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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | March 14, 2022

The key NCAA bracket tips you should know about when making your women's and men's picks

The absurd odds of a perfect March Madness bracket

It's important to go in with a strategy to get a leg up on the competition when filling out a March Madness bracket. But your strategy should vary quite a bit depending on whether you're filling out an NCAA men's or women's bracket.

You don't need to be a college basketball analyst to know that it's better to pick better-seeded teams, but there are some significant differences in how teams of a certain seed perform in one bracket versus the other. We've crunched the numbers and we're here to help out you β€” and your bracket. The data below is current through the 2020-21 season. Games played, and teams that lost, in the First Four were not included in this analysis.

First, here are some of the highlights:

  • It's never a bad idea to pick a No. 1 seed to win the NCAA tournament, but No. 1 seeds in the women's basketball tournament have won roughly 78 percent of the national championships post-64-team expansion (21 of 27), compared to roughly 64 percent of the NCAA tournaments on the men's side (23 of 36).
  • In fact, no team seeded worse than a No. 3 seed has won the women's tournament since it expanded to 64 teams, while one men's team apiece seeded as a No. 4, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 seed has won the NCAA tournament.
  • While Harvard in 1998 became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in either the men's or women's basketball tournament, in just the fifth year of the 64-team women's bracket β€” a historic day that you can relive moment by moment here β€” there has never been a first-round upset by a No. 14 or No. 15 seed in the women's basketball tournament. For perspective, in the last nine men's basketball tournaments, dating back to 2012, No. 15 seeds have upset No. 2 seeds five times, including three in a two-year span in 2012 and 2013. That's roughly a one-in-six chance for No. 15 seeds in that span on the men's side, while the women's tournament is still waiting for its first.
  • Another relatively stark contrast between the two tournaments is in teams seeded No. 12 and No. 13. While No. 12 seeds in the men's tournament have won roughly 35 percent of their first-round games against No. 5 seeds, and 22 have advanced to the Sweet 16 (roughly two every three years, on average), No. 12 seeds in the women's tournament average just 0.25 wins, compared to 0.52 wins on the men's side. Similarly, No. 13 seeds in the men's bracket have won 31 games against No. 4 seeds, for an average of almost one per tournament, but No. 13 seeds average just 0.09 wins apiece per appearance in the women's bracket.

Below you can find the complete breakdown of how men's and women's NCAA tournament seeds fare in March.

NCAA men's basketball tournament results by seed

Here's how teams of each seed have performed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, starting in the first round, since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Seed R64 R32 S16 E8 FF NC Avg. Wins
No. 1 143-1 123-20 100-23 59-41 36-23 23-13 3.361
No. 2 135-9 91-44 65-26 30-35 13-17 5-8 2.354
No. 3 122-22 75-47 37-38 17-20 11-6 4-7 1.847
No. 4 113-31 67-46 21-46 13-8 3-10 1-2 1.514
No. 5 93-51 49-44 9-40 7-2 3-4 0-3 1.118
No. 6 90-54 43-47 15-28 3-12 2-1 1-1 1.069
No. 7 86-57* 28-59 10-18 3-7 1-2 1-0 0.757
No. 8 71-73 14-57 8-6 5-3 3-2 1-2 0.708
No. 9 73-71 7-66 4-3 1-3 0-1 β€” 0.590
No. 10 57-86* 23-34 8-15 1-7 0-1 β€” 0.618
No. 11 54-90 24-30 9-15 5-4 0-5 β€” 0.639
No. 12 51-93 22-29 2-20 0-2 β€” β€” 0.521
No. 13 31-113 6-25 0-6 β€” β€” β€” 0.257
No. 14 22-122 2-20 0-2 β€” β€” β€” 0.167
No. 15 9-135 2-7 0-2 β€” β€” β€” 0.076
No. 16 1-143 0-1 β€” β€” β€” β€” 0.007

*The Oregon-VCU matchup in the 2021 NCAA Tournament was declared a no contest.

NCAA women's basketball tournament results by seed

Here's how teams of each seed have performed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, starting in the first round, since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1994. The tournament expanded again to 68 teams in 2022.

Seed R64 R32 S16 E8 FF NC Avg. Wins
No. 1 107-1 104-3 86-18 62-24 34-27 21-13 3.843
No. 2 108-0 90-18 58-32 21-37 8-13 4-4 2.676
No. 3 108-0 68-40 33-35 11-22 7-4 2-5 2.120
No. 4 101-7 66-35 18-48 7-10 3-4 0-3 1.796
No. 5 85-23 35-50 4-31 2-2 1-1 0-1 1.176
No. 6 75-33 27-47 9-18 2-7 0-2 0-0 1.046
No. 7 71-37 15-56 6-9 2-4 0-2 0-0 0.870
No. 8 53-55 1-52 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0.500
No. 9 55-53 3-52 1-2 1-0 0-1 0-0 0.556
No. 10 37-71 3-34 1-2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0.380
No. 11 33-75 13-20 1-12 0-1 0-0 0-0 0.435
No. 12 23-85 4-19 0-4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0.250
No. 13 7-101 3-4 0-3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0.093
No. 14 0-108 β€” β€” β€” β€” β€” 0.000
No. 15 0-108 β€” β€” β€” β€” β€” 0.000
No. 16 1-107 0-1 β€” β€” β€” β€” 0.009

Comparing average number of wins and best finish by seed

Here's a side-by-side breakdown of how teams on each seed line perform in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Β  Men's Tournament Women's Tournament
Avg. Wins for
No. 1 seeds
3.361 3.843
Best Finish Won national
championship (23 times)
Won national
championship (21 times)
Avg. Wins for
No. 2 seeds
2.354 2.676
Best Finish Won national
championship (five times)
Won national
championship (four times)
Avg. Wins for
No. 3 seeds
1.847 2.120
Best Finish Won national
championship (four times)
Won national
championship (twice)
Avg. Wins for
No. 4 seeds
1.514 1.796
Best Finish Won national
championship (once)
National runner-up
(once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 5 seeds
1.118 1.176
Best Finish National runner-up
(three times)
National runner-up
(once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 6 seeds
1.069 1.046
Best Finish Won national
championship (once)
Final Four (once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 7 seeds
0.757 0.870
Best Finish Won national
championship (once)
Final Four (twice)
Avg. Wins for
No. 8 seeds
0.708 0.500
Best Finish Won national
championship (once)
Sweet 16 (once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 9 seeds
0.590 0.556
Best Finish Final Four (once) Final Four (once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 10 seeds
0.618 0.380
Best Finish Final Four (once) Elite Eight (once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 11 seeds
0.639 0.435
Best Finish Final Four (five times) Elite Eight (once)
Avg. Wins for
No. 12 seeds
0.521 0.250
Best Finish Elite Eight (twice) Sweet 16 (twice)
Avg. Wins for
No. 13 seeds
0.257 0.093
Best Finish Sweet 16 (six times) Sweet 16 (three times)
Avg. Wins for
No. 14 seeds
0.167 0.000
Best Finish Sweet 16 (twice) Round of 64 (108 times)
Avg. Wins for
No. 15 seeds
0.076 0.000
Best Finish Sweet 16 (twice) Round of 64 (108 times)
Avg. Wins for
No. 16 seeds
0.007 0.009
Best Finish Round of 32 (once) Round of 32 (once)

Now, take what you've learned and fill out your bracket in the official March Madness Bracket Challenge Game carefully!

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