Now, it’s time to get into the exciting territory of March Madness. The amount of upsets that have occurred in the 5-12 and 6-11 matchups over the years have created this notion that at least one is expected on a yearly basis. When it comes to the 4 vs. 13 matchup, there is much more excitement surrounding an upset for multiple reasons. First, 4-seeds have had a lot of success in NCAA Tournament history, so when they are knocked off in the first round, it is extremely surprising. Second, a 13-seed is essentially the best seed that an unknown mid-major conference winner can get, which means that the expectations are low for any team seeded 13 or lower. With that being said, when a team of that caliber can pull off an upset, it creates a storyline that every basketball fan can get behind.
Despite winning nearly 20 percent of their first-round matchups since the tournament expansion in 1985, 13-seeds are just 3-17 over the last five seasons. Prior to last season, the lone victory during that span belonged to the most colorful team in the nation, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Even though 4-seeded California had a handful of future NBA players on its roster, Hawaii handled them 77-66 in 2016. In 2018, 13-seeds stole the show, as Buffalo blew out a popular Final Four pick in Arizona by 21 points and Marshall took down Wichita State in the first round. Neither team went further than that, however. Also, a 13-seed owns one of the most iconic buzzer beaters in NCAA history, when Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew nailed a long three to upset Ole Miss in 1998. David Robinson’s Navy team owns the most lopsided 13-over-4 upset in history, with a 78-55 victory over LSU in 1985. Overall, six 13-seeds have made the Sweet 16.
The most impressive 4-seed in NCAA Tournament history is Lute Olsen’s 1997 Arizona Wildcats that won the National Championship, becoming the first team in the 64-team format to defeat three No. 1 seeds on their way to cutting down the nets. In 2017, 4-seeds found some success, as Florida made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to 7-seeded South Carolina. The other three 4-seeds (Purdue, Butler, West Virginia) also made it to the Sweet 16. Last year, only one 4-seed (Gonzaga) made it past the first weekend.
From a betting perspective, even when 13-seeds haven’t won the game, they have more-often-than-not put up a solid fight. Since 2008, 13-seeds are 23-21 against the spread and 6-2 straight up in games decided by one point. Keep in mind, a 13-seed has won at least one first round game in 13 of the past 18 seasons. And last year, two 13-seeds won straight-up and the other two only lost by four points each, covering the spread.