The NCAA Tournament has seen 21 upsets in the No. 3 vs. No. 14 opening round match-up since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. In 18 of the 35 tournaments since the field expanded, at least one 14-seed has beaten a 3-seed.
Fans filling out their brackets will 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. The 3-seeds have won 85% of the contests since 1985, and those teams are highly-ranked and regarded heading into the tournament and mostly teams from a power-6 conference.
March Madness 3 vs. 14 matchups this year
West – No. 14 Eastern Washington vs. No. 3 Kansas
According to the official NCAA Seeding List, Kansas () was the last team chosen as a three seed (12th overall). The Jayhawks played in one of – if not, the– toughest conferences in college hoops this past season, picking up a 20-8 record (12-6 conference). Their Big 12 Tournament run was cut short by a rash of COVID-19 cases, but they will play in the opening round. Eastern Washington was the winner of the Big Sky Conference Tournament and secured its first March Madness berth since 2015 and second in team history.
While this is clearly a David vs. Goliath matchup, it’s not impossible for EWU to pull of an upset. It’s unlikely, as Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation, but March has brought on crazier finishes. Should Kansas lose this game, it could be time for most people to toss their brackets.
This game will take place Saturday, March 20 at 1:15 p.m. ET and will be televised on TBS.
South – No. 14 Colgate vs. No. 3 Arkansas
Arkansas () was awarded the highest three seed (ninth overall) despite falling short in the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks were one of this season’s biggest surprises, picking up a 22-6 record and scoring the seventh-most points per game in the nation. They face Colgate (14-1), who took home the Patriot League championship. The Raiders are the nation’s second-leading scoring team (86.3 points per game) while also ranking in the top half in scoring defense.
Colgate made the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and was in position to in 2020 before it was cancelled. They’re a good basketball team that should not be overlooked. This should shape up to be a high-scoring affair with Arkansas favored, but the Raiders could be in a position late to give Arkansas a run for their money. Keep an eye on this game.
The game tips off Friday, March 19 at 12:45 p.m ET and will be televised on truTV.
East – No. 14 Abilene Christian vs. No. 3 Texas
Texas () was the team that came out on top of a loaded Big 12 this season, squeaking by red-hot Oklahoma State in the finals. The Longhorns picked up six ranked wins this season, including a season sweep of Kansas, and are in a great position to make a run at the Final Four. However, they do have to get past Abilene Christian, which took home the Southland Conference championship in convincing fashion. In 13 seasons, ACU has made the NCAA Tournament twice and was in position to make it three in a row before last year’s tournament was cancelled.
The Wildcats sit in the top 10 in the nation in several defensive categories and could give Texas’ offense some troubles early. However, the Longhorns are more talented and possess the size to guard leading ACU scorer Kolton Kohl. Without Kohl getting his way inside, the Wildcats could struggle.
Catch Texas vs. Abilene Christian on Saturday, March 20 at 9:50 p.m. ET on truTV.
Midwest – No. 14 Morehead State vs. No. 3 West Virginia
The Big 12 dominated the 3 seeding as West Virginia () is the final of three Big 12 teams to secure the spot this year. The Mountaineers were the second-ranked 3 seed (10th overall) and earned a first-round matchup with Ohio Valley Conference champion Morehead State. The Eagles fielded a terrific defense but struggled offensively. West Virginia, on the other hand, has a potent offense and has killed teams at the charity stripe all season long.
A combination of free throw shooting, solid defense, and rebounding should propel WVU to the next round at least. While Morehead State has a chance to pull off the upset, it’s a slim one and would be a true shocker.
This game tips off Friday, March 19 at 9:50 p.m. ET and will be televised on truTV.
Bracket and odds
Click on any of the game matchups below for a full betting preview.
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: What happened last time?
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 vs. 14: History and trends since 2000
No. 3 vs. No. 14 match-ups have seen the 3-seed go 72-8 SU since 2000. That includes a run of 23-0 SU from 2000-2004. Most recently the 3-seeds are on a 12-0 SU run heading into the 2021 tournament. Since 2011, the betting results have been close with 3 seeds holding the edge, 19-17 ATS.
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 119-21 SU and winning 85.0% of the games. Only one of those games went to overtime, and it was Old Dominion’s triple OT win over Villanova in 1995.
Two of the upsets since 2000 were by the largest margin of victory by a 14-seed 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 the in the round of 32.
Success of 3 and 14 seeds in March Madness
While there have been 21 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 nearly always big ones and most as double-digit underdog.
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 won 85% of their opening round games and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen 52.9% since 1985. Those 3 seeds have gone to the Elite Eight 36 times (25.7%) and to the Final Four 17 times (12.1%). No. 3 seeds have played in the National Championship game 11 times (7.9%) including Michigan in 2018 and Texas Tech in 2019. No. 3 seeds have won the National Title four times (2.9%) – Connecticut (2011), Florida (2006), Syracuse (2003) and Michigan (1989).
Texas Tech and Purdue had two of the great performances by No. 3 seeds in 2019. Yet, the greatest performances in the same year 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 between 3-seeds Michigan and Seton Hall, and Michigan won in overtime 80-79 with Glen Rice scoring 34 points with 11 rebounds.