1-Seeds Have an Easier Path to the Elite 8 than 2-Seeds

As we head down the final stretch of the season, several teams are still in contention for receiving a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.  One could reasonably argue that the difference in quality between 1-seeds and 2-seeds (the best 8 teams) isn’t very big.  In fact, 1-seeds have faced a 2-seed in their regional final (Elite 8 game) 45 times, and the series is split 23-22 with a slight advantage to the 1-seeds.  So does it really matter whether a team gets a 1-seed?  Yes it does!

While it’s historically been a toss up in matchups between 1- and 2-seeds in their regional finals, suggesting parity between the two, 1-seeds get to that game a lot more often.  As you can see in this simple chart, 1-seeds advance to each round of the tournament at significantly higher rates than 2-seeds.

Comparing the percentage of 1-seeds vs 2-seeds that have advanced to each round of the NCAA Tournament.

Even though 1-seeds only beat 2-seeds 51% of the time, they reach the regional final game more often, because they have an easier path to get there.