The Virginia Cavaliers look to avoid making first-round history for a second straight year when they return to March Madness this week as a top seed. With last year’s 74-54 loss to UMBC as massive 20.5-point favorites on the March Madness odds, the Cavs became the first No. 1 seed to be knocked off by a No. 16 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Top seeds have regularly emerged as legitimate threats to win the national championship, taking home the hardware 22 times since 1985. But No. 1 squads have produced mixed results on the March Madness betting lines in first-round action, going a middling 11-9 against the spread in 20 matchups since 2014.
No. 2 seeds have fared no better on the NCAA Tournament odds in recent years. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are the only No. 15 squad to outright defeat a No. 2 in the past five years, posting a 90-81 win over heavily favored Michigan State as 16.5-point underdogs in 2016. However, two-seeds have been a disappointment ATS, going 7-8-1 in opening-round action over the past four years, and have covered in just 44% of contests since 1996.
In addition, earning the No. 2 seed has not guaranteed a long run at the NCAA Tournament. No two-seeds have reached the Final Four in the past two years, and just three total have advanced to the final weekend since 2012. And when No. 2 seeds do reach the Final Four, they have struggled historically, going 13-15 SU all-time and 5-8 SU in the national title game.
No. 3 Seeds Weak on March Madness Lines
That trend continues further down the bracket, with No. 3 seeds going 16-4 SU over the past five years, but covering in just eight of those contests. No. 4 seeds were shutout on the NCAA Tournament odds in first-round action in 2018, failing to cover in all four first-round matchups, with the Buffalo Bulls and Marshall Thundering Herd pulling off the outright upsets to mark the first time that multiple No. 13 squads advanced to the second round since 2008.
Last year, No. 5 seeds marched to SU wins in all four opening-round matchups for just the second time since 2007. However, No. 12 teams have regularly dominated on the March Madness lines in the first two days of tournament action, going 15-12-1 ATS since 2012.
Despite that success, history is against No. 12 seeds going deep at March Madness, with the 2002 Missouri Tigers being the lone squad to ever advance past the Sweet Sixteen.
At least one No. 10 seed has advanced past the first round in every edition of the tournament since 2007, and No. 8 seeds have held an edge over No. 9 opponents over the past decade, going 22-12 SU since 2010, but are an even 68-68 SU since 1985.
Conversely, No. 11 seeds have emerged as a primary source of upsets, going 12-8 SU and 14-6 ATS against No. 6 opponents since 2014. No. 11 squads have also reached the Final Four more often than any other lower seed, accomplishing the feat on four occasions, with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers emerging as the Cinderella at the Big Dance a year ago.
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*Odds as of March 19, 2019