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New Kind Of Parity For The Sweet 16

So much for parity. 

After two rounds of the NCAA tournament it’s mostly favorites who have punched their way through to the Sweet 16 with the exception of the 11 vs. 10 game Friday night when Gonzaga takes on Syracuse. Only two teams remain who play outside the 'Power 5 conferences' and only five teams remain who started the season at worse than 30-1 to win the NCAA championship.  

It looks like not just anyone can win it after all, as so much of the pre-tournament hype went. We have a new type of parity heading into the second weekend though and it shows in the pointspreads. 

No team opened higher than the 7-point favorite number that tournament chalk Kansas opened as in its matchup with Maryland in the Sweet 16. Three of the games on Thursday night also opened with spreads of 3 or less and it got me thinking: “Is this the lowest collection of spreads we’ve ever seen in the Sweet 16?” 

The short answer is “no” and I’ll show you the numbers below. But it’s close. 

I wondered this question mostly for curiosity’s sake more than anything but I also wanted to reiterate something I talked about in a couple of interviews before the tournament. I mentioned as a tip for betting March Madness that if you win money in the first weekend, you may want to pack up your winnings and move on to the next event because it only gets tougher from here and futures value just continues to drop as we go. 

To compare just how competitive this Sweet 16 is compared to others, I asked our numbers nerd to dig up the spreads for this round for each year going back 10 years. I then added up the spreads for each game in each Sweet 16 from there to get a collective total for the point spreads for each year. 

It’s not a perfect system but the general idea is that the lower the spreads, the more competitive the games were expected to be. 

I added up the eight spreads for each year going back to 2007 and what I found is that 2016 is the second lowest collection of spreads for a total of 32.5 points. This year does, however, mark the first time in 10 years that we didn’t see any of the eight games possess a spread higher than seven points. 

Here are the combined totals for points spreads in each of the last 10 Sweet 16s: 

Sweet 16 spreads - combined total of all Games
201632.5 points
201548.5 points
201429.5 points
201347.5 points
201251.5 points
201142 points
201042 points
200939 points
200849.5 points
200747.5 points