No 16 Seeds Are Due

2003Kentucky2149IUPUI155998.119.9 1991UNLV2187Montana159298.443.1 2012Syracuse2054UNC-Asheville161994.97.5 1987Indiana2007Fairfield147398.066.0 1992Kansas2106Howard141098.937.8 2009Pittsburgh2021East Tennessee St.153696.210.4 2008Memphis2023Texas Arlington144298.111.4 2010Duke2059Arkansas Pine Bluff142298.79.5 2002Duke2193Winthrop141199.522.5 CHANCE THAT NO. 1 SEED WINS … 1996Purdue2050Western Carolina153996.829.5 2013Indiana1986James Madison157494.56.2 2002Kansas2066Holy Cross156197.321.9 1997Kentucky2181Montana157897.727.9 1988Temple2058Lehigh152197.258.2 1988Purdue2015Fairleigh Dickinson150297.562.6 2007Florida2046Jackson St.136598.712.4 1994Purdue2036Central Florida137399.034.2 1988Arizona2003Cornell149497.756.9 1993Kentucky2066Rider142798.835.1 1988Oklahoma2043Chattanooga152995.759.9 1989Illinois2094McNeese St.150998.553.6 2001Duke2149Monmouth154498.623.7 1985Georgetown2135Lehigh125699.7%99.7% 2015Kentucky2158Hampton150399.05.4 2000Stanford2092South Carolina St.141798.424.1 More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed 1985St. John’s1948Southern163687.783.7 1999Auburn1988Winthrop143897.425.7 1991Ohio St.1997Towson153096.540.4 2011Kansas2117Boston U.157098.18.1 1992Ohio St.2038Miss. Valley St.147598.138.3 2015Duke2028Robert Morris155496.45.2 1985Michigan2024Fairleigh Dickinson146198.082.0 1989Arizona2117Robert Morris136099.556.6 2011Pittsburgh2008UNC-Asheville159494.58.3 1987North Carolina2133Pennsylvania149298.869.3 1994Missouri2003Navy141498.333.6 1986Duke2116Miss. Valley St.160797.577.7 1992Duke2209Campbell134599.738.2 2006Connecticut2109Albany153197.916.2 1992UCLA1959Robert Morris148597.036.6 2008North Carolina2141Mount St. Mary’s156398.311.6 2003Texas1919UNC-Asheville127298.419.6 1998Duke2135Radford146298.826.5 2013Gonzaga2032Southern143598.46.7 1995UCLA2059Florida Intl.131399.531.2 1991Arkansas2034Georgia St.144896.639.0 1999Duke2295Florida A&M124899.925.3 2000Michigan St.2125Valparaiso147098.824.7 2011Duke2117Hampton147598.78.2 1998North Carolina2155Navy146498.926.8 2014Arizona2012Weber St.155795.75.6 1990Michigan St.2052Murray St.160794.543.8 1997Minnesota2023Texas St.142398.327.4 2012Michigan St.2029Long Island U.157995.76.9 2006Duke2084Southern143199.116.5 2010Kentucky2029East Tennessee St.152696.59.8 2002Maryland2110Siena154298.321.5 2005North Carolina2095Oakland151098.417.0 1999Connecticut2140Texas San Antonio146898.625.3 1989Georgetown2055Princeton153196.751.9 2015Villanova2086Lafayette149998.05.4 1996Massachusetts2127Central Florida136599.629.4 2009Louisville2059Morehead St.153497.010.1 2014Wichita St.2041Cal Poly153997.45.9 1995Kentucky2115Mount St. Mary’s144399.031.4 2003Arizona2069Vermont148198.520.3 1986Kansas2059North Carolina A&T151797.179.6 2005Washington1964Montana150495.217.4 2001Illinois2030Northwestern St.147598.023.0 YEARNO. 1 SEEDELONO. 16 SEEDELOTHIS GAMECUM. GAMES 1997North Carolina2099Fairfield143399.128.8 2007Kansas2063Niagara161395.212.6 2002Cincinnati2055Boston U.149497.821.1 1994Arkansas2001North Carolina A&T136498.932.7 1990UNLV1989Ark.-Little Rock160794.048.0 2007North Carolina2097Eastern Kentucky149498.413.5 1995Kansas2049Colgate147997.732.0 2004Saint Joseph’s1941Liberty144896.518.9 2004Duke2037Alabama St.133999.318.8 1991North Carolina2108Northeastern155797.241.9 2010Syracuse1986Vermont161992.68.8 2004Stanford2041Texas San Antonio145098.418.5 2007Ohio St.2084Central Conn. St.155097.713.2 2011Ohio St.2115Texas San Antonio152398.78.0 2009Connecticut2024Chattanooga150397.411.1 2001Stanford2113UNC-Greensboro145999.123.4 1993Indiana2130Wright St.155797.935.5 1998Arizona2159Nicholls St.152198.827.1 It’s the sort of statistic that seems ripped from pages of the Washington Generals media guide. Since the men’s NCAA Tournament went to a 64-team format in 1985, No. 16 seeds are winless: an imperfect 0-124 record.No. 16 seeds can be pretty bad basketball teams, of course. Often, they’re teams from small conferences that won automatic bids by winning their conference tournament in a series of upsets after having barely cleared .500 during the regular season. (Small-conference teams that win both the regular season and their conference tournaments will usually wind up with No. 13, 14 or 15 seeds instead.) Furthermore, No. 16s have the misfortune of being matched up against No. 1 seeds, which are theoretically the four best teams in the country.But being bad is one thing; going 0 for 124 is another. My hunch is that No. 16 seeds have been unlucky not to have pulled off at least one upset.Consider that in the 1998 women’s NCAA Tournament, No. 16 seed Harvard (those plucky upstarts) beat No. 1 seed Stanford. And in the men’s tournament, several No. 16 seeds have come close to winning. Two of them, Princeton and East Tennessee State, lost by a single point in 1989 to Georgetown and Oklahoma, respectively. The next year, No. 16 seed Murray State took Michigan State to overtime before losing by four.Meanwhile, plenty of No. 15 seeds have won. Well, not plenty, but seven of them have upset No. 2 seeds. And No. 14 seeds have beaten No. 3 seeds 20 times. These results suggest that 16-versus-1 upsets ought to be possible, especially because there isn’t always a whole lot of daylight separating teams from one seed to the next. As its choices this year made clear, the selection committee is not infallible. Sometimes a team gets seeded as a 16 when it should probably have been a 14 or 15. Sometimes a No. 1 seed should have been a No. 2 seed. If a No. 15 seed can beat a No. 2 seed, then surely a 15-seed that’s mis-seeded as 16 can beat a 2-seed that’s mis-seeded as a No. 1.But we can be more precise about this. In building our NCAA Tournament forecasts this year, we developed an Elo ratings system for college basketball. Although our forecasts for this year blend Elo with several other computer ratings, we can run Elo-based projections for past tournament games going back as far as we like.Here, then, is how Elo would have forecast every past 1-versus-16 matchup on the day it was played. Once we figure out the No. 1 seed’s odds of winning each game, we can simply multiply the probabilities to figure out their cumulative odds of winning all 124. It’s a long table, so scroll down to the bottom for the punch line. 1993Michigan2095Coastal Carolina146398.534.6 2006Memphis1931Oral Roberts162987.114.1 1985Oklahoma1963North Carolina A&T154495.795.4 1994North Carolina2082Liberty145098.433.1 2000Arizona1982Jackson St.139699.024.5 1986St. John’s2006Montana St.154094.470.1 2008Kansas2102Portland St.169895.511.8 2013Kansas2024Western Kentucky149997.76.5 2008UCLA2074Miss. Valley St.135099.512.3 2009North Carolina2103Radford152098.010.8 2001Michigan St.2105Alabama St.145098.522.6 1987Georgetown2015Bucknell148197.364.2 1990Oklahoma2101Towson150498.651.1 2010Kansas2161Lehigh151499.09.7 1997Kansas2194Jackson St.145199.228.6 2004Kentucky2085Florida A&M142199.018.3 This data suggests that No. 16 seeds have in fact been pretty unlucky. On average, Elo would have given the No. 1 seed a 97.6 percent chance of winning each individual game; the range runs from 99.9 percent (Duke against Florida A&M in 1999) to 87.1 percent (Memphis against Oral Roberts in 2006). But given 124 chances to pull a rabbit out of their hats, No. 16 seeds “should” have come away with about three victories, according to Elo. Furthermore, the probability of them having gone winless is only about 5 percent. I wouldn’t call the No. 16s phenomenally unlucky — we’re talking about odds of about 20-to-1 against, not 20,000-to-1 against — but this confirms my intuition that they haven’t caught very many breaks.The good news for No. 16 seeds is that their situation has been improving very slightly. Since the tournament introduced its play-in game in 2001, the average No. 16 to play a No. 1 had an Elo rating of 1504; before that, their average rating was 1470. The play-in games are helpful to the cause of the No. 16 seeds in two ways. First, the truly execrable No. 16s, like Florida A&M in 1999 (which came into the tournament with a 12-18 record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), will be routed into the play-in game and will usually lose it instead of wasting one of the 16-seeds’ four opportunities. Second, the play-in winners will have a game of NCAA Tournament experience under their belts. That helps both in real life and for a team’s Elo rating, since Elo weights recent games (and especially recent tournament games) more heavily.So cheer up, Holy Cross, Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast University and Austin Peay State. Yes, you’re probably going to lose by 30 points. But sooner or later, one of you is going to make history.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 March Madness Predictions. 1996Connecticut2134Colgate146698.829.1 Every No. 1 vs. No. 16 men’s NCAA Tournament matchup, ever 1998Kansas2144Prairie View131799.626.4 1990Connecticut2015Boston U.153396.446.3 By Nate Silver 2012North Carolina2059Vermont162996.07.2 1986Kentucky2029Davidson152495.674.2 2013Louisville2124North Carolina A&T145199.06.8 1995Wake Forest2077North Carolina A&T136199.131.7 1989Oklahoma2028East Tennessee St.151796.254.4 2005Illinois2132Fairleigh Dickinson147599.017.2 2014Florida2086Albany155498.06.0 2012Kentucky2105Western Kentucky147698.57.9 2003Oklahoma1975South Carolina St.147397.820.6 2014Virginia2028Coastal Carolina145197.85.5 1999Michigan St.2112Mount St. Mary’s142898.925.0 2006Villanova2035Monmouth150597.413.7 1993North Carolina2147East Carolina148098.936.2 2015Wisconsin2129Coastal Carolina148498.95.1 1996Kentucky2127San Jose St.157797.830.5 1987UNLV2064Idaho St.150697.367.4 2005Duke2058Delaware St.146998.316.7 Our sports podcast Hot Takedown previews March Madness. 2000Duke2161Lamar137299.624.0 Embed Code

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