Whenever an eight seed is pitted against a first seed, this is a classic David vs. Goliath matchup. Chances are, the eighth seed just barely scraped their way into the playoffs and are happy just to be in the playoffs while the first seed has dominated all season, clinching the top seed in their respective conference and looking to make some noise in the playoffs as a legitimate title contender. In this scenario, it’s very unlikely that the eight seed will be able to upset the first seed. As difficult and daunting as this task may be, there’s been instances where the eighth seed has been able to pull off an upset. In this article, we’ll take a look at the difficult of the eighth seed pulling off an upset, and what factors have to go right for this to happen.
A True #1 Seed?
Some teams, think of the Golden State Warriors, are bonafide first seeds – there’s no question to their legitimacy or ranking. On the other hand, some teams may hold the top seed but may not be the best team in their respective conference or even the second-best team – think of the Boston Celtics during the 2016-2017 season. When this is the scenario, it’s not nearly as far-fetched for an eighth seed to pull off an upset, especially if the top team’s seeding is not too reflective of their actual strength.
Level Of Play Heading Into The Playoffs
Since basketball is a game of momentum, how a team finishes the season could be indicative of how they’ll likely perform during the first round of the playoffs. The ideal scenario would be when an eighth seed has begun to really find their groove during the last quarter of the regular season heading into the playoffs and are playing as if they were a top three seed coupled with the fact that the first seed, having played extremely well over the first half of the regular season, has suddenly found themselves in a funk for much of the second half of the season, especially during the last quarter of the season. This may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Whenever an extremely healthy team is pitted against a team whose health is questionable at best, chances are the series will play out to be much closer than expected, especially if the healthy team is the underdog. Injuries can really rattle a team to its core, especially if injuries are to multiple players and these players have all been solid contributors, or even star contributors, for most of the season, but now the team must scramble to somehow replace their level of contributions. Additionally, if a top seeded team suddenly finds itself without its best player for a first round matchup against an eight seed, I’d be very worried for the top seeded team.
Whenever a top seed is a very balanced team, with no one superstar player, and is pitted against an eighth seed with a future Hall of Fame superstar, chances are that this series may be much closer than expected. In basketball, the best player on the court is able to take over and control the pace and tempo of the game unlike in any other sport and as a result, if the superstar player on the eighth seeded team suddenly feels like his team doesn’t only have a chance to win, but has a good chance of winning, this series may turn ugly all of a suddenly if the superstar player starts believing that he’s capable of taking over games and actually doing so.