# A historical analysis of the 2024 NCAA Tournament field

### No, I'm not sure why they seeded it like this, either

No fancy intro here, either. It’s 9:12 PM and I gotta be out the door no later than 6:30 AM for an 11-mile run. Who scheduled the NCAA Tournament in the middle of my marathon training? Rude.

Before I forget, this is **the last non-paywalled post of the entire NCAA Tournament**. Sign up for $18/year.

I did a form of this last year, but not really on Selection Sunday itself. This year it’s more fun and/or pertinent to make sure we get the goods in here. I have a spreadsheet, a huge one, with data from 2002-present. Most everything of interest statistically about a team can be found in it, though I always think of more crap to add. Anyway, these are the important bits. First, let’s go overall. I’ll do more region stuff tomorrow.

**Everything noted below is over the last 22 NCAA Tournaments, from 2002 to present.**

# 1 seeds

At an average AdjEM of +29.43, this is the 6th-strongest batch of 1 seeds in history.

Out of 88 1 seeds from 2002 to now, Houston has the 19th-highest Final Four odds at 42.4%. The 18 teams ahead of them averaged 3.6 wins, with 10 of them making the Final Four.

At 38.3%, UConn has the fourth-lowest odds of any KenPom #1 team since 2002 to make the Final Four.

At 20.9%, North Carolina’s Final Four odds rank 77th of 88 1 seeds since 2002. Of the 14 1 seeds to be under 25%, just two made the Final Four (2003 Texas, 2018 Kansas).

Another way of determining how it’ll all work out: Sweet Sixteen draw difficulty. At just +5.56 AdjEM better than their average Round of 32 opponent, North Carolina has the third-hardest path to the Sweet Sixteen in the last 22 years for any 1 seed. A beneficiary, however, is UConn: at +16.15, theirs is the 13th-lightest.

Perhaps a sign of the times: the best Elite Eight odds of any 1 seed are Purdue at 57.5%. That’s just the 29th-highest since 2002 and the lowest high for any 1 seed since 2014.

# 2 seeds

Another strong batch: at +25.52, the 7th-strongest in Tournament history.

If you like your 2 seeds to have unusually good Final Four odds, Arizona (28.5%) and Tennessee (22.7%) are both among the top-30 in 2 seed history.

If you

*don’t*like that, perhaps avoid Marquette, who sits 14th-lowest in history at 13.1% to make the Final Four. No one below 14% has ever made it (0-for-14).

# 3 seeds

**For the second year in a row and the third in four, the 3 seeds rate worse than the 4 seeds.**They’re still solid, though: +22.38 AdjEM, or 10th-best since 2002.

Nothing super novel here, but at +20.03, Kentucky is the lowest-rated 3 seed of the season. They would’ve been the second-

*highest*last year.

# 4 seeds

A tremendous group this year with an average of +23.76 AdjEM, the fourth-best EVER and the highest since 2016-17. That season: no 13-over-4. All four made the Sweet Sixteen. Before that: 2013-14, which saw the same.

2023-24 Auburn has the fourth-highest Final Four odds of any 4 seed ever, only topped by 2013-14 Louisville (Sweet Sixteen), 2022-23 Tennessee (Sweet Sixteen), and 2004-05 Louisville (Final Four).

The lone massive negative outlier? Kansas, who sits at just 36.8% to make the Sweet Sixteen. 4 seeds below 38%: 6-for-24 in making it.

# 5 seeds

Finally, a just-fine group. At +20.49 AdjEM, this is the 11th-best batch of 5 seeds, so pretty average.

# 6 seeds

AN ACTUALLY INTRIGUING GROUP! At +17.88 AdjEM, this is the seventh-

**worst**group of 6 seeds on record.**This is the worst group of 6 seeds, on average, since 2013…when one of four made the Sweet Sixteen.**The closest comparisons are actually 2014 and 2016, which saw 6 seeds go 3-5 in the Round of 64.At 49th overall, South Carolina is the third-lowest ranked 6 seed in KenPom-era Tournament history. The other eight sub-40 6 seeds went 3-5 in the Round of 64, and only one (2007 Vanderbilt) saw the second weekend.

# 7 seeds

For what would’ve been the first time since 2015, the 7 seeds nearly toppled the 6 seeds, with an average AdjEM of +17.64. It’s the 8th-best batch ever.

# 8 seeds

At a +16.87 AdjEM, this is the 11th-best batch of 22. Fine, nothing special. I’m more interested in the

# 9 seeds

Who have a +17.34 AdjEM, the

**fifth-highest on record.**This is the largest gap the 9 seeds have had on the 8s since 2016, and along with 2023, the highest-rated group since 2014.

# 10 seeds

+15.85 AdjEM. Good group, nothing that special. We’ll dive in more when I’ve slept.

# 11 seeds

Unfortunately, here’s where the slop starts. At +13.61 AdjEM, this is the lowest-rated group of 11 seeds since 2018 and the eighth-lowest overall.

# 12 seeds

It gets worse. At +11.38 AdjEM, this is the fourth-worst group of 12 seeds on record and the second-worst to grace the Tournament since 2016. They’re saved by the 5 seeds being about average on their own, so we should get around one upset, but it’s a rough group.

# 13 seeds

Of the available options, this is the least rough relative to history at an average +8.56 AdjEM. The problem: the 4 seeds are so strong that this is the second-largest gap

*ever*between 4 and 13 seeds, only topped by 2017, a year in which exactly one 4/13 game finished with a single-digit scoring margin.

# 14 seeds

Truly, truly unfortunate. Conference championship week

this group. At an average of +3.83 AdjEM, this is the**shredded****second-worst batch of 14 seeds since 2002.**It’s only ‘topped’ by 2022, a group that went 0-4 with a combined scoring margin of -96. Don’t expect much.

# 15 seeds

At +0.93 AdjEM, this is the worst batch of 15 seeds since 2010. Again: awful conference championship week. Awful.

# 16 seeds

Well, if

*those*made you feel rosy, strap in. At -5.53 AdjEM on average, this is the**worst batch of 16 seeds since 2016**. The closest 1/16 game that year was an 83-67 win by UNC over FGCU in a game that UNC led by 25 with 7 minutes to play.

# What does it all mean?

Now, let’s get into gap territory. And boy, it’s a bummer if you like upsets.

**The gap between 1 and 16 seeds is +34.96 AdjEM on average**, the third-highest since 2002 and the highest in any Tournament since 2019.**The gap between 2 and 15 seeds is +24.59 AdjEM on average,**the fourth-highest since 2002 and the highest since 2021. (Which did have a 15-over-2!)**The gap between 3 and 14 seeds is +18.54 AdjEM on average,**the third-highest since 2002 and only surpassed by 2022 (no upsets) and 2017 (also no upsets).Lastly,

**the gap between 4 and 13 seeds is +15.2 AdjEM on average, the second-highest of all-time**and only surpassed by 2017 (no upsets).

What this means is as follows: of your 16 protected seeds, you have an unusually high shot of seeing a *lot *of them make the Round of 32. In fact, if you were to average the efficiency margins of the 2024 13-16 seeds, they would be the **worst in our 22-year database **by over half a point. The only years in the same stratosphere were 2002, 2004, 2015, and 2017…which saw the 1-4 seeds go a combined 61-3 in the Round of 64. For those of us who adore the chaos this Tournament so often gives us, this doesn’t look like a good year for it.

The good news is that latter rounds may save us. At a +12.32 AdjEM advantage on 8/9 seeds, this year’s 1 vs. 8/9 gap is about average, as is the 2 vs. 7/10 gap of +8.77. Plus, we’ll have old reliables like 5 vs. 12 (+9.11 on average, around one upset expected) and 6 vs. 11 (+4.27 on average with the worst group of 6 seeds since 2013). So, hey: you’re probably not going to get anything as insane as this previous conference tournament week. Such is the price you pay for upsets *before *the upsets you actually want.

One intriguing thing of note: for the Round of 64 *specifically*, the correlation equation I ran pulls up 2008 as a decent comparison. While not the crazy Tournament(s) we’ve come to know and love, that still had some fun to it: five upsets from the 11-13 seed lines, just none from 14-16. It also saw three 10+ seeds make the Sweet Sixteen.

Alternately, for Round of 32 stuff, one that pops out big time is 2014. That saw six of the 16 1-4 seeds fail to see the second weekend. I also like 2010 and 2011 a lot here too, two Tournaments with bizarre endings that didn’t see the chaos begin to hit until the Round of 32. My point is this: be patient. This Tournament likely won’t deliver the crazy on Thursday or Friday. Stay around for the weekend and you should get a good payoff somewhere.