While the social norm has been to pick the 12-seeds to beat the 5-seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the most common upsets in recent memory have come from the 6 vs. 11 matchups. In fact, within the last six years, 11-seeds are 13-11 straight up and 15-9 against the spread, proving that once the committee seeds your team at No. 6, you better be on high alert.
Recent 11-seed Dominance
Diving deeper into the results over the last three NCAA Tournaments, the 6 vs. 11 matchup has gone in favor of the underdog eight times in twelve games. Yes, you read that correctly, 11-seeds are 8-4 in the first round since 2016.
Three years ago, Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Gonzaga all advanced to the second round, with the Northern Iowa buzzer-beating win against Texas being one of the top highlights of the entire tournament. In 2017, USC, Rhode Island, and Xavier defied the odds and advanced past the first round as well. And in 2018, Loyola-Chicago and Syracuse advanced beyond the first 64.
So, it’s pretty clear that picking an 11-seed isn’t as big of a risk as one might think; however, is it worth taking a chance on an 11-seed to advance to the second weekend?
The answer is, if your 11-seed upsets a 6-seed, there is a better-than-50% chance that team will advance to the Sweet 16. Of the 50 teams that have pulled off the first round upset in this particular matchup, 26 of them have advanced to the second weekend, including both teams last year.
Final Four Success
Oh, and don’t write them off as a Final Four sleeper either. Seven 11-seeds have made it to the Elite Eight, with four of them advancing to the Final Four. The first was LSU in 1986, led by future first-round NBA pick John Williams. They remain the only 11-seed to defeat the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeded teams in their region to advance to the Final Four.
George Mason made the most memorable run to the Final Four in 2006, and Shaka Smart’s havoc defense led VCU there in 2011. As a result, GMU’s head coach Jim Larranaga received the Miami (FL) job, while Smart was hired by Texas a few years later. Last season, Loyola-Chicago added to the list, as Sister Jean inspired them every step of the way.