A Freakonomics Contest: Odds of Same City Teams in NCAA Sweet 16

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Alright Freakonomics readers, basketball fans in particular, it’s contest time! This year’s NCAA Tournament, now down to the Round of 16, aka the Sweet 16, includes a statistical anomaly: two teams from the same city have made it to the Sweet 16, the University of Richmond and VCU, both from Richmond, VA.

The 64-team tournament started with three pairs of teams from the same city: U of R and VCU from Richmond; Vanderbilt and Belmont from Nashville, and Xavier and Cincinnati from Cincinnati. That’s six teams out of the original 64. So, what are the odds that one of those pairs makes it to the Round of 16? The first reader to correctly guess the odds of this happening wins their choice of Freakonomics swag.

Also, the first person who can tell us when the last time two teams from the same city made it to the Sweet 16 was, will also get a piece of Freakonomics gear. Here’s a hint: check out CBS’s archive of NCAA tournament brackets going all the way back to 1939.

Good luck!




UCLA and USC in 2007


2007; USC and UCLA


If the chances of any given team winning a game are 1 in 2, then the chances of one of the pairs making it to the sweet sixteen is 37/64.

Matt Hill

UCLA and USC in 2001.


UCLA and USC in 2007.

Caitlin P

The last time two teams from the same city made it to the Sweet 16 was 2007 - USC & UCLA


UCLA & USC in 2007 were the last teams from the same city in the sweet 16.

Russell Fink



UCLA and USC did it in 2007!

Cañada Kid

I have never taken a probability course, but this is my guess:

16 spots out of 64 teams (16/64) times 15 spots out of 63 remaining teams (15/63) would be for one pair of the same-city teams. multiply that times 3, for 3 pairs, and you get 5/28.


2007 USC and UCLA


Philadelphia 1988, Nova and Temple?

Art Frank

Where do I post my answer (or guess, really)? If it's here, I'm guessing 3/16.


You need to refine your parameters here. Otherwise you're going to have trouble finding the 'correct' answer. Do you presume that each team entering the round of 64 has an a priori equal probability of reaching the Sweet 16? If so, that's a strong assumption. If not, you'd better identify the basis for probability weighting you expect contest entries to use. Clearly the odds of two teams from the same city entering the Sweet 16 is much higher if those two teams are #1 ranked teams.


2007 UCLA and USC.

Ryan W

2007 USC/UCLA was the last time two teams from one school were in the sweet 16.


Is this assuming that each pair of teams would not play each other before the Sweet 16?


Last time 2 teams from the same city made sweet 16: 2007, UCLA and USC


I don't know if USC is technically considered to be in Los Angeles, but if so then UCLA/USC were in it in 2007...