What Does Seed Mean in Basketball?

Playoffs are one of the most exciting things in all of sports. However, not all teams enter the postseason equally. Every organization that makes it had a different record during the year, and that needs to be reflected. That’s why seeds exist.

This guide does a deep dive into what the term seed means in basketball, as well as how it’s used at both the college and NBA levels. That will show why the term exists, as well as why it’s an incredibly necessary part of the game.

Rank of Play

In basketball, seeds are a ranking system used primarily in the postseason to designate how well teams did throughout the year. There are twenty total seeds in the NBA (ten in each conference) and all that matters is their regular season record.

The team that won the most games gets the one seed, the team that won the second most games gets the two seed, and it goes down from there all the way until ten. 

That designation is important because the term “seed” is only used once the playoffs start. It’s not something that’s said throughout the regular season, no matter how well a team does. For that, analysts, players, and fans will simply say “place.”

For example, if a team has the best record during the regular season they might be referred to as in “first place” or “first in their division.” Once the playoffs come around, however, the team that did the best in the regular season is now referred to as the “first seed.”

The Playoff Format

It may seem odd to make such a big deal about placement, but it’s critical in creating a healthy postseason format. Seeds are key in the NBA because they reward teams for performing better throughout the season. Without them, it wouldn’t matter where everyone finished.

Not only do higher seeds get home court advantage throughout their series, they also have the advantages of playing weaker teams. That’s a big deal in such a competitive sport.

First, the seven and eight seeds play each other while the ninth and tenth seed play each other. Then, the winner of the nine/ten game plays the loser of the seven/eight game. 

Once those are done, the winner of the seven/eight game is the seventh seed and the winner of the third game is the eighth seed. The other two teams go home. The playoffs then commence with the one seed playing the eighth seed, the second playing the seventh, and so-forth.

The Seeds of College

Another area where seeds matter is in the NCAA tournament. As with the NBA, how well they do during the regular season determines who they play and shapes their path to the championship. 

Programs can be anywhere from a one seed to a sixteen seed, with one being the best teams and sixteen being the weakest. In the first round, ones play sixteens, twos plays fifteens, threes play fourteens, all the way until seven plays eight. 

Once that finishes, the teams continue to play in a bracket format, where higher seeds always get a shot at playing against weaker ones (barring any upsets). As with the NBA, that system is in place to ensure teams try as hard as they can before the real basketball begins.

Final Words

Seeding is an incredibly critical part of any sport. They help differentiate organizations, and make the playoffs possible. The ranking system structures the entire back half of the season, and makes games more exciting. It gives teams something to play for as well. 

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