Basketball Tournament Seed
A seed in basketball is the number that corresponds to a team’s ranking. Seeds work a bit differently in the NCAA and in the NBA. However, in both leagues, you want to be the lowest seed possible (1), and there are multiple teams assigned each seed.
In the NBA, seeds are determined solely by a team’s record or win percentage. In each conference, the top 8 ranked teams, according to records, make the playoffs. The team with the best record earns the 1 seed, the next best team gets the 2 seed, and so on. Remember that there are two conferences, which means there are two number 1 seeds, two number 2 seeds, etc. In the NBA’s new playoff format, which was modified in 2021, seeds 1-6 in each conference automatically make the playoffs, while teams 7-10 participate in a play-in round to determine first-round matchups.
NBA Play-In Tournament
The NBA play-in tournament features the 7-10 ranked teams in both conferences battling for a playoff spot. For each conference, the 7th ranked team will play the 8th ranked team, and the 9th ranked team will play the 10th ranked team. The winner of the game between the 7th and 8th ranked teams will automatically qualify for the playoffs as the conference’s 7 seed. The loser of this game will play the winner of the game between the 9th and 10th ranked teams. Whoever wins this game will become the 8 seed in the playoffs. Whoever loses the game between the 9th and 10th ranked teams in each conference will be eliminated from playoff contention.
NBA Playoff Matchups
Playoff matchups are determined by seeds. The top-seeded team plays the 8th seed, the 2nd seed plays the 7th seed, the 3rd seed plays the 6th seed, and the 4th seed plays the 5th seed. This rewards teams who perform well during the regular season.
Once the bracket is fixed at the beginning of the tournament, teams are not reseeded throughout the tournament. This means that even if a high-numbered seed makes it out of the first round, they will play the team who won in their section of the bracket, no matter the seed.
In the NCAA, seeds work a bit differently. On Selection Sunday, teams are given seeds based on their season records, strength of schedule, and success in conference playoffs.
A team could receive a higher seed than their record suggests they deserve as a result of success in their conference tournament or beating a top team in the regular season. Seeding in the NCAA is based on many more factors than solely win percentage in the NBA.
Conference Tournament Playoff Seeding
At the end of the regular season, every conference in NCAA Division I basketball holds a postseason tournament. The winner of each of these tournaments receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Similar to the NBA, seeding for these tournaments is determined by regular-season record. However, only the team’s record during conference play will be taken into consideration, not the overall record. Thus, the team with the best conference record will receive the number 1 seed in the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Playoff Matchups
In the NCAA Tournament, teams are divided into four regions of 17 teams, including the teams which play in the First Four. The First Four is a single play-in round in which eight teams compete in four separate games for a bid into the Round of 64; two teams will play for a twelve seed, two teams will play for an 11 seed, and four teams will compete for two 16 seed spots. Once all First Four games are played, there are 16 teams in each region, seeded 1 through 16, for a total of 64 first round teams. This means there are four teams with each seed. The four number 1 seeds are considered the best teams in the nation.
Similar to both conference tournaments and the NBA playoff system, the first round features the lowest-seeded teams playing the highest-seeded teams. The 1-seed will play the 16-seed, the 2-seed will play the 15-seeds, and so on. The closest matchup in terms of ranking in the first round is played between the 8-seed and 9-seed in each region.
Only one number 1 seed has ever lost in the first round. In 2018, the 16-seeded UMBC beat the number 1-seeded University of Virginia. However, Virginia avenged themselves the next year when they won the entire tournament.
March Madness uses a fixed-bracket format, rather than reseeding. This means that matchups after the first round are not determined by seed. Rather, the entire bracket is set at the beginning of the tournament.