This article is part of a series of articles that uses historical trends in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament to provide advice for predicting future results. Recent trends will be the most heavily considered, namely from 2000 to the present. Other articles can be viewed from the links in the archives section at the bottom of the page.
No. 1 and No. 2 seeds nearly always advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, they have done so a combined 71 out of 72 times since the 2000 season. While No. 1 seeds and No. 2 seeds are always very strong teams, sometimes there can be a large difference in ability between the two. Thus in this article they will be considered separately. However, the two seeds have very similar opponents in the second round. No. 1 seeds face either a No. 8 or No. 9 seed, while No. 2 seeds draw either a No. 7 or No. 10 seed. I will work off of the assumption that the teams earning the seed in this range have virtually interchangeable ability, thus I will also analyze these two matchups as combined together.
No. 1 Seeds
No. 1 seeds have lost their second round game five times out of 36 (14 perfect) since 2000. Four of the five teams to have defeated No. 1 seeds in the second round were No. 8 seeds and only one was a No. 9 seed (UAB over Kentucky in 2004). The average margin of victory in these second round games is for the No. 1 seed to win by 10.47 points per game.
Three of the five No. 1 seeds to have been upset in the second round were from the Pac-10 Conference. Three of the five teams to get the upset victory had won their first round game by more than 10 points. This is significant when compared to the average margin of victory in 8/9 match-ups of 1.11 points per game (in favor of No. 8 seeds). Three of the five upset teams also went on to win at least one more game in the tournament. Wisconsin and North Carolina both reached the Final Four as No. 8 seeds in 2000, and Alabama reached the Elite Eight as a No. 8 seed in 2004.
No. 2 Seeds
No. 2 seeds have lost second round games 16 out of 35 (46 perfect) times since 2000. This rate for upsets is astonishingly high and much more prevalent than for No. 1 seeds in the second round. Nearly two of the four No. 2 seeds lose in the second round every tournament. The average margin of victory in these second round games is for the No. 2 seed to win by 2.57 points per game.
Eight of the 15 teams to upset a No. 2 seed in the second round this decade have been No. 7 seeds and seven have been No. 10 seeds. Six of the 15 teams went on to win their next game to advance to the Elite Eight, but none were able to make the Final Four. No. 7 or No. 10 seeds that were successful in upsetting No. 2 seeds also tended to have won their first round games by significant margins, averaging a 9.31 point per game victory margin.
No. 1 and No. 2 Seeds Combined
The following shows how each power conference has fared as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed since 2000:
Big 12: 12-0 (100 percent)
Pac-10: 8-3 (73 percent)
ACC: 10-4 (71 percent)
Big Ten: 5-2 (71 percent)
Big East: 6-5 (55 percent)
SEC: 5-5 (50 percent)
Other: 4-2 (66 percent)
Even though the Big 12 Conference has had the second most games this decade as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the second round, they have not lost in 12 opportunities. The Pac-10, ACC, and Big Ten all have had very good success as No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the second round as well, while the Big East and SEC have each been upset fairly often in these games. Non-power conference have faired reasonably well as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds as well.
Now to show how the conferences have fared in upsetting No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the second round since 2000:
Big East: 4-4 (50 percent)
Big Ten: 3-7 (30 percent)
ACC: 2-5 (29 percent)
SEC: 2-7 (22 percent)
Pac-10: 1-4 (20 percent)
Big 12: 0-5 (0 percent)
Other: 9-18 (33 percent)
The only conference (the Big 12) not to have been upset in these games is also the only conference not to have scored any upsets in these games. The power conferences appear to be fairly even in upsetting No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the second round, with the exception of the Big 12 and the Big East, which has found the most success in this upset role. Non-power conferences have been mores successful than most of the power conferences in getting upset wins.
No. 2 seeds get upset a lot in the second and much more often than No. 1 seeds
Teams that are able to beat No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the second round often had big wins in the first round
The Big 12 Conference has never had a team upset in the second round as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and has also never had a team beat a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the second round as a higher seed
Non-power conference teams appear just as likely to advance as lower seeds and more likely to get upsets as higher seeds in these second round games
The Big East has had the most success upsetting No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the second round, while the SEC and Big East have been upset the most frequently in the second round as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds