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Joe Boozell | | February 5, 2021

History of 9 seeds vs. 8 seeds in March Madness

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The 8-9 matchup is the toughest first round game to pick when you're filling out your NCAA tournament bracket. That's because 8 and 9 seeds have the closest head-to-head record against one another since the March Madness field expanded in 1985. After the 2019 tournament, 9 seeds hold a 72-68 edge.

Here's everything else you need to know about 8 seeds vs. 9 seeds.

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History of 9 vs. 8 seeds in March Madness

Here's how these seeds have fared against one another in the past decade. They may be even historically, but 8s have had the upper hand in the last 11 years.

8s vs. 9s since 2009
Year Result
2019 4-0, 9s
2018 3-1, 9s
2017 3-1, 8s
2016 3-1, 9s
2015 4-0, 8s
2014 3-1, 8s
2013 2-2, tie
2012 3-1, 8s
2011 3-1, 8s
2010 2-2, tie
2009 2-2, tie

Some more tidbits:

  • More than 60 percent of the 8-9 games have been decided by single digits. 
  • Kentucky is tied with BYU for the most appearances as an 8 seed and has a 3-1 record compared to the Cougars' 0-4 record.
  • 9 seeds went 4-0 against 8 seeds in the 2019 NCAA tournament and 3-1 in 2018.
  • But in 2017, 8 seeds went 3-1 against 9s. Northwestern earned its first NCAA tournament win in school history as an 8 that year.
  • It is rare for all four 8 seeds to sweep 9 seeds and it has occurred only three times since 1985, including 2015’s tournament field of North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Oregon and San Diego State.
  • Villanova won the national championship in 1985 as an 8 seed, and it is still the lowest-seeded school to win it all. But the Wildcats barely beat 9 seed Dayton in the first round that year, prevailing by a score of 51-49.

How much more likely is a 9 beating an 8 than a 10 beating a 7?

In total, 10 seeds hold a 55-85 record against 7 seeds since the NCAA tournament field expanded. That equates to a 39.3 win percentage. So, 9 seeds are 12 percentage points more likely to beat an 8 than a 10 is to beat a 7.

How much more likely is a 9 beating an 8 than an 11 beating a 6?

There's actually not much difference between 10-7 and 11-6 matchups. No. 11s have won 37.1 percent of their matchups against 6s since 1985, so 9s are 14.3 percentage points more likely to prevail in the Round of 64 than 11s.

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Recent/noteworthy 8-9 games

Here are all four of the 9 seeds' wins over 8s in 2019. First, UCF over VCU:

UCF charges past VCU, 73-58

Oklahoma over Ole Miss:

Oklahoma advances past Ole Miss, 95-72

Baylor over Syracuse:

Baylor advances past Syracuse in first round battle

And Washington over Utah State:

Washington marches into the second round

Kentucky reached the national championship game in 2014 as an 8 seed. To get there, it had to beat Kansas State 56-49 in the 8-9 game:

And Butler reached the title game in 2011, but it barely escaped No. 9 Old Dominion in its first matchup. The Bulldogs advanced with these late heroics from Matt Howard:

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