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Andy Wittry | | March 14, 2023

Why you should pick at least two No. 1 seeds for the Final Four in your NCAA tournament bracket

The deepest game-winning buzzer beaters in March Madness history

It's always tempting to go "chalk" with your March Madness men's bracket picks and to choose multiple No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four, but just how many top seeds should you pick to reach the Final Four this year?

All four No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four just once, so it would be wise to predict that at least one of this year's No. 1 seeds gets tripped up before then.

Of course, there is no perfect formula to calculate which teams or seeds will advance to the Final Four — just look back at the 2008 NCAA tournament (all four No. 1 seeds advanced) and the 2011 NCAA tournament (teams seeded No. 3, 4, 8 and 11 made it).

However, history tells us you should *probably* pick two No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four if you're looking for a cut-and-dried rule regarding top seeds.

Here's a breakdown of how many No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Number of No. 1 seeds to make Final Four Frequency Percentage
4 1 2.70%
3 4 10.81%
2 14 37.84%
1 16 43.24%
0 2 5.40%

If you pick two No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four and only one No. 1 seed makes it, you have a 50 percent chance of picking the right team. If multiple top seeds advance to the Final Four, your chances are even better of picking the right teams. On average, almost 1.7 No. 1 seeds make the Final Four each NCAA tournament. While the most common occurrence is only one No. 1 seed making the Final Four (16 of the 37 years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985), two or more No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four in 19 NCAA tournaments. For that reason, it's better to error on the side of picking perhaps one too many No. 1 seeds than one too few.

So, if choosing two No. 1 seeds is the best option based on historical averages, what should you do with your other two Final Four picks?

A No. 2 seed has made the Final Four 32 times in the 37 years of there has been a 64- or 68-team tournament, which is almost once per year on average. Pick a No. 2 seed.

With the fourth team, take a flier on a team seeded as a No. 3 or lower. As a reminder, at least one team seeded seventh or lower has made the Final Four in eight of the last nine NCAA tournaments.

Seed Number of Final Four Appearances Average Per Year
No. 1 60 1.62
No. 2 32 0.86
No. 3 17 0.46
No. 4 13 0.35
No. 5 7 0.19
No. 6 3 0.08
No. 7 3 0.08
No. 8 6 0.16
No. 9 1 0.03
No. 10 1 0.03
No. 11 5 0.14

Whether you decide to pick one No. 1 seed or two top seeds to make it to the Final Four, it's definitely worth picking at least three teams that are a top-three seed in their region. On 16 occasions, exactly three of the four teams that made the Final Four were a top-three seed. And in 11 other seasons, all four Final Four teams were a top-three seed, so more than 70 percent of the time, at least three teams in the Final Four have been a No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 seed.

How First Four teams do in the NCAA tournament

Here is how participants in the First Four have done since 2011 and why you should consider picking one in your NCAA bracket.

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In the 2019 NCAA tournament, an Ohio man picked the first 49 games correctly in his March Madness tournament. That is the longest streak we have ever seen.

A perfect NCAA bracket: The absurd odds of the March Madness dream

The odds of filling out a perfect NCAA bracket are about 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s 9.2 quintillion and 23 percent less than the chance of picking one of the 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on the planet we picked at random.

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