Coaches' roles in 5-12, 8-9 matchups


With winners being announced nightly on the conference tournament schedule, it’s time to take a different approach to the college basketball futures market. That is to use a futures mindset to anticipate potential in-tournament plays before the field of 68 is announced. 


Get ahead now of two NCAA tournament first-round matchups that tend to get the most attention: the 5-12 and 8-9 games. A folklore quality surrounds the 5-12 game because it’s fertile territory for upsets, and 8-9 is theoretically the closest matchup. 


Since the field expanded in 1985, the 12th seed has won 50 games straight up and fallen 90 times, a juicy 35.71 winning percentage. Of those 50 winners, 19 also won the next round’s game. 


In the 2019 tournament, 12th seeds won three of the four games. Even in the lone win by a fifth seed, Auburn over New Mexico State, the dog still covered.


From 2015-19, the variance of the spreads in those games ranged from 12 to 1, with the average spread being -6.95. Clearly, bookmakers value 12 seeds more than the selection committee does. 


For the 8-9 game since 1985, the lower seed has a winning record at 72-68. Once again looking at what happened in the last tournament played, the eighth seed lost each game. The eighth seed was favored in all four games with a range of spreads of -3.5 to -1.5. 


But make sure not to fall prey to recency and confirmation bias and just blindly bet 12 and 9. Of course, the lower seeds very well might be the play. That decision needs to come after using all the relevant data in the handicapping toolbox.  


Here is some information from a unique perspective regarding the 5-12 and 8-9 games — the coach’s NCAA tournament history. 


Coaches’ decisions before the tournament, such as the travel schedule and scouting, as well as during games tend to have the most significant ramifications of any decision-makers in sports. That is why previous tournament performance is a good variable to factor in during March handicapping. 


So to start prepping for what awaits, here are the teams and coaches currently has slotted in these four seeding slots. These games might not take place because the seeding is still so fluid, but it provides an idea of how these coaches have done in the tournament. A coach’s tournament won-lost record has more value this year because it's becoming trendy to make straight moneyline plays. 


That information, regardless of seeding, should be used during any bracket analysis. 


Here are the No. 5 seeds, according to, and their coaches’ tournament records. 


Virginia: Tony Bennett 

Tournament record: 16-8

First-round record: 7-2

Record as higher seed: 16-5

Record as lower seed: 0-3

ATS this season: 11-11-1


Texas Tech: Chris Beard 

Tournament record: 9-3

First-round record: 3-0

Record as higher seed: 4-0

Record as lower seed: 5-3

ATS this season: 10-15

Take note of Texas Tech in this spot. In the past, this seed was often an overvalued power-conference team. Not the case with the Red Raiders, a very good team getting bumped down because the Big 12 is that deep. 


Creighton: Greg McDermott 

Tournament record: 3-8

First-round record: 3-5

Record as higher seed: 3-3

Record as lower seed: 0-5

ATS this season: 11-14

If the Bluejays do land a No. 5 seed, expect plenty of prognostications for their early departure. 


USC: Andy Enfield

Tournament record: 4-3

First-round record: 2-1

Record as higher seed: 0-1

Record as lower seed: 3-2 (1-0 in First Four)

ATS this season: 16-11


Here are the No. 12 seeds, according to, and their coaches’ tournament records.

Xavier: Travis Steele  

Tournament record: 0-0

First-round record: 0-0

Record as higher seed: 0-0

Record as lower seed: 0-0

ATS this season: 10-10

Steele has never been a head coach for an NCAA tournament game.


Drake: Darian DeVries 

Tournament record: 0-0

First-round record: 0-0

Record as higher seed: 0-0 

Record as lower seed: 0-0

ATS this season: 20-5-1 (best ATS in country)

DeVries has never been a head coach for an NCAA tournament game. But if Drake does land an at-large bid and a 12th seed, expect every conversation about the tournament to start with, “I’ve got a sleeper pick for you …” 


Michigan State: Tom Izzo

Tournament record: 52-21

First-round record: 17-5

Record as higher seed: 38-10

Record as lower seed: 14-11

ATS this season: 8-17

The lowest seed an Izzo MSU team has had in tournament history is 10th in 2002 and 2011. The Spartans lost both first-round games in that position. 


Boise State: Leon Rice 

Tournament record: 0-2

First-round record: 0-2

Record as higher seed: 0-0

Record as lower seed: 0-0

ATS this season: 14-9-1

Rice lost both First Four games.


Here are the No. 8 seeds, according to, and their coaches’ tournament records.

San Diego State: Brian Dutcher

Tournament record: 0-1

First-round record: 0-1

Record as higher seed: 0-0

Record as lower seed: 0-1

ATS this season: 13-10


Oregon: Dana Altman 

Tournament record: 15-14

First-round record: 8-5

Record as higher seed: 9-4

Record as lower seed: 6-10

ATS this season: 12-11

While at Oregon, Altman has never lost a first-round game. In the 2015 tournament, Altman’s eighth-seeded Ducks defeated ninth-seeded Oklahoma State. 


Virginia Tech: Mike Young

Tournament record: 1-5

First-round record: 1-4

Record as higher seed: 0-0

Record as lower seed: 1-5 

ATS this season: 11-9

This would be Young’s first NCAA tournament for Virginia Tech after coaching Wofford. 


Loyola-Chicago: Porter Moser 

Tournament record: 4-1

First-round record: 1-0

Record as higher seed: 0-0

Record as lower seed: 4-1

ATS this season: 15-9-1 has Loyola ranked ninth overall; the 2018 Final Four team was ranked 31st and seeded 11th in the tournament. This year’s Ramblers have impressive defensive metrics comparable with Gonzaga’s. A first-round win by Loyola would set up a game in the round of 32 with a top seed, perhaps the Zags. That would be one of the most anticipated 1-8 games in recent history. 


Here are the 9 seeds, according to, and their coaches’ tournament records.


LSU: Will Wade

Tournament record: 3-3

First-round record: 2-1

Record as higher seed: 2-1

Record as lower seed: 1-2

ATS this season: 10-13-1


Connecticut: Dan Hurley 

Tournament record: 2-2

First-round record: 2-0

Record as higher seed: 1-0

Record as lower seed: 1-2

ATS this season: 15-4-1 (second best in the country)

This will be Hurley’s first NCAA tournament with UConn after coaching Rhode Island. 


Maryland: Mark Turgeon 

Tournament record: 9-9

First-round record: 7-2

Record as higher seed: 6-4

Record as lower seed: 3-5

ATS this season: 11-14

Turgeon was 2-0 in the first round as a ninth seed as Texas A&M’s coach. 


UCLA: Mick Cronin 

Tournament record: 6-11

First-round record: 5-6

Record as higher seed: 5-3

Record as lower seed: 1-8

ATS this season: 12-13

This will be Cronin’s first tournament with UCLA. 


Second Best May Be Best


On Selection Sunday, little fanfare attends the National Invitation Tournament seedings that follow the NCAA announcement. That afterthought status is what happens when the field is populated by those that didn’t get the phone call they were really hoping for. 


Bad news for teams can be great news for bettors. 


This year’s NIT will feature just 16 teams playing in a Texas bubble. Even though the tournament won’t grab headlines, bettors need to stay tuned and seek as much information as possible. Many betting angles should be available to attack, perhaps more than over on the main stage. 


As we have written a lot regarding futures play, motivation is an important qualitative handicapping variable. Once the NIT field is announced, it should be easy to determine who really wants to play and who would rather be elsewhere. 


If brand-name schools like Duke and Indiana don’t make the NCAA tournament but do qualify for the NIT, bettors should view it like a power-conference football team going to a bowl named after a lawnmower instead of a New Year’s Day game.


Expect many March plays to come out of the NIT.


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