Filling Out Your Bracket: Seeds Making the Final Four

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst INovember 21, 2008

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 Seeds


The 2008 NCAA tournament provided the first Final Four consisting of all No. 1 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (and later 65 teams). 


Assuming teams are seeded accurately, the No. 1seeds are the most likely to advance from the Final Four in each region.  Clearly this is not good to go off of when filling out your bracket though, as the chance of all four No. 1 seeds advancing is very slim.


Since 2000, a No. 1 seed has been in the Final Four for every NCAA tournament except one year.  The exception was in 2006, when three No. 1 seeds all lost in the Elite Eight.


In five of the last nine NCAA tournaments, there have been at least two No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.  The only time there were actually more than two was this past season, when there were four. 


Out of the 36 teams that have qualified for the Final Four since 2000, 15 (42 percent) of them have been No. 1 seeds.




No. 2 Seeds


Should a No. 1 seed in a region fall, the next most likely candidate for the Final Four is the No. 2 seed.


There has been at least one No. 2 seed in six of the past nine Final Fours, and there have been two No. 2 seeds to advance to the semifinal round in two of the years.


Overall, eight (22 percent) of the 36 teams to make the Final Four since 2000 have been No. 2 seeds.




Overall Distribution


Here are the complete percentages for each respective seed qualifying for the Final Four since 2000.


No. 1 seeds: 42 percent

No. 2 seeds: 22 percent

No. 3 seeds: 14 percent

No. 4 seeds: 6 percent

No. 5 seeds: 8 percent

No. 6 seeds: 0 percent

No. 7 seeds: 0 percent

No. 8 seeds: 6 percent

No. 9 seeds: 0 percent

No. 10 seeds: 0 percent

No. 11 seeds: 3 percent

No. 12 seeds: 0 percent

No. 13 seeds: 0 percent

No. 14 seeds: 0 percent

No. 15 seeds: 0 percent

No. 16 seeds: 0 percent


In addition, no team seeded higher than 11 has ever qualified for the Final Four since the 1985 expansion.  Seed Nos. 7, 9, and 10 have also never reached the Final Four since 1985.




Total Seed Number in the Final Four


A good way to assess the distribution of seeds that appear in the Final Four is to look at the sum of the seed numbers that reach the Final Four.  The smallest possible seed number is four, which is the case only if all four No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four.


Over the last nine seasons, the total seed number has been as low as four last season and as high as 22 in 2000.  The average total seed number has been 10.7, and we can be 95 percent confident that the overall average total seed number for all seasons is between six and 15.




Suggestion Summary


* Take either one or two No. 1 seeds in your Final Four.
* Take one No. 2 seed in your Final Four.
* Make sure your total seed number isn’t too low or too high (aim for around 10).
* Don’t take any No. 7, 9, or 10 seeds in your Final Four.