Men's NCAA Tournament betting notes: Why the 5-12 favors the favorites

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

For the second straight season, Gonzaga enters the tournament as the favorite (+325), though not quite as heavy a favorite as it was at this point last season (+200). Three of the top four favorites are 1 seeds, with only second-seeded Kentucky cracking the top four among non-1 seeds.

Historically, 21 of the last 29 national champions had single-digit odds entering the tournament.

In seven of the last 16 tournaments, the betting favorite has gone onto win it all (most recent was 2018 Villanova).

Gonzaga is the odds-on favorite (-140) to win the West region. Arizona (+160), Kansas (+160), Kentucky (+275) are also favored to win their regions.

Who Actually Wins the Title?

No. 1 seeds have won four straight titles and 11 of the last 14 titles. The last team to have double-digit odds to win the NCAA Tournament was Villanova in 2016.

Overall, 21 of the last 29 national champions had single-digit odds entering the tournament. Since seeding began in 1979, only two champions had longer than 30-1 odds (1985 Villanova and 2014 UConn), and only one team had longer than 40-1 odds (2014 UConn).

While UMBC is the only 16 seed to beat a 1 seed, the biggest upset in the 64-team era (since 1985) is by Norfolk State (+21.5) over Missouri in 2012. This year, Norfolk State is currently a 21-point underdog against Baylor.

The biggest upset outside of the first round since 1985 belongs to Indiana in 2002 over Duke (+13).

The 5-12 Matchup and Notable 1st-Round Lines

The 5-12 matchup is one of the most famous matchups for picking NCAA Tournament upsets. However, this year, 13 seeds are more likely to win a game than a 12 seed based on the odds. A 13 seed to win at least one game is -300, compared to -280 for 12 seeds.

Richmond is currently a double-digit underdog to Iowa. Iowa is the largest favorite in a 5-12 matchup since 2016.

On the other hand, South Dakota State is only a two-point underdog against 4 seed Providence. That is the shortest line for a top-4 seed in its first-round matchup since the field expanded in 1985. The only other top-4 seeds to lay less than three points both lost outright.

Third-seeded Wisconsin is also a notable short favorite. The Badgers are 7.5-point favorites over Colgate, the second-shortest line in a 3-14 matchup in the last five seasons, only behind a game in 2019 when LSU was a seven-point favorite over Yale (won by 5).

As of Monday, there is one double-digit seed favored to win its first-round matchup - 11 Michigan (-2.5) over 6 Colorado State.

Both 10 San Francisco and 10 Loyola-Chicago opened as favorites, but each of those lines have since moved.

Michigan is the first team seeded 11th or lower to be favored in its Round of 64 game since 2017 when 11 Rhode Island was a two-point favorite over 6 Creighton. The last time a team seeded 11th or lower was at least a 2.5-point favorite was in 2014 (11 Tennessee was -5 vs 6 UMass). In the last 15 seasons, Michigan will be the eighth team seeded 11th or lower to be favored in the Round of 64. The previous seven are 6-1 outright and ATS.

1 vs 16 - 16 seeds are 1-143 all-time against 1 seeds. UMBC upset Virginia in 2018.

2 vs 15 - In the last nine tournaments, 15 seeds are 5-31 against 2 seeds. Last season, 15 Oral Roberts upset 2 Ohio State as a 15-point underdog.

3 vs 14 - Last year, 14 Abilene Christian upset 3 Texas in this round. That is the only upset in this round in the last four tournaments, but since 2013, 14 seeds are 6-26 in this round. - 13 seeds are 9-3 ATS against 4 seeds in the last 3 tournaments

4 vs 13 - Last season, two 13 seeds upset 4 seeds outright (Ohio over Virginia, North Texas over Purdue). In the last three tournaments, 13 seeds are 5-7 outright against 4 seeds.

5 vs 12 - At least one 12 seed has won outright in the 1st round in 31 of the 36 seasons since the tournament expanded in 1985 (exceptions: 2018, 2015, 2007, 2000, 1988). - 12 seeds are 6-2 ATS and 4-4 outright in this round in the last two tournaments.

6 vs 11 - At least one 11 seed has won a Round of 64 game in 16 straight tournaments (last time without win: 2004) - 11 seeds are 21-19 outright against 6 seeds in the last 10 NCAA Tournaments (24-16 ATS). - 11 seeds are 18-10 ATS against 6 seeds in the last 7 tournaments

7 vs 10 - At least one 10 seed has won a Round of 64 game in 13 straight tournaments (last time without win: 2007)

8 vs 9 - 9 seeds are 8-4 ATS in the last three tournaments against 8 seeds. - 9 seeds are 12-8 outright against 8 seeds in the last five tournaments.

Conference Notes

  • ACC teams are 12-32 ATS in the Round of 64 since 2015.

  • Big Ten teams are 41-25 ATS in the Round of 64 in the last 10 tournaments.

  • Pac-12 teams are 29-18-1 ATS in the Round of 64 since 2009.

  • The MAC has covered five straight Round of 64 games with three straight wins. MAC teams are 16-7 ATS in the Round of 64 since 1999.

  • ASUN teams are 6-1 ATS in the Round of 64 since 2014.

  • Big Sky teams are 3-11 ATS in the 1st round since 2007.

  • Horizon League teams are 2-7 ATS in the Round of 64 since 2012.

Coaching Notes (all for NCAA Tournament)

  • Andy Enfield (USC): 10-1 ATS

  • Bob McKillop (Davidson): 7-3-2 ATS

  • Chris Beard (Texas): 9-5 ATS

  • Matt Painter (Purdue): 17-11 ATS

  • Rick Barnes (Tennessee): 18-30-1 ATS

  • Mike Brey (Notre Dame): 10-16-1 ATS

  • Greg McDermott (Creighton): 5-9 ATS

  • Randy Bennett (Saint Mary's): 4-7 ATS

Best/Worst ATS Teams in Field

Fifteen teams in the field have covered at least 60% of their games this season, led by Saint Peter's at 69%.

Nine of the 20 teams seeded 1-5 have covered over at least 60% of the time this season.

On the other hand, the three worst ATS teams in the field are Alabama (11-21, 344), Purdue (13-20-1, .394) and Illinois (12-18-1, .400).

Notable BPI values


  • 30-1 to win title; 10.5% chance according to BPI

  • 6-1 to win South region; 26.4% chance according to BPI

  • +110 to reach Sweet 15; 64.3% chance according to BPI


  • 20-1 to win title; 7.5% chance according to BPI

  • -230 to reach Sweet 16; 79.8% chance according to BPI


  • 14-1 to win Midwest region; 10.7% chance according to BPI