NCAA tournament No. 6 seeds: by the numbers

Posted by Andrew Carter on March 17, 2014 

No. 6 seeds haven’t found a ton of reason to celebrate in the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.

ROBERT WILLETT -- RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— North Carolina is a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, and that doesn’t really bode well for their national championship hopes. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 – and, later, 68 teams with the addition of four play-in games – just one sixth seed has won it all: Kansas in 1988.

What does that mean for UNC’s chances? Nothing, of course.

Still, I thought it might be interesting to go back and see how No. 6 seeds have fared since 1985. Since then, there have been 116 teams seeded sixth (and seeded most other seeds, as well, of course). Of those 116 …

--77 advanced to the round of 32 (66.4 percent).

--39 advanced to a regional semifinal (33.6 percent).

--12 advanced to a regional final (10.3 percent).

--3 advanced to a national semifinal (2.6 percent).

--2 advanced to the national final (1.7 percent).

And one, Kansas in 1988, won the national championship. The other No. 6 seeds to reach the Final Four since 1985: Michigan, in 1992. And Providence in 1987.

There’s some good and bad to the most of the middle seeds, and being a No. 6 comes with its share of both. The good: You get to avoid the top two seeds in the region until the regional semifinals, at the earliest, and you wouldn’t face a No. 1 seed until a regional final. Also good: In the round of 32, there’s little difference between a No. 6 going against a No. 3, and being a No. 5 going against a No. 4.

According to this very handy Washington Post database, No. 6 seeds are 27-36 against No. 3 seeds. That’s a winning percentage of 43 percent. Meanwhile, No. 5 seeds are 28-34 against No. 4 seeds, and the winners of those games usually have to play against a No. 1.

There are some drawbacks, too, of being a sixth seed. One of them: No. 11 seeds are plenty formidable, and have beaten No. 6 seeds 33 percent of the time. In UNC’s case, Providence just won the Big East tournament, and it beat Creighton twice this season (those are the Friars only two wins against teams ranked among the top 50 in the RPI).

Another drawback: No. 3 seeds are always some of the most dangerous in tournament. Seven No. 3 seeds have reached the Final Four since 2001.

Here’s a look at how No. 6 seeds have fared against other seeds in their region:

First round:

--vs. No. 11: 77-39

Round of 32:

--vs. No. 3: 27-36

--vs. No. 14: 12-2

Regional semifinals:

--vs. No. 2: 7-22

--vs. No. 7: 3-3

--vs. No. 10: 4-2

Regional finals:

--vs. No. 1: 3-7

--vs. No. 4: 2-2

--vs. No. 5: 0-1

--vs. No. 8: 0-1

Again, none of this particularly means much for UNC. In fact, it doesn’t mean anything, really. But these are the numbers – the history of No. 6 seeds in the tournament. A comforting fact, perhaps: No. 6 seeds that win their first tournament games have a winning record (39-38) in their second round games.

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