NCAA bracket odds, trends: Picking winners based on historical stats

USA TODAY Sports

March Madness trends come in many shapes and sizes, including first-rounds trends, seed-vs-seed trends, bracket trends and head-to-head trends. What are the odds that all these trends point to the same teams winning this week?

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. And in the world of statistics, trends are sometimes the most useful stats and the most meaningless stats at the same time.

When it comes to March Madness trends, nobody has more of them than OddsShark.com. Whether its team-vs-team trends or tournament-only trends or 3-vs-14 historical trends or first-round betting trends, tournament time brings a fresh batch of trends that both amuse and confuse.

Treat them with a grain of salt as you make your bracket picks and place your March Madness wagers in 2013.

First-round trends (Round of 64)

Despite some huge point spreads, favorites covered more spreads than underdogs in last season's first round (19-13 ATS). But when the underdogs broke through, they didn't just cover spreads -- they won games outright in huge upsets.

Lehigh and Norfolk State pulled two of the biggest upsets in Madness history, each winning as 15 seeds. That trend of underdogs winning straight up has continued for three seasons.

Over three seasons, where underdogs cover the spread, they win outright at a clip of 11-3, 10-9, and 11-7 (32-19).

"It means, from a historical standpoint, that it might be a better idea to bet underdogs on the moneyline since the payout is better," said Mike Pickett of OddsShark.com.

In team-specific trends, Indiana is 6-1 ATS in seven first-round games, Cincinnati is 5-2 ATS in the first round since 2002 and Wisconsin is 5-1 ATS in its last six first-round games.

1-vs-16 trends

A 16-seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in March Madness, and there haven't really been any close calls in the past dozen years.

Just twice since 2001 has a No. 16 stayed with 10 points of a top seed. Last year, UNC-Asheville lost, 72-65, to Syracuse and East Tennessee State lost, 72-62, to Pitt in 2009.

Lately, the top seeds are 7-3 ATS. Big Ten schools are 5-1 ATS as a top seed since 2001.

2-vs-15 trends

In 10 March Madness brackets between 2002 and 2011, no 15-seed had upset a No. 2 seed.

But in 2012, it happened twice, throwing fear into bettors and throwing many brackets into disarray.

Norfolk State pulled off the biggest upset in modern March Madness history when it took out Missouri as a 21-point underdog. On the same day, Lehigh was defeating Duke, 75-70, as an 11-point underdog.

Duke is a No. 2 again, this time against Albany.

3-vs-14 trends

Upsets seldom happen for 14-seeds with just three teams pulling the upset over No. 3 seeds since 2001.

It happened most recently in 2010, when Ohio hammered Georgetown. Northwestern State upset Iowa and Bucknell upset Kansas in back-to-back seasons (2005, '06).

Overall, the No. 3 seeds have dominated the betting recently with a 17-7 ATS mark in 24 games covering six March Madness brackets.

4-vs-13 trends

If a No. 13 seed upsetting a No. 4 seed seems like a huge longshot, be aware that it has happened at least once in all but one of the last dozen March Madness seasons (2007).

A year ago, it was Ohio ousting Michigan, and a year earlier, it was Morehead State upsetting in-state rival Louisville.

Last year, Ohio made it to the Sweet 16, while Bradley did the same back in 2006. No 13-seed has made the Round of 8 -- is this the year for New Mexico State, South Dakota State, Montana or the winner of the Boise/LaSalle game to do it?

5-vs-12 trends

Every NCAA Tournament in the past 12 has seen at least one No. 5 seed fall at the hands of a 12 (they pitched a shutout in 2007).

Most years, a pair of 12 seeds upset their neighbors at No. 5 in the bracket. And last year was no different, as South Florida and VCU each pulled the upsets.

In the past 18 battles of 5 vs. 12, the underdogs are 12-6 ATS. However, only one 12-seed has ever made the Elite Eight (Mizzou in 2002).

6-vs-11 trends

The No. 11 seeds are 10-5-1 ATS over the past four tournaments (16 games). And the past two in years, they are 5-3 SU, meaning they not only cover the college basketball point spread, but they win outright.

Two schools in recent memory have made it all the way to the Final Four. VCU in 2011 and George Mason in 2006 lost in the national semifinals.

7-vs-10 trends

10-seeds have provided the best betting value of any bracket underdog in recent years.

They are 11-5 ATS in the past four tournaments against their unsuspecting bracket neighbors in the 7 slot.

8 vs 9 trends

If you thought the 8-vs-9 matchup would be historically the tightest in the bracket, you thought right. But in the past few years, No. 8 seeds are riding an 8-2 ATS streak against the No. 9s.

And beware the 8-seeds, because some of them go deep in the bracket. Butler made it all the way to the national final, one of three times that has happened, and the 1985 Villanova Wildcats upset Georgetown to win it all, the lowest seed to ever win the national college basketball title.

South Region trends

Kansas is hot at 10-1 ATS in the regular season, and VCU is the hottest tournament team at 10-1 ATS past 11 bracket games

Midwest Region trends

Saint Louis is the best betting team in America in 2013 on a 15-1 ATS run, while Creighton is just 2-7 ATS in its past nine tournament games

West Region trends

Gonzaga has won 14 straight, while Belmont is 1-10 SU in 11 recent games as an underdog, and Notre Dame historically struggles come tournament time.

East Region trends

Indiana is a lock in the opening round (6-1 ATS past seven Madness trips), while Temple has been a lock to lose ATS at tournament time (0-6-1 ATS); Davidson won 17 straight to end the season, while Pacific is 0-8 in its past eight games as an underdog

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