Filling out a March Madness bracket is almost entirely guesswork. You can look up whatever stats you want, weigh individual matchups, or consult a psychic, but you're still going to get a bunch of things wrong; the odds of picking a perfect bracket are about one in 9.2 quintillion.
Truly, any team has a shot at winning it all, right? Well, not #16 seeds, none of which have ever advanced out of the first round. But what about everyone else? How far does each seed typically go in the tournament?
This chart shows how often each seed has advanced to a given round since the tournament went to a 64-team field in 1985.
Nearly 90 percent of #1 seeds reach the Sweet 16, and a little more than 40 percent make it to the Final Four. More often than not, #9 seeds prevail over #8 seeds. And seeds 10 through 12 flout the expected curve by reaching the Sweet 16 more often than do 8 and 9 seeds. Indeed, #12 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 twice as often as have #8 seeds. Why? If a #12 seed is lucky enough to win round one, it doesn't have to then face a #1 seed, as a #8 or #9 seed would have to.
Come the Final Four, seeds can cannibalize each other, so data on the last two rounds doesn't fit neatly into the above chart. So looking at those rounds separately, here's how often seeds advance to, and win, the final game.
As expected, top seeds almost always win. The top three seeds have won about 90 percent of the time over the past three decades. The only other winners: fourth-seeded Arizona in 1997, sixth-seeded Kansas in 1988, and eighth-seeded Villanova in 1985.
(And thanks to The Washington Post for building this incredibly helpful app.)
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
Subscribe to the Week