Makinen: March Madness Sweet 16 trends

March 22, 2023 02:20 PM

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

  • Note – Conference trend records do not include any pertinent results from early 2023 NCAA tournament results unless noted



MIAMI (#5, MIDWEST) vs. HOUSTON (#1-American Athletic)


No trends apply.


American Athletic



- In their last 25 tourney games versus power conference foes, American Athletic teams are 17-8 UNDER the total (68%). (UNDER 138 HOU-MIA)


Big 12

KANSAS ST (#3, EAST) vs. MICHIGAN ST (#7-Big Ten)

TEXAS (#2, MIDWEST) vs. XAVIER (#3-Big East)


- Favorites are 12-4 SU and 11-5 ATS (68.8%) in the last 16 NCAA tournament games between the Big 12 and Big Ten. (Against Kansas St +2)

Big 12 teams are just 10-12 SU and 7-15 ATS (31.8%) in their last 22 NCAA tourney games vs the Big East, but have won five straight while going 3-2 ATS. (Against Texas -4)


Big East



XAVIER (#3, MIDWEST) vs. TEXAS (#2-Big 12)


- Favorites are 28-14 ATS (66.7%) in the last 42 Big East NCAA tourney games. (Connecticut -3.5, Creighton -10, Against Xavier +4)

- In NCAA tourney games between Big East programs and non-major conferences since ’15, favorites are on a 21-8 SU and ATS (72.4%) run. (Creighton -10)


Big Ten

MICHIGAN ST (#7, EAST) vs. KANSAS ST (#3-Big 12)


Big Ten teams have gone just 5-17 ATS (22.7%) since ’15 in the NCAA tournament vs. Big 12 and Pac 12 foes. (Against Michigan St. -2) 

- In tourney games of the Sweet 16 round and later, Big Ten teams are just 27-37 SU and 24-37-3 ATS (39.3%) since ’07. (Against Michigan St -2)


Conference USA



Conference USA teams are just 6-16 SU and 7-15 ATS (31.8%) in the NCAA’s since ’09. (Against Fla Atlantic +5.5)

- Versus power conference schools in the NCAA tournament, Conference USA teams are just 22-38 SU and ATS (36.7%) since ’98, including 8-21 ATS (27.6%) as dogs of 4.5 points or more. (Against Fla Atlantic +5.5)

Conference USA teams are on a brutal slide of 4-23 SU and 5-22 ATS (18.5%) as single-digit underdogs in the NCAA tournament. (Against Fla Atlantic +5.5)

Conference USA teams seeded in the bottom half of the tournament (seeds 9 or worse) are on a 10-24 SU and 12-22 ATS (35.3%) skid. (Against Fla Atlantic +5.5)



PRINCETON (#15, SOUTH) vs. CREIGHTON (#6-Big East)


Ivy League teams have gone 5-11 SU and 10-6 ATS (62.5%) in their last 16 NCAA tourney games. (Princeton +10)

Ivy League teams are on an 18-9 UNDER the total (66.7%) NCAA run, including UNDERS in all of the last 5. (UNDER 139.5 PRI-CRE)

- As underdogs of 6 points or more in the NCAA’s, Ivy League teams are now 17-3 UNDER the total (85%) after two more UNDERS this year, scoring less than 60 PPG. (UNDER 139.5 PRI-CRE)


Mountain West



- As tournament underdogs, Mountain West teams are just 8-37 SU and 11-31-3 ATS (26.2%) since ’01. (Against San Diego St +7.5)

Mountain West teams have been totally overmatched against major conference programs in the NCAAs since 2000, 9-42 SU and 12-37-2 ATS (24.5%). (Against San Diego St +7.5)



UCLA (#2, WEST) vs. GONZAGA (#3-West Coast)


Pac-12 teams are just 13-24-1 ATS (35.1%) in the Sweet 16 round since ’01, including 0-2 SU and ATS in 2022. (Against UCLA -2)



ALABAMA (#1, SOUTH) vs. SAN DIEGO ST (#5-Mountain West)


TENNESSEE (#4, EAST) vs. FLA ATLANTIC (#9-Conference USA)


SEC teams have been a solid wager in the Sweet 16 round, 21-11-2 ATS (65.6%) since ’03. (Alabama -7.5, Arkansas 3.5, Tennessee -5.5)

- The #4 seed and the SEC have gone UNDER the total at a 25-8-1 (75.7%) rate. (UNDER 130.5 TEN-FAU)

- Underdogs are 32-15 ATS (68.1%) in the last 47 SEC NCAA tourney games overall. (Arkansas +3.5 – Against Alabama -7.5, Tennessee -5.5)


West Coast

GONZAGA (#3, WEST) vs. UCLA (#2-Pac 12)


West Coast Conference teams are just 1-11 SU and 2-10 ATS (16.7%) in their last 12 NCAA games against top 3 seeds. (Against Gonzaga +2)

West Coast Conference teams haven’t been as good as suspected as NCAA tournament underdogs, 7-21 SU and 8-20 ATS (28.6%) since ’07, including eight straight outright and ATS losses after St. Mary’s fell to UConn last weekend. (Against Gonzaga +2)


Head-to-Head Series Trends for Sweet 16 Round


* ARKANSAS and UCONN played three early season non-conference tilts between 2005 & 2017 and favorites were 3-0 SU and ATS. The most recent matchup in ’17 saw the Razorbacks (-6) rout the Huskies 102-67 in the consolation round of the PK80 Invitational.

(641) GONZAGA at (642) UCLA

* GONZAGA and UCLA have played a storied series in recent years, including two high-profile games in the 2021 calendar year. After the Bulldogs (-14) edged the Bruins 93-90 in the Final Four, they came back seven months late and won in blowout fashion, 83-63. In all, Gonzaga is on a 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS run vs. UCLA.

(645) XAVIER at (646) TEXAS

* XAVIER & TEXAS last met in the second round of the 2019 NIT tournament and the host Longhorns (-4.5) edged the Musketeers 78-76 in a game that went over the total by 14.5 points.

back to news

Live On Air

Streaming Now: The Lombardi Line

play Watch Live radio Listen Live


Thom Cunningham: Golden Knights at Stars  - 1P - OVER (1.5). View more picks.


The Handle: With the recent news on Jimmy Garoppolo's injury clause, consider fading the Raiders in NFL futures markets now in case Las Vegas does in fact move on from the QB. View more tips.