Tennessee will be playing as a two-seed in the South region of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Vols themselves don’t have a great track record as a No. 2 seed in the tournament, but how have other teams historically performed as one of the top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament?
I took a look back over 19 years of data, and the odds aren’t all that great for a two-seed to advance to the Final Four.
Dating back to 2000, there have been 76 two-seeds in the NCAA Tournament. In those 19 previous tournaments, at least one No. 2 seed has made it to the Elite Eight every single season. Close to half (43.4 percent) of the 76 two-seeds over the last 19 years have made it at least that far in the NCAA Tournament.
But that’s where the good feelings stop.
There’s a huge drop from the Elite Eight to the Final Four for No. 2 seeds. That’s typically when they have to face the No. 1 seed in their respective region. When it comes down to that match-up, only 15 of the 76 No. 2 seeds since 2000 have made it to the Final Four. That’s just 19.7 percent of the two-seeds over the last 19 years.
Of those 15, only seven have ended up advancing to the championship game. That’s less than 10 percent (9.2 percent) of the 76 two-seeds since 2000 that have gone on to play for a national title.
Only two No. 2 seeds over the last 19 years have actually won the NCAA Championship. For comparison, a No. 1 seed has won the tournament title 13 times over the last 19 seasons. There have been more three-seeds and lower (4) to win the national championship than two-seeds over the last 19 years.
Unless you’re a one-seed, the odds of making the Final Four are just not all that great. Of the 76 one-seeds over the last 19 years, 69.7 percent of them have made it to the Elite Eight, 39.5 percent have advanced to the Final Four, and 25 percent have gone on to play for a championship.
In the last 19 years, only one No. 2 seed from the South Region has advanced to the Final Four. And that team was one of the two No. 2 seeds to win the national championship in that span. Villanova was the two-seed in the South in 2016 and ended up winning the tournament title.
Of course, being in a region isn’t as big of a correlation to success as seeding, but it’s still worth pointing out.
Tennessee’s two different stints as a two-seed prior to this year’s tournament hurt the overall numbers of the No. 2 seed over the last 19 years. The Vols were a No. 2 seed in 2006 and ended up getting bounced in the second round by Wichita State. In 2008, Tennessee again earned a No. 2 seed, but they got blown out by No. 3 seed Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.
As for this year, the Vols have a favorable shot of making it to at least the Elite Eight according to the NCAA Tournament Game Predictor on TeamRankings.com. But assuming the Vols will face Virginia in the Elite Eight, Tennessee doesn’t match up that well with them, with the Team Rankings predictor giving the Cavaliers a 68 percent chance to win based on simulations and a 64 percent chance of winning based on their “decision tree” analytics.
The Vols have never made it to the Final Four in school history, and they’ve only made it to the Elite Eight once ever. That came back in 2010 when the sixth-seeded Vols made it that far and fell to Michigan State by a point.
Tennessee will start their journey in this year’s NCAA Tournament on Friday when they face-off with No. 15 seed Colgate in Columbus, Ohio. The two will tip-off approximately 25-30 minutes after Cincinnati and Iowa play their first round game. That contest tips off at 12:15 Eastern, so Tennessee will likely begin play around 2:45 Eastern.