March Madness Bracket 2019: Betting Advice, Historical Trends and Predictions

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2019

The Virginia Cavaliers will not suffer a first-round upset in this year's tournament.
The Virginia Cavaliers will not suffer a first-round upset in this year's tournament.Steve Helber/Associated Press

We'll start off by saying whatever you do, don't take a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed. It has never happened and it never will.

Wait a minute. That was true going into last year's tournament, but the string was finally broken when 16th-seed UMBC defeated top-seeded Virginia in a shocking upset.

So it can happen, and it did happen. There have been 136 games between the No. 1 and 16 seeds, and the No. 1 seeds have a 135-1 record.

Here's the breakdown on how all seeds do against each other in the first round. 

No. 1 seed vs. No. 16 seed: 135-1 (99.26%)

No. 2 seed vs. No. 15 seed: 128-8 (94.12%)

No. 3 seed vs. No. 14 seed: 115-21 (84.56%)

No. 4 seed vs. No. 13 seed: 108-28 (79.41%)

No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 seed: 89-47 (65.44%)

No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 seed: 85-51 (62.5%)

No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed: 84-52 (61.76%)

No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed: 69-67 (50.74%)

Prior to UMBC's 74-54 victory over Virginia, there had been a number of close calls. Perhaps the most famous near-upset came in 1989 when a powerhouse Georgetown team was nearly taken down by Princeton. The Ivy Leaguers nearly toppled the Hoyas behind head coach Pete Carril and the Tigers' back-door plays, but Georgetown held on by a 50-49 margin.

The 15th-seeded teams shouldn't have a much better chance of beating the No. 2 seed than the No. 16 does of beating No. 1, but it has happened four times since 2012, per OddsShark. The last time it happened was 2016, when Middle Tennessee beat Michigan State as a 16.5-point underdog.

Mighty Duke found itself on the wrong end of a 2-15 upset when it lost a 75-70 decision to Lehigh in 2012. Missouri lost as a No. 2 seed to No. 15 Norfolk State on the same day the Blue Devils suffered their memorable upset.

When filling out the bracket, basketball enthusiasts love to look for the upset possibilities. The trend of the No. 12 team upsetting the No. 5 seed has happened with some regularity in years past, but that trend may be a thing of the past.

No. 5 seeds are 13-3 against the No. 12 seeds since 2015.

If you want a trend, go with the No. 1 seed. A No. 1 seed has reached the title game in 14 of the last 20 tournaments, and three of the last four champions have been No. 1 seeds.



We are not looking for any of this year's No. 1 seeds to suffer the same fate that the Cavaliers suffered last year. Especially the Cavaliers. Virginia faces Gardner-Webb in the first round, and while the Cavaliers are once again a solid defensive team, they can attack the basket with a well-rounded offense. 

Ty Jerome, De'Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy form the nucleus of one of the most efficient offenses in the country and this team hits better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. Virginia rolls to a big win in its tournament opener, and it will be one of the teams to beat in the tournament.

Michigan may be somewhat disappointed at losing to Michigan State for the third time this year in the Big Ten title game, but head coach John Beilein and his players have been given a wonderful gift by the selection committee. 

The Wolverines have been placed in the West Regional as the No. 2 seed. If the Wolverines can hold their own through the first three games of the tournament, they will meet the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the regional final. Gonzaga has had a wonderful year, but the Wolverines are steeled from playing a brutal Big Ten schedule.

Michigan made it all the way to the national championship game last year before losing to Villanova, and that's what will stick with the Wolverines. This team is skilled with Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews, and Michigan will make it back to the Final Four.

That will not be the case for Villanova, as we see the Wildcats going down in the first round. The Saint Mary's Gaels were good enough and motivated enough to take down Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference title game, and they are good enough and motivated enough to do the same thing to the defending national champions.

Villanova is coming off a victory in the Big East tournament, and it is loaded with toughness. However, Jay Wright's team simply is not talented enough this year. Leaders Phil Booth (18.7 points per game) and Eric Paschall (16.5) are both good players, but they are not good enough to lead this team on another run.

Saint Mary's proved itself with the conference tournament victory over Gonzaga and this team can go up and down the floor and score. Villanova will not be able to hold the Gaels down, and Saint Mary's gets the upset.

The NCAA tournament winner will be the Duke Blue Devils. There's no doubt that Zion Williamson is the most dominant player in the nation when he is healthy, and he demonstrated that he has recovered from a knee injury in the ACC tournament.

He also has plenty of talent to help him in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. As long as this team can stay healthy and doesn't beat itself, the Blue Devils will be the national champions.