Since 2011, the NCAA tournament welcomes 68 teams each year. But to get to 64, we first have to play the First Four. In those games, the last four automatic qualifiers and the last four at-large bids play.

Though these AQ teams, which are 16 seeds, have yet to win after the First Four, the at-large victors have had outsized success when it comes to their seeds once playing in the 64-team tournament. Don’t sleep on these teams in your bracket. In the first year, 2010-11 VCU went from No. 11 and playing USC in Dayton in the First Four to playing in the Final Four in Houston.

Though no other First Four team has repeated that VCU run, at-large First Four winners have done well. So far, 2019 is the only tournament where at least one at-large First Four team failed to win a game in the 64-team bracket.

In total, First Four winners are 14-18 starting with appearances in the field of 64 — a 43.8 win percentage overall. But don’t let 2010-11 VCU’s run make you think the Rams’ Final Four is carrying everything. Even when taking out the 2010-11 Rams, the group’s record is 10-17, or 37 percent.

Also, at-large First Four winners are 8-10 in the first round/round of 64, which comes out to a 44.4 win percentage. For comparison, No. 9 seeds are 16-20 vs. the No. 8 seed since 2011 (the first instance of the First Four). That 16-20 record is…also a 44.4 win percentage. In other words, at-large First Four winners, though seeded between No. 11 and No. 14, are winning in the first round at a rate equal to a seed at least two spots better (No. 9 seeds).

Here’s a look:

How at-large First Four teams do in the NCAA tournament

We listed post-First Four games, meaning only the winners of the at-large First Four games are here. Wins are in bold:

Team Seed Scores
2010-11 VCU (23-11) 11 W, No. 6 Georgetown, 74-56
W, No. 3 Purdue, 94-76
W, No. 10 Florida State, 72-71 (OT)
W, No. 1 Kansas, 71-61

L, No. 8 Butler, 70-62
2010-11 Clemson (21-11) 12 L, No. 5 West Virginia, 84-76
2011-12 South Florida (20-13) 12 W, No. 5 Temple, 58-44
L, No. 13 Ohio, 62-56
2011-12 BYU (25-8) 14 L, No. 3 Marquette, 88-68
2012-13 Saint Mary’s (27-6) 11 L, No. 6 Memphis, 54-52
2012-13 La Salle (21-9) 13 W, No. 4 Kansas State, 63-61
W, No. 12 Ole Miss, 76-74

L, No. 8 Wichita State, 72-58
2013-14 Tennessee (21-12) 11 W, No. 6 UMass, 86-67
W, No. 14 Mercer, 83-63

L, No. 2 Michigan, 73-71
2013-14 NC State (21-13) 12 L, No. 5 Saint Louis, 83-80 (OT)
2014-15 Ole Miss (20-12) 11 L, No. 6 Xavier, 76-57
2014-15 Dayton (25-8) 11 W, No. 6 Providence, 66-53
L, No. 3 Oklahoma, 72-66
2015-16 Wichita State (24-8) 11 W, No. 6 Arizona, 65-55
L, No. 3 Miami (FL), 65-57
2015-16 Michigan (22-12) 11 L, No. 6 Notre Dame, 70-63
2016-17 USC (24-9) 11 W, No. 6 SMU, 66-65
L, No. 3 Baylor, 82-78
2016-17 Kansas State (20-13) 11 L, No. 6 Cincinnati, 75-61
2017-18 St. Bonaventure (25-7) 11 L, No. 6 Florida, 77-62
2017-18 Syracuse (20-13) 11 W, No. 6 TCU, 57-52
W, No. 3 Michigan State, 55-53

L, No. 2 Duke, 69-65
2018-19 Belmont (26-5) 11 L, No. 6 Maryland, 79-77
2018-19 Arizona State (22-10) 11 L, No. 6 Buffalo, 91-74

NCAA tournament records by seed since 2010-11 starting with the first round/round of 64

Seed Record Win percentage
No. 8 31-36 46.3
No. 9 23-36 39.0
At-large First Four teams
(combining below records)
14-18 43.8
No. 11 First Four
(11 teams)
11-13 45.8
No. 12 First Four
(3 teams)
1-3 25.0
No. 13 First Four
(1 team)
2-1* 66.7
No. 14 First Four
(1 team)
0-1* 0.0

*Record is from only one team

Despite these at-large First Four winners having an average seed of 11.5, they have a higher winning percentage than No. 9 seeds in the NCAA tournament since 2011. Not bad considering the seed-line difference of 2.5, on average. To be fair, victorious No. 9 seeds are often required to play No. 1 seeds in the second round — with one notable exception: No. 16 seed UMBC in 2018.

Perhaps even more impressive, these at-large First Four winners aren’t far off from No. 8 seeds in winning percentage: 46.3 percent for No. 8 seeds with 43.8 for First Four victors.

So next time you fill out your bracket, don’t overlook the First Four teams.

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