Because of recent history, picking No. 11s for upset wins in the first round might be a popular play for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Who can forget 11th-seeded Loyola Chicago’s run to the Final Four in 2018?
And it’s not just Sister Jean’s team that is getting in on the upset action. Over the past four years, No. 11 seeds are 9-7 against No. 6 seed after going 1-3 in 2019. In both 2015 and 2016, three No. 11 seeds won opening round games over No. 6 seeds. In 1989, all four No. 11 seeds won.
According to NCAA.com, there have been 52 No. 11 seeds that have defeated No. 6 seeds (37.1 percent) since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 in 1985.
March Madness 6 vs. 11 matchups this year
Here are the best prices for each 6 vs. 11 first round matchup in the 2021 Big Dance.
South – No. 11 Utah State vs No. 6 Texas Tech
Two teams and coaches that preach defense, and the numbers bear it out with KenPom defensive efficiency ratings of No. 8 in the country for Utah State and No. 24 for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (17-10) went 9-8 in Big 12 play but just 10-17 ATS. Former Georgetown standout guard Mac McClung (15.7) leads Texas Tech in scoring in his first season with the Red Raiders. Texas Tech lost their only Big 12 tournament game, just as they did in 2019 before making a magical Final Four run in the last NCAA Tournament before losing in overtime to Virginia in the National Championship game. The Aggies make their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and Utah State (20-8) went 15-4 in the Mountain West Conference and 15-11 ATS. The Aggies were 8-4 away from home, and outscored opponents by more than 10 points per game this season. A suffocating defense held opponents to 39.1% FG shooting, and Utah State is one of the elite rebounding margin teams in the country at +10.1 per game led by Neemias Queta. The 7-foot junior center is No. 2 in the country in blocked shots with 90 and scores 15.1 points per game.
Midwest – No. 11 Syracuse vs No. 6 San Diego State
Syracuse (16-9) was a bubble team, and the Orange finished 7th in a down year in the ACC with a 9-7 record. Syracuse is 12-13 ATS and was just 1-6 vs Quadrant 1 teams with all those games away from home. Legendary ‘Cuse coach Jim Boeheim’s son Buddy led the Orange in scoring at 16.0 PPG this season before pouring in 27 and 31 points in two ACC tournament games. San Diego State (23-4) won the Mountain West regular season and tournament title while going 14-3 in league play. SDSU is 14-12 ATS, and the Aztecs defensive efficiency rating is No. 11 in the country, according to KenPom. Senior forward Matt Mitchell averages 15.4 points per game to lead the Aztecs, who enter the NCAA Tournament with 14 straight wins.
West – No. 11 Drake vs No. 6 USC
The USC Trojans went 15-5 in Pac-12 play and 22-7 overall with a 16-13 ATS mark. Star freshman Evan Mobley led the league in rebounding with 8.6 per game, and hit 58.4% of his shots to lead the Trojans in scoring at 16.8 points per game. A 3-4 record vs. Quad 1 teams and 6-3 vs Quad 2 opponents gives them an edge over Drake (25-4), the Missouri Valley runner-up who leads the nation with 20 points spread covers. Drake has injury issues with junior all-conference guard Roman Penn out after suffering a season-ending foot injury on Feb. 21.
East – No. 11 UCLA vs No. 6 BYU
The Cougars (20-6) were runner-up in the West Coast Conference and covered 13 games this season while going 3-6 vs Quadrant 1 teams. BYU has a pair of senior guards including sharp shooter Alex Barcello, who has made 48.9% of his shots beyond the arc. Purdue 7-foot 3 grad transfer Matt Haarms has given the Cougars a potent punch inside. UCLA (17-9) lost four straight games before entering the Big Dance, but the Bruins are balanced in scoring with six players averaging between 10 and 14 points per game. UCLA’s defensive efficiency rating is among the worst of the power conference schools in the NCAA Tournament. BYU and UCLA are nearly equal in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings (top-30).
Bracket and odds
Who usually gets placed in the 6 vs. 11 game?
The 32 Division I conferences all receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is awarded to the winners of the postseason conference tournaments.
After that, the selection committee picks 36 teams for at-large bids. These are teams that are not automatic qualifiers but that the committee believes possess the skill and pedigree to be worthy of an invitation, according to NCAA.com.
No. 11 seeds are often winners of a lower-tier conference tournament or a bubble team from a higher-profile conference that ends up receiving a bid.
No. 6 seeds are typically at-large teams from major conferences or mid-majors who won their conference regular season and tournament titles.
What happened last time?
The coronavirus pandemic caused the shutdown of the 2020 NCAA tournament. In 2019, No. 6 seeds went 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS against No. 11 seeds. Buffalo beat Arizona State 91-74 and Villanova got a half-point cover over St. Mary’s in a 61-57 win. Maryland used a 14-0 run out of the halftime break to overtake Belmont and hold off the Bruins, 79-77 despite 35 points from Belmont senior Dylan Windler. No. 10 seed Ohio State upset Iowa State 62-59. All four winners lost in the Round of 32 with Maryland suffering a 2-point defeat while the other three were blown out by at least 15 points.
In 2018, No. 6 and No. 11 seeds split their games for an even 2-2 record, but the underdog 11 seeds went 3-1 ATS. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago defeated Miami 64-62 on Donte Ingram’s dramatic 3-point buzzer-beater that launched the Ramblers on their improbable run to the Final Four.
History since 2000
Since 2000, No. 6 seeds are 46-34 against No. 11 seeds in the round of 64. The average margin of victory in those 80 games since 2000 is 9.21 points.
In 2000, Pepperdine blew out Indiana 77-57 in Bobby Knight’s last game as the Hoosiers’ coach. It was the largest 11-over-6 margin ever.
Aside from Loyola-Chicago’s thrilling victory over Miami, perhaps the most memorable 6-vs.-11 game in recent years was the Northern Iowa-Texas matchup in 2017. Paul Jesperson’s half-court-heave at the buzzer lifted the Panthers over the Longhorns, 75-72.
In the past 10 years, No. 11 seeds are 21-19 against No. 6 seeds. In the last seven years, No. 11 seeds are 14-14 straight up and 17-11 against the spread in games against No. 6 seeds.
Xavier has been involved in the 6-vs.-11 game nine times — five times as the No. 6 and four times as the No. 11. Xavier won its first game as the No. 11 seed in 2017, and has a 3-2 record as a sixth-seed.
In total, No. 6 seeds hold an 88-52 record against No. 11 seeds since the NCAA Tournament field expanded in 1985.
Since 1985, the average margin of victory is about three points for the No. 6 seed, and about 60 percent of the 6-vs.-11 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer, according to NCAA.com.
The sixth-seeded teams also have swept the opening round just five times since the tournament moved to the 64-team format (1987, 1992, 1997, 1999 and 2004).
The success of 6 and 11 seeds
Three No. 6 seeds have made the Final Four since 1985: Providence in 1987, Kansas in 1988 and Michigan in 1992.
No. 6 seeds are 1-1 in the national championship game, with Danny Manning-led Kansas defeating Oklahoma in 1988, and the Fab Five of Michigan falling to Duke in 1992.
Four No. 11 seeds have reached the Final Four:
- 2018: Loyola-Chicago
- 2011: VCU
- 2006: George Mason
- 1986: LSU
None of them advanced to the national title game. Those teams mark the lowest seeds ever to reach the Final Four.
Seven No. 11 seeds have made it to the Elite Eight, and more than half of the No. 11 seeds who win in the first round have advanced to the Sweet 16.