College Basketball Handicapping - Sweet Sixteen Top Seeds

The past performance of Sweet 16 top seeds is proven, yet this year's #1 seeds are in a vulnerable spot.

Are the Sweet 16 Top Seeds Vulnerable?

The Sweet 16 pairings are set, and the action tips off Thursday, March 23. I thought I would take you inside the numbers with past results for #1 seeds. The past performance of Sweet 16 top seeds is proven, as #1 seeds are 87-22 SU since 1985. That includes 4-0 last year when Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon all won while also going 4-0 ATS. In 2015, #1 seeds went 3-0 in the Sweet 16 when Duke, Wisconsin and Kentucky all won and also covered, which hurt the sports books as many public bettors took the favorites. Of note is that these top seeds are 23-0 SU vs. teams seeded #6 or greater. In each of the last two years, the #1 seeds played either a #4 or #5 seed in the Sweet 16, and this year all three remaining #1 seeds will play a #4 seed.

This year three #1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16 with Villanova being the upset victim as a #1 in their loss to #8 Wisconsin.

Overall, 12 of the top 16 teams seeded by the committee made the Sweet 16. That's the second most in the past 20 years, per the NCAA.

Conference results in the NCAA Tournament has provided a few surprises including just one ACC team in the Sweet 16 after nine made the tournament. Conference affiliation in the Sweet 16 looks like this:

Big Ten – 3, Big 12 - 3, Big East – 2, West Coast - 1,Β Pac 12 – 3, SEC – 3, ACC - 1.

This year's three remaining #1 seeds and Sweet 16 pairings are listed below.
#1 Kansas (-5) vs. #4 Purdue – Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
#1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. #4 West Virginia – SAP Center, San Jose, CA
#1 North Carolina (-7.5) vs #4 Butler – FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

North Carolina (4-1), Kansas (5-1) and Gonzaga (6.5-1) are three of the top remaining favorites to win the National Championship with Arizona (6-1) and UCLA (9-1) completing the favorites less than 10-1 at BookMaker.

So with history as our guide, note that #1 seeds are 63-22 SU vs. teams seeded #4 or #5. Until 2015, #1 seeds were getting bounced out of this round going back to 2010, but in the last two years #1 seeds are 7-0 SU/ATS in the Sweet 16.
All three of this year's #1 seeds out-scored their opponents by an average of at least 10 points per game entering the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga (+22.8), North Carolina (+14.0) and Kansas (+11.4) all averaged 83-84 points per game as well, which ranks top-10 in the country. While the games and opponents get tougher as the tournament moves forward, note that only Kansas was able to extend and win by a double-digit margin in the round of 32.

March Madness Sweet 162016
#1 Kansas (-5.5) beat #5 Maryland 79-63
#1 North Carolina (-5) beat #5 Indiana 101-86
#1 Virginia (-6) beat #4 Iowa State 84-71
#1 Oregon (-3) beat #4 Duke 82-68

#1 Kentucky (-13.5) beat #5 West Virginia 78-39
#1 Duke (-4.5) beat #5 Utah 63-57
#1 Wisconsin (-6) beat #4 North Carolina 79-72

#1 Virginia (+2.5) lost to #4 Michigan State 61-59

#1 Indiana (-5) lost to #4 Syracuse 61-50
#1 Kansas (-1) lost to #4 Michigan 87-85 in OT
In 2012, another #1 seed lost to #4 seed
#1 Michigan State (-5.5) lost to #4 seed Louisville 57-44
In 2011, two more upsets of #1 top-seeded teams
#1 Ohio State (-5.5) lost to #4 Kentucky 62-60
#1 Duke (-9.5) lost to #5 Arizona 93-77

Additional Sweet 16 ATS info over the last six years shows favorites 22-24 ATS with 13 of the 23 underdogs winning outright (1 push, 1 pick 'em).

The last two years, Sweet 16 favorites were profitable including 6-2 ATS and 7-1 ATS last year. Each of the previous four years the favorites had losing years ATS.

There is another statistical profile that points to #1 seeds being more vulnerable to losing to a #4 or #5 seed in this round. It's a solid situation that uses scoring margin as another criteria in pointing to Sweet 16 winners. Teams with a scoring margin of less than 14 points per game are more likely to get knocked off by a #4 seed.

Check out all the sports books for the latest Sweet 16 lines, and odds to win the regionals and national championship.

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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