2023 March Madness: NCAA Tournament First Round Matchups
We’ve finally made it to that magical month of March and the madness will tip this Thursday. The popularity of the NCAA Tournament is at an all-time high with office pools and bracket challenges taking over our time. When filling out the bracket, we all want to get off to a hot start and pick some upsets in the process. With that in mind, check out all the opening round matchup winning percentages below.
NCAA Tournament First Round Matchups
1 Seed vs. 16 Seed: 147-1 (99.3%)
This is without a doubt the easiest matchup to pick when filling out brackets. There has been just ONE 16 seed to defeat a 1 seed (UMBC over Virginia – 2018) since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
|South||1 Alabama vs. 16 Texas A&M CC/SE Missouri State winner|
|Midwest||1 Houston vs. 16 Northern Kentucky|
|East||1 Purdue vs. 16 Texas Southern/Fairleigh Dickinson winner|
|West||1 Kansas vs. 16 Howard|
8 Seed vs. 9 Seed: 72-76 (48.6%)
The 8 vs. 9 matchup is quite possibly the hardest NCAA Tournament first round matchup to pick. It often pits two good and very equal high-major programs against one another.
|South||8 Maryland vs. 9 West Virginia|
|Midwest||8 Iowa vs. 9 Auburn|
|East||8 Memphis vs. 9 Florida Atlantic|
|West||8 Arkansas vs. 9 Illinois|
5 Seed vs. 12 Seed: 95-53 (64.2%)
Oh, the infamous 5 vs. 12 matchup. This has become the most popular first round upset pick. At least one 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed in 32 of the 37 NCAA Tournaments since expanding in 1985.
|South||5 San Diego State vs. 12 College of Charleston|
|Midwest||5 Miami (FL) vs. 12 Drake|
|East||5 Duke vs. 12 Oral Roberts|
|West||5 Saint Mary’s vs. 12 VCU|
4 Seed vs. 13 Seed: 117-31 (79.1%)
Number 4 seeds used to make quick work of the 13 seed but we’ve seen a much more competitive matchup recently. Five 13 seeds have upset a 4 seed (31% of the matchups) over the last four NCAA Tournaments.
|South||4 Virginia vs. 13 Furman|
|Midwest||4 Indiana vs. 13 Kent State|
|East||4 Tennessee vs. 13 Louisiana|
|West||4 Connecticut vs. 13 Iona|
6 Seed vs. 11 Seed: 91-57 (61.5%)
The higher seed has unsurprisingly won the majority of games here. But similarly to the above first round matchup, the last few years have seen the tide turn. 11 seeds have beaten 6 seeds twice in six of the last seven tournaments. Whoa!
|South||6 Creighton vs. 11 NC State|
|Midwest||6 Iowa State vs. 11 Mississippi State/Pittsburgh winner|
|East||6 Kentucky vs. 11 Providence|
|West||6 TCU vs. 11 Arizona State/Nevada winner|
3 Seed vs. 14 Seed: 126-22 (85.1%)
This matchup isn’t as popular of an upset pick as others, but it does happen. At least one 14 seed has beaten a 3 seed in over half the NCAA Tournaments since the expansion. And the last time it happened was when Abilene Christian beat Texas in 2021.
|South||3 Baylor vs. 14 UC Santa Barbara|
|Midwest||3 Xavier vs. 14 Kennesaw State|
|East||3 Kansas State vs. 14 Montana State|
|West||3 Gonzaga vs. 14 Grand Canyon|
7 Seed vs. 10 Seed: 89-58 (60.5%)
*2021 Oregon vs. VCU was ruled a no-contest because of Covid protocols.
This is another really competitive matchup each year with either two high-major or a mid-major champ going against a middling high-major squad. The higher seed has traditionally held the advantage here but this year, all four matchups have point spreads within 3 points.
|South||7 Missouri vs. 10 Utah State|
|Midwest||7 Texas A&M vs. 10 Penn State|
|East||7 Michigan State vs. 10 USC|
|West||7 Northwestern vs. 10 Boise State|
2 Seed vs. 15 Seed: 138-10 (93.2%)
Overall, 2 seeds have owned this matchup winning a whopping 93% of the time. That said, a 15 seed has upset a 2 seed in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. Both of those schools (Oral Roberts ‘21 and Saint Peter’s ‘22) advanced past the opening weekend as well.
|South||2 Arizona vs. 15 Princeton|
|Midwest||2 Texas vs. 15 Colgate|
|East||2 Marquette vs. 15 Vermont|
|West||2 UCLA vs. UNC Ashville|
March Madness is here everyone! Good luck picking all your NCAA Tournament First Round matchups.