March Madness: No. 6 seeds beware! History not on your side

Once the NCAA men’s March Madness tournament begins, there will be a lot of talk about 11 seeds taking down 6 seeds…and for good reason. At least one 11th seed has taken out a 6th seed every year since 2005 and it’s becoming less of an upset all the time.

Since 2014, a 6-11 matchup has taken place 20 times. The No. 11 seed has won 12 of those games (60 percent) with two or more in each of the last five years. The 11 seed has won eight of 12 games played over the last three years.

Why do No. 11 seeds succeed?

The answer isn’t as difficult as you may think. The NCAA loves its power conferences, but acknowledges teams that have posted a strong resume. Often times, a team that is on the bracket’s 6-line is there because it struggled down the stretch after being on the 3- or 4-line in February, but is gasping its way into the tournament. They had enough wins to qualify and earn a strong seed, just not enough to retain a spot on the 4- or 5-line.

Conversely, an 11-seed is a team that either dominated at the mid-major or small-conference level – Loyola-Chicago (2018), Northern Iowa (2016) and Dayton (2014-15) – and the 11-line was as high as the selection committee felt comfortable putting them. Or it was a battle-tested team that was mid-pack in a power conference – Syracuse (2018), USC (2017), UCLA (2015), Tennessee (2014) and Minnesota (2013). They’ve faced quality competition for three months and, while their record doesn’t show it, steel sharpens steel. It doesn’t just stop in the first for 11th seeds. Over the last three years, four of the eight 11 seeds that won in the first round took out the No. 3 seed in the second round.

What does that mean for Maryland, Villanova, Iowa State and Buffalo? You better bring your “A” game, boys, because 6 seeds are becoming an endangered species.

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