Oddly enough, the 7 vs. 10 matchup can be just as unpredictable as the toss-up 8 vs. 9 games. For years, it has been back and forth between these two seeds, often made up of surging mid-major teams that climbed their way into the tournament and faltering Power-5 teams that barely snuck in. With that being said, the closing lines are often a poor reflection of the matchup itself. For example, in 2016, Syracuse became the only 10-seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Final Four. Prior to the Orange’s opening round game, they closed as the underdog to mid-major Dayton and ended up blowing them out by 19 points.
In terms of upsets and tournament runs, 10-seeds have fared much better than 9-seeds. Since 1985, 10-seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 on 20 occasions, and eight of those teams advanced to the Elite Eight, compared to just seven Sweet 16 and four Elite Eight appearances by 9-seeds.
As you look beyond the first round, don’t sleep on the possibility that a 7-seed makes a deep run in the tournament. In 2014, “Cardiac” Kemba Walker and the 7-seeded UCONN Huskies barely escaped their first-round matchup against 10-seeded Saint Joseph’s in an overtime thriller. Then, they went on to win the entire thing, becoming the only 7-seed to ever win a national title. The following year, Michigan State made a run to the Final Four as a 7-seed, and in 2017, South Carolina was the tournament darling, accomplishing the same thing before falling short in the semifinal game.
Hold Your Horses
Be careful picking all 10-seeds or all 7-seeds in this matchup, because since 1985, only four tournaments have seen a sweep in the first round. The 7-seeds swept the 10-seeds in 1985, 1993, and 2007. On the other hand, the 10-seeds completed the sweep just once in 1999.
Speaking to the unpredictability of this matchup, the 10-seeds went 9-7 straight up and 11-5 against the spread from 2009 to 2012. Then, the 7-seeds went 9-3 straight up the next three years. In 2016, the 10-seeds went 3-1 against the spread, and in 2017, the 7-seeds accomplished the same thing. Pay close attention to the specific matchups within this pairing, because recent history does not favor one over the other.