Filling Out Your Bracket: Other Second Round Games

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst IMarch 6, 2009

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.


In another article I have considered second round match-ups featuring No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. In this article I consider all other second round NCAA Tournament games. If all goes well for the top seeds in the first round, this would be the No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs No. 5 matchups.


However, upsets in this part of the bracket are very prevalent.



No. 3 Seeds


Since 2000, 34 out of 36 (94 percent) No. 3 seeds have advanced to the second round.  21 out of those 34 (62 percent), or 58 percent of the original 36, have also advanced into the Sweet 16. Out of the 34 second round games, 22 have come against No. 6 seeds. 


No. 3 seeds have won only 12/22 (55 percent) of these games, suggesting that No. 3 and No. 6 seeds are fairly even.  The other 12 second round games have come against No. 11 seeds, where No. 3 seeds won nine (75 percent) times. 


Overall in second round games, No. 3 seeds have an average margin of victory of 3.59 points per game in their favor. Against No. 6 seeds, this average margin is a mere 0.41 points per game in their favor, and is in their advantage by 9.42 points per game against No. 11 seeds.



No. 4 Seeds


No. 4 seeds have advanced to the second round 28 times out of a possible 36 (78 percent) since 2000. They then have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen 14 of those 28 (50 percent) times. 


This equates to 39 percent of the original 36 No. 4 seeds since 2000. Of their 28 second round games, 18 have come against No. 5 seeds. No. 4 seeds have won only seven (39 percent) of these games. 


The percentage is most likely so far below half because of a relatively low sample size, but nonetheless the No. 4 seeds appear to have no distinct advantage against No. 5 seeds. The other 10 second round games were against No. 12 seeds, where No. 4 seeds won seven (70 percent) of those games.


Overall, No. 4 seeds have had an average margin of victory of just 0.64 points per game in their favor in second round games. Against No. 5 seeds they lose by 0.28 points per game on average, and against No. 12 seeds they win by 2.3 points per game. 



No. 5 Seeds


No. 5 seeds have made the second round of the NCAA Tournament 23 times out of a possible 36 (64 percent) since 2000. They were able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen 15 of those 23 times (65 percent), meaning 42 percent of the original No. 5 seeds were able to reach the Sweet 16. 


Notice that this is higher than the 39 percent of No. 4 seeds that were able to make it that far. Of the 23 second round games, 18 came against No. 4 seeds, where the No. 5 seeds won 11 (61 percent) games.


The other five games were all against No. 13 seeds, where No. 5 seeds won four (80 percent) games.


No. 5 Seeds have an average margin of victory in their second round games of 1.87 points per game in their favor. On average against No. 4 seeds they win by 0.28 points per game on average, and against No. 13 seeds they win by 7.6 points per game.



No. 6 Seeds


Since 2000, No. 6 seeds have reached the second round 24 of a possible 36 (67 percent) times. Of those 24 tries, No. 6 seeds were able to advance further to the Sweet Sixteen 12 (58 percent) times. 


This means that 33 percent of all No. 6 seeds since 2000 have reached the Sweet 16. Of the 24 second round games featuring No. 6 seeds, 22 of them came against No. 3 seeds. 


No. 6 seeds won 10 (45 percent) of those games, and also won both of their games against No. 14 seeds in the second round.


No. 6 seeds have an average margin of victory of winning by 0.54 points per game in second round games.  In games against No. 3 seeds, they have lost by 0.41 points per game, and they have won by 11 points per game against No. 14 seeds.





In other articles I have considered conference records by low seed and high seed.  However, since the match-ups seem to be much more even in this group, I will consider cumulative conference records.


Here is the breakdown of how each conference has fared in these second round games (wins, losses, winning percentage):


Pac-10:            10-3 (77 percent)

SEC:                10-5 (67 percent)

Big East:           15-10 (60 percent)

Big Ten:            9-8 (53 percent)

Big 12:             8-9 (47 percent)

ACC:               7-12 (37 percent)

Mid-Majors:     12-16 (43 percent)

Small Conf.:      1-9 (10 percent)


Here the Mid-Major conferences include the Atlantic Ten, Missouri Valley, WCC, CAA, Conference USA, Horizon League, MAC, and Mountain West.  Small conferences include the Sun Belt, America East, Big Sky, Big West, MAAC, Patriot, Southland, and Big South.


Note that the lone victory in these games for a small conference team was last year when Western Kentucky defeated San Diego.  Western Kentucky was actually the favored team in this instance as a No. 12 seed playing a No. 13 seed.




  • No. 4 and No. 5 seeds have essentially equal chances at reaching the Sweet 16.
  • No. 3 and No. 6 seeds are fairly evenly matched, but No. 3 seeds have a much higher chance of winning their first round game, giving them a better chance of reaching the Sweet 16.
  • The Pac-10 conference has fared exceptionally well in these second round games, while the ACC has done surprisingly poorly.
  • Small Conference teams have done extremely poorly in these matchups.




Use Conference Tendencies for the Final Four

Seeds Making the Final Four

Cinderellas to the Elite Eight and Beyond

“Easy” First Round Picks

Make-Or-Break First Round Picks

Tough First Round Picks

No. 1 and No. 2 Seeds in the Second Round

The Sweet Sixteen

The Elite Eight

The Final Four