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2016 NCAA Tournament: Seeding Trends and how UVA fits in

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Selection Sunday has come and gone, it is now time to print out your brackets and fill them out. The key to winning your NCAA pool is to pick upsets, but which ones will happen this season?

Looking at the trends from the past 30 seasons by round we can see how the Virginia Cavaliers as a #1 seed fits into the picture.

First Round:

  • #5 seeds go down in the first round 36% of the time, compared to only 20% for #4 seeds and 16% for #3 seeds. (Last year two #3 seeds were upset, but no #4 or #5's went down.)
  • The #8/#9 matchup is basically a coin flip since the #8 seed only has a 61-59 advantage over the past 30 years.
  • #1 seeds have never lost in the first round but #2 seeds have been upset 7 times, so UVA needs to stay focused against the Hampton Pirates.

Second round:

  • Only 12% of the time has a region gone #1, #2, #3, #4.
  • 37% of #2 seeds have been upset by the #7/#10 winner (both #2 Virginia and #2 Kansas were upset last year).
  • Meanwhile #1 seeds are only upset 13% of the time (#1 Villanova was upset by N.C. State, the third year in a row a #1 seed has not made the Sweet 16). Virginia could face either the Butler Bulldogs or the Texas Tech Red Raiders in this round, which are ranked #40 and #42 in KenPom ratings.

Sweet 16:

  • On the bottom half of the region, 72% are either #2 or #3 seeds (75% last year).
  • On the other side of the region, 69% of #1 seeds make the elite eight (was 75% last year with only Villanova not advancing). UVA could have a tough time in Chicago getting past the #18 rated Iowa State Cyclones or the #10 Purdue Boilermakers, whose campus is only located an hour away.

Elite Eight:

  • Only one time in 35 years of the 64 team bracket has all four #1 seeds made the Final Four (which was no exception last year).
  • #2 seeds make it only 21% of the time (None made it last year).
  • 42% of #1 seeds make the Final Four (three made it last year). Virginia would have to finally beat their arch-nemesis Michigan State Spartans in order to reach their first Final Four in over 30 years.

If you add up all the seeds that make the Final Four, the average total is 11. Meaning if you pick all #1 seeds, that's less than half the average, or if you throw in a #11 George Mason with a #3, #2, and #1, that's double the average. (Last year's total of 10 (#1, #1, #1, #7) was right at the average.) If you go with #1 UVA to make the Final Four, it would be wise to include a couple higher seeds to average it out.

Or you could just pick Michigan State to upset Virginia like all the experts predict.