The NCAA Tournament has seen 22 upsets in the No. 3 vs. No. 14 opening round match-up since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. This includes last year’s stunner with Abilene Christian taking down Texas.
Fans filling out their brackets this year will likely look past the 14-seeds, and so do many bettors. The betting lines are double-digits favoring the 3-seeds a vast majority of the time, and fans often know little about the 14-seeded teams from smaller conferences that very rarely appear on the widely available TV networks.
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March Madness 3 vs. 14 matchups this year
All four of the 3 seed versus 14 seed game matchups were revealed during the Selection Show on Sunday, March 13. This year’s No. 3 vs. No. 14 matchups, higher seed listed first:
- West: Texas Tech vs. Montana State
- East: Purdue vs. Yale
- South: Tennessee vs. Longwood
- Midwest: Wisconsin vs. Colgate
Now, let’s see what the market says about each of these games.
Tennessee Vs. Longwood
Some expressed surprised Tennessee only earned a No. 3 seed after they conquered the SEC tournament and indeed they finished as the highest-rated team in KenPom’s ratings to earn such a seed. The Vols also earned a notable victory over Arizona.
Longwood won the Big South in the regular season and the conference tournament, easily trouncing second-place Winthrop in the finals. They have a tall task ahead as hefty underdogs here.
Texas Tech Vs. Montana State
Texas Tech got a bit of a fortunate draw in the Big 12 tournament when second-seeded Baylor got upset. The Red Raiders made good on it by beating Oklahoma but couldn’t topple Kansas in the final. They still finished top 10 in the KenPom efficiency ratings.
Montana State won both the regular season and conference tournaments in the Big Sky. They finished just 125th in the efficiency standings, though.
Purdue Vs. Yale
Purdue briefly ascended to No. 1 in the AP rankings after an 8-0 start. They promptly lost to Rutgers and wound up just third in the Big Ten. They failed to win the conference tournament as well and have just the No. 100 defense according to KenPom’s numbers.
However, the Boilers did draw the weakest of the No. 14 seeds as Yale upset the stronger Princeton Tigers in the Ivy League final. Thus, the longest line of the No. 3 vs. No. 14 seeds hit the odds boards.
Wisconsin Vs. Colgate
Wisconsin edged out Purdue late in the season to secure a share of the Big Ten regular season title but stumbled to the finish with a loss to Nebraska then a one-and-done showing in the conference tournament. They are by far the lowest-ranked No. 3 in the efficiency ratings and must get superstar player Johnny Davis healthy.
Colgate was a heavy favorite in the conference tournament after winning 15 straight to end the season. They also beat Syracuse in non-conference action. The market expects them to give Wisconsin a battle.
Bracket and odds
Check out updated odds for the 2022 NCAA tournament with our bracket below.
Who usually gets placed in the 3 vs. 14 game?
Smaller conference tournament champions are often 14 seeds, as these are the teams that secured the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Top teams and leading contenders from major power conferences are usually selected as 3 seeds, and sometimes the dominant, top teams from non-power conferences like Houston from the American Athletic in 2019.
3 vs. 14: A glance at the past few years
Abilene Christian pulled off the stunner last March with a 1 point victory over 3-seeded Texas. Eastern Washington made it relatively close against mighty Kansas, only losing by 9. Here is a look at last year’s 3 versus 14 scores:
- 3 Kansas 93, 14 Eastern Washington 84
- 14 Abilene Christian 53, 3 Texas 52
- 3 Arkansas 85, 14 Colgate 68
- 3 West Virginia 84, 14 Morehead State 67
Arkansas had the best run for a 3 seed last year, making it all the way to the Elite 8 before falling to eventual National Champion Baylor. Abilene Christian could not pull off a second straight miracle as it fell to 11-seed UCLA in the second round.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the shutdown of the 2020 NCAA tournament. In the 2019 tournament, No. 3 seeds went 4-0 with American Athletic Conference champion Houston (-12) rolling over Sun Belt champ Georgia State, 84-55. Big Ten co-regular season champion Purdue (-12.5) squeezed out a cover over Conference USA champion Old Dominion 61-48, while co-Big 12 regular season champion Texas Tech (-13) shut down Horizon League champion Northern Kentucky, 72-57. SEC regular season champion LSU (-6.5) had their hands full with Ivy League champ Yale, but the Volunteers held of for a 79-74 win to make it 3-1 ATS for No. 3 seeds in the opening round.
All four No. 3 seed winners won their next game to advance to the Sweet 16. Texas Tech and Purdue (in OT) advanced to the Elite Eight, where Texas Tech knocked off No. 1 Gonzaga, 75-69 to advance to the Final Four. Purdue played another overtime game, but came up short to Virginia, 80-75. Boilermakers senior guard Carsen Edwards exploded for 42 points that included 10 made 3-pointers in a performance of the ages in the craziest game of the NCAA Tournament.
Texas Tech won it’s national championship semi-final game 61-51 over Michigan State before falling to Virginia in overtime, 85-77 in the National Championship game.
3 seed vs. 14 seed: History and trends
No. 3 vs. No. 14 match-ups have seen the 3-seed go 75-9 since 2000. That includes a run of 23-0 from 2000-2004. There was recently a five year gap between 14 over 3 seed upsets, but Abilene Christian broke the drought last year with its victory over Texas.
Prior to 2000, there was at least one upset by a No. 14 seed over a No. 3 seed in 11 of the 15 years since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Since 1985, No. 3 seeds are 122-22. Only one of those games went to overtime, and it was Old Dominion’s triple OT win over Villanova in 1995.
The largest margins of victory by a 14-seed came with Ohio (+13.5) beating Georgetown 97-83 in 2005 and Stephen F. Austin (+6.5) mashing the West Virginia Mountaineers 70-56 in 2016. The Lumberjacks just missed advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with a 1-point loss to Notre Dame in the round of 32.
Success of 3 and 14 seeds in March Madness
While there have been 22 upsets by the 14-seeds in opening round NCAA Tournament action, just two of those teams won their next game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The last 14-seed opening round winner to advance to the Sweet Sixteen was in 1997. Still, the upsets are always big ones as most 14 seeds enter the games as double-digit underdogs.
In 2005, Kansas (-14) was upset by Bucknell 64-63. The following year in 2006, Northwestern State from the Southland Conference upset Iowa by the same score, 64-63. In 2010, Ohio upset Georgetown (-13.5) nearly hitting the century mark in a 97-83 win.
The upsets really starting coming since 2013 with at least one every year through 2016. Harvard’s 68-62 win over New Mexico in 2013 was followed by two 1-point upsets in 2014, Georgia State 57-56 over Baylor and UAB 60-59 over Iowa State. Then Stephen F. Austin shocked West Virginia 70-56 in 2016.
In the 1985 tournament, Kansas and Ohio set a low-scoring record in the Jayhawks 49-38 win.
No. 3 seeds have played in the National Championship game 11 times including Michigan in 2018 and Texas Tech in 2019. No. 3 seeds have won the National Title four times – UConn (2011), Florida (2006), Syracuse (2003) and Michigan (1989).
The greatest performances in the same tournament by No. 3 seeds came in 1989 when both Michigan and Seton Hall made the Final Four and advanced to the National Championship game. Michigan won a thriller over Big Ten champ and No. 1 seed Illinois 83-81 in the national semifinals, and Seton Hall outshot No. 2 seed Duke 95-78. That set up one of the most exciting championship games ever as Michigan won in overtime, 80-79, with Glen Rice scoring 34 points with 11 rebounds.