of criteria, and the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) was added prior to the 2019 tournament. The NET relies on game results, strength of schedule, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, game location and the quality of wins and losses in determining NCAA Tournament teams and seedings.
The No. 16 seed teams don’t have the strength of schedule or quality wins over top teams, or what the committee considers Quadrant 1 wins. But those teams also don’t get the opportunity to schedule major conference teams during the regular season. The imbalance from athletic budgets, size, strength and skills of the players is wider overall compared to the major conference players and teams. Sixteen seeds are often winners of lower-tier conference tournaments.
The No. 1 seeds, meanwhile, are the dominant teams who won their conference and are most often from the Power-6 conferences. Gonzaga was an outlier last year as the Bulldogs have been an annual power out of the smaller West Coast Conference. They secured their fourth No. 1 seed in school history. Gonzaga was also set to be a No. 1 seed in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic caused the shutdown of that year’s tourney.
One seeds are typically ranked in the top 5 of the final Associated Press Poll. They possess the strongest stat profiles and have proven to be the best teams. The No. 16 seeds are from small conferences that won their conference tournament and secured the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Some of these weaker teams failed to win their regular season title, but got through their conference tournament to advance to the Big Dance.
1 vs. 16: What has happened recently?
There was little drama when it came to 1 vs. 16 seed games last year as all 1 seeds prevailed by comfortable margins. Here is a look at those scores:
- 1 Gonzaga 98, 16 Norfolk State 55
- 1 Michigan 82, 16 Texas Southern 66
- 1 Baylor 79, 16 Hartford 55
- 1 Illinois 78, 16 Drexel 49
In 2021, and No. 1 seeds went 4-0 SU, but 2-2 ATS. Gonzaga was a whopping 33-point favorite over Norfolk State but covered with ease. Illinois also covered a 22.5 spread but 1 seeds Michigan and Baylor both came up short.
Gonzaga also had the biggest blowout of 1 seeds in the 2019 tournament as the delivered a 87-49 beatdown of Northeast Conference winner Fairleigh Dickinson.
History since 2000
Number 1 seeds are 143-1 SU vs. No. 16 seeds since 1985. Since 2000, those big favorites and No. 1 seeds are 83-1 SU. The history of the 1 vs 16 matchup finally had a stunning finish and result in 2018 when UMBC became the first 16 seed ever to upset a No. 1 seed.
Very few fans knew what UMBC stood for or the team’s name or conference. But the University of Maryland, Baltimore County from the American East conference were the talk of the sports world after the Retrievers upset the ACC champs and top seed Virginia, 74-54. UMBC had been a 20.5 point underdog. The Retrievers finished the season 21-11 after losing in the next round to Kansas State, while Virginia finished 31-3.
The 1 vs 16 match-ups are often blowouts with large spreads. Eight times since 2000 has a No. 16 seed stayed within 10 points of a No. 1 seed. Most recently, Syracuse held off UNC Asheville 72-65 in 2012, and in 2013 Kansas avoided the upset in a 64-57 win over Western Kentucky. In 2014, Arizona won by nine points over Weber State, 68-59.
Going back further for the other closest games – Michigan State beat Murray State 75-71 in 1991, and in 1996 – Purdue edged Western Carolina, 73-71. That was the last time a No. 1 versus 16 seed game had been decided by one possession – according to NCAA.com.
Success of 1 vs. 16 seeds
While UMBC is the only 16 seed to pull the historic upset, two other teams suffered 1-point losses to a top seed. They both happened in 1989. In the classic David versus Goliath, Princeton slowed down the game and used its smarts and motion offense to take Georgetown to the wire before falling 50-49. Then top seed Oklahoma stormed back from a 17 point deficit to avoid history and outlast East Tennessee State (ETSU), 72-71.
One year after losing as a top seed in the opening round, Virginia returned as a No. 1 seed again and won the school’s first national championship in 2019. The Cavaliers were the third straight No. 1 seed to cut down the nets and win the NCAA Tournament. Villanova swept through the 2018 tournament to win each game by double digits and reward bettors by going 6-0 ATS. North Carolina cut down the nets in winning the 2017 tournament.
Since the field expanded in 1985, North Carolina (14), Duke (14), Kansas (14) and Kentucky (10) have been a No. 1 seed the most times. A No. 1 seed has won the NCAA Tournament 23 times since 1985, and those teams have reached the Final Four 58 times.
Only once have all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four, and that was in 2008 when Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA all advanced to the national semifinals. There have been eight National Championship games pitting a 1 seed versus a 1 seed since 1985, including last year’s Baylor versus Gonzaga showdown – won by the Bears.