Bracket IQ

BACK TO Bracket IQ
basketball-men-d1 flag

Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | April 5, 2021

How First Four teams do in the NCAA tournament

Who is the most magical 11th seeded Cinderella?

Since 2011, the NCAA tournament welcomes 68 teams each year. But to get to 64, we first have to play the First Four. In those games, the last four automatic qualifiers and the last four at-large bids play.

Though these AQ teams, which are 16 seeds, have yet to win after the First Four, the at-large victors have had outsized success when it comes to their seeds once playing in the 64-team tournament. Don't sleep on these teams in your bracket. In the first year, 2010-11 VCU went from No. 11 and playing USC in Dayton in the First Four to playing in the Final Four in Houston. In 2020-21, UCLA also went First Four to Final Four after beating No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight.

So far, 2019 is the only tournament where at least one at-large First Four team failed to win a game in the 64-team bracket.

In total, First Four winners are 18-20 starting with appearances in the field of 64 — a 47.4 win percentage overall.

Also, at-large First Four winners are 9-11 in the first round/round of 64, which comes out to a 45 win percentage. For comparison, No. 9 seeds are 17-23 vs. the No. 8 seed since 2011 (the first instance of the First Four). That 17-23 record is...a 42.5 win percentage. In other words, at-large First Four winners, though seeded between No. 11 and No. 14, are winning in the first round at a greater rate than a seed at least two spots better (No. 9 seeds).

Here's a look:

How at-large First Four teams do in the NCAA tournament

We listed post-First Four games, meaning only the winners of the at-large First Four games are here. Wins are in bold:

Team Seed Scores
2010-11 VCU (23-11) 11 W, No. 6 Georgetown, 74-56
W, No. 3 Purdue, 94-76
W, No. 10 Florida State, 72-71 (OT)
W, No. 1 Kansas, 71-61

L, No. 8 Butler, 70-62
2010-11 Clemson (21-11) 12 L, No. 5 West Virginia, 84-76
2011-12 South Florida (20-13) 12 W, No. 5 Temple, 58-44
L, No. 13 Ohio, 62-56
2011-12 BYU (25-8) 14 L, No. 3 Marquette, 88-68
2012-13 Saint Mary's (27-6) 11 L, No. 6 Memphis, 54-52
2012-13 La Salle (21-9) 13 W, No. 4 Kansas State, 63-61
W, No. 12 Ole Miss, 76-74

L, No. 8 Wichita State, 72-58
2013-14 Tennessee (21-12) 11 W, No. 6 UMass, 86-67
W, No. 14 Mercer, 83-63

L, No. 2 Michigan, 73-71
2013-14 NC State (21-13) 12 L, No. 5 Saint Louis, 83-80 (OT)
2014-15 Ole Miss (20-12) 11 L, No. 6 Xavier, 76-57
2014-15 Dayton (25-8) 11 W, No. 6 Providence, 66-53
L, No. 3 Oklahoma, 72-66
2015-16 Wichita State (24-8) 11 W, No. 6 Arizona, 65-55
L, No. 3 Miami (FL), 65-57
2015-16 Michigan (22-12) 11 L, No. 6 Notre Dame, 70-63
2016-17 USC (24-9) 11 W, No. 6 SMU, 66-65
L, No. 3 Baylor, 82-78
2016-17 Kansas State (20-13) 11 L, No. 6 Cincinnati, 75-61
2017-18 St. Bonaventure (25-7) 11 L, No. 6 Florida, 77-62
2017-18 Syracuse (20-13) 11 W, No. 6 TCU, 57-52
W, No. 3 Michigan State, 55-53

L, No. 2 Duke, 69-65
2018-19 Belmont (26-5) 11 L, No. 6 Maryland, 79-77
2018-19 Arizona State (22-10) 11 L, No. 6 Buffalo, 91-74
2020-21 Drake (25-4) 11 L, No. 6 USC, 72-56
2020-21 UCLA (17-9) 11 W, No. 6 BYU, 73-62
W, No. 14 Abilene Christian, 67-47
W, No. 2 Alabama, 88-78 (OT)
W, No. 1 Michigan, 51-49

L, No. 1 Gonzaga, 93-90 (OT)

NCAA tournament records by seed since 2010-11 starting with the first round/round of 64

Seed Record Win percentage
No. 8 31-36 46.3
No. 9 23-36 39.0
At-large First Four teams
(combining below records)
18-20 47.4
No. 11 First Four
(15 teams)
15-15 50.0
No. 12 First Four
(3 teams)
1-3 25.0
No. 13 First Four
(1 team)
2-1* 66.7
No. 14 First Four
(1 team)
0-1* 0.0

*Record is from only one team

Despite these at-large First Four winners having an average seed of 11.5, they have a higher winning percentage than No. 8 and 9 seeds in the NCAA tournament since 2011. Not bad considering the seed-line difference of 2.5, on average. To be fair, victorious No. 8/9 seeds are often required to play No. 1 seeds in the second round — with one notable exception: No. 16 seed UMBC in 2018.

So next time you fill out your bracket, don't overlook the First Four teams. Two have even made the Final Four.

College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.
READ MORE

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.
READ MORE

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
READ MORE
Presented by
Presented by
Presented by

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners