Makinen: March Madness Sweet 16 trends


It’s fortunate that the NCAA tournament gives us a few days off in between the second round and Sweet 16 games as I’m not sure even the most fervent bettors could take any more of what we witnessed last weekend without some time away. It was an amazing four days of first and second-round action, a wave of ups and downs, upsets and close finishes, which culminated in one of the craziest back door cover scenarios in recent memory. Regardless of which side you were on in that TCU-Gonzaga tilt, the final seconds were for the ages. What was left from last weekend was 16 remaining teams still in the hunt for the national title. After this coming weekend, there will only be four.


So far the tournament has been dominated by UNDERS on totals, and seven of the remaining 16 teams are “not supposed to be here,” meaning they are seeded 5th or worse. There is also one representative from each Power Conference and five mid-majors remaining. What does it all mean for this next set of games? Well, in continuing my series on qualifying all of the trends I posted in my Round-By-Round & Conference articles on the VSiN Tournament Betting Guide to the specific 2023 matchups, I am back to share the SWEET 16 data. As you’ll see below, there is some very definitive data pointing in specific side and total directions. Let’s get right into it, and you’ll see that I’ve again added any pertinent head-to-head series trends when they were worthwhile.

Sweet 16 Games

– Laying big points seems to be getting more & more risky in the Sweet 16 in recent years, as favorites of 5 points or more are 30-13 SU but just 17-26 ATS (39.5%) since ’11. (Against Creighton -10, Alabama -7.5, Houston -7, Tennessee -5.5)

– Sweet 16 favorites of 8 points or more are on a 26-7-3 UNDER (78.8%) the total run allowing 62.7 PPG (UNDER 140 CRE-PRI)

– Sweet 16 #1 and #2 seeds have taken care of business lately and combined are on a 34-9 SU and 27-15-1 ATS (64.3%) run over the last eight seasons. (Alabama -7.5, Houston, -7, Texas -4, UCLA -2)

– Sweet 16 round is usually the end of the line for double-digit seeds, however, they have been very competitive as underdogs, going 15-6-1 ATS (71.4%) in that role since 2011. (Princeton +10)

– In Sweet 16 games between teams “both not supposed to be there,” or both seeded 5 or worse, the worse seeded team is 11-6 SU and ATS (64.7%) since ’01. (Princeton +10)

– Better-seeded teams playing as underdogs or pick ’ems in Sweet 16 games are on a 6-1 SU and ATS (85.7%) surge, with all but one of the last six games also going UNDER the total. (Kansas St +2, UNDER 137.5 KSU-MSU)

– Since 2010, in Sweet 16 games involving at least one non-major conference program, UNDER the total is 22-11 (66.7%). (UNDER 140 CRE-PRI, UNDER 137 ALA-SDSU, UNDER 138 HOU-MIA, UNDER 130.5 TEN-FAU, UNDER 145.5 UCLA-GON)

– Over the last 23 years, there have been 23 Sweet 16 games with totals of 128 or less, and UNDER the total is 16-6-1 (72.7%). (NONE – closest is 130.5 TEN-MIA)


Applicable Conference Trends for Sweet 16 Round games

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Steve Makinen
As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.