Sweet 16 has been bitter to Cinderella double-digit seeds like Xavier


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Underdogs need a little bit of magic to get past the first weekend of March Madness. The lone double-digit seed still alive in the NCAA tournament is using black magic and bettors are only now finding out about it.

Jeff Borzello of ESPN reports the Xavier Musketeers are carrying around an ash-filled jar – a product of an apparent cleansing ritual the team performed following an awful spell in February.

We still don’t know if the players are given Ghost Rider-like powers simply by touching the container before games… but it can’t be ruled out.

NCAA president Mark Emmert drones on about the importance of amateurism, but where is he when professional, dark wizardry is impacting our games? Will he act?

Don’t bet on it.   

Voodoo tricks might not be enough for the Musketeers to get past No. 2 Arizona Thursday. Double-digit seeds have a long history of getting stuffed in the Sweet 16.

Xavier is the 39th No. 10 or greater seed to survive to second weekend of the Big Dance since 2000. Six of the 38 teams before Xavier played another double-digit seed. That gives us a 32-case sample of single-digit seeds squaring off against a double-digit seeds. The better seed won 27 of those 32 games outright and went 18-13-1 against the spread.

The average spread in those 32 games was 6.1 points – a little bit lower than the 7.5 points oddsmakers have ‘Zona giving Xavier Thursday night. The average point differential is +8.2 for the better-seeded side and the average seed matchup was a No. 3 (2.9 to be precise) vs. a No. 12 (11.7).

Five wins from 32 chances gives a 15.6 percent win rate. That’s not a great return considering win probability for the underdog in college basketball with a closing line around +6 should be close to 28.1 percent – that is to say – a college basketball team catching six points wins the game outright about 28.1 percent of the time.

Our sample size shows the double-digit seed wins at about half that rate.

Since 2000, there have been six matchups of a No. 2 seed vs. a No. 11 in the Sweet 16 (Arizona vs. Xavier is the seventh). In those past six games, the No. 11 seed is 0-6 straight up and 1-4-1 against the spread. The No. 2 seed is outscoring the No. 11 seed 427 to 368 in those six games combined for an average point differential of 9.83.









Year

No. 11 seed

No. 2 seed

Spread

Final score

2017

Xavier

Arizona

7.5

?

2015

UCLA

Gonzaga

8.5

62-74

2014

Tennessee

Michigan

2

71-73

2012

NC State

Kansas

8.5

57-60

2011

Marquette

North Carolina

4

63-80

2010

Washington

West Virginia

4.5

56-69

2002

Southern Illinois

Connecticut

5

59-71


Not all the numbers scream stay away from Cinderella in these scenarios. Double-digit seeds are 5-2-1 ATS against single-seeded opponents in the Sweet 16 since 2012.

The last double-digit seed to upset a single-digit seed in the Sweet 16 was plucky Davidson against Wisconsin in 2008. The Badgers were giving five points to the Wildcats but were blowout 73-56. Some guy named Steph – Stephen? – Curry scored 33 points including six 3-pointers in that game.


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