Last year, the NCAA tournament was full of surprises and upsets. Millions of brackets were ruined with the UMBC win over Virginia (74-54), placing them as the No. 16 seed—the first team to do so in the history of the NCAA. This March, the perfect bracket continues to be sought after; but how do we factor in Cinderella teams like UMBC?
Whether you’re filling out your bracket or making your college basketball betting picks, the last 10 years hold the key to identifying this year’s March Madness upsets. With careful analysis of the numbers and conference wins, Betway as prepared these are trends from the past ten years that could help you spot a shock.
Know your numbers
When you’re in the process of filling out your bracket, take a moment to consider the numbers. We’re going to classify a first-round upset as a team seeded 10th or lower advancing because the chances of a No. 9 seed beating a No. 8 seed are too high to be considered a shock. How do we know this? Well, in the last 10 years, there have been 72 such upsets, which average to approximately seven upsets per year. There have been no more than 10 first-round upsets in a single year, and no fewer than five.
While it’s worth populating your bracket with a few surprise wins in the first-round, double-digit upsets are unlikely thereafter.
Don’t make the mistake of wasting one of those surprise picks on a No. 16 or No. 15 seed. Now we have to ask ourselves, which teams seeded 10th to 14th are most likely to cause a shock? While UMBC was the only No. 16 seed to ever win an NCAA tournament game, just eight No. 15 seeds have ever progressed to the second round in the past. With the help of the First Four, you can be able to identify the teams that are most likely to be an upset.
The First Four is a series of play-in games played prior to the tournament, and since its conception in 2011, a team that triumphed in the First Four has gone on to win in the first round of the tournament in every year.
Now it’s time think about the two categories low seeds tend to fall into:] mid-major conference champions and teams that finished lower in the standings in major conferences.
In terms of first-round upsets, mid-major teams are the ones to watch. In the past 10 years, 44 of the 72 teams to cause shocks in the first-round were from mid-major conferences. Conference-USA has also been a great source of upsets recently, with its champion advancing to the Round of 32 in each of the past four years. While surprise teams are spread fairly evenly across America, Ohio is the home of the upset. Nine teams seeded 10th or lower from the Buckeye State have won in the Round of 64 since 2009. That’s three more than any other state in the country.
While 2018 was the year of the upset, with UMBC winning in the Round of 64 and Loyola-Chicago making it all the way to the Final Four, it’s likely that the more familiar teams will be the ones making deep runs into the tournament this time around.
Keep in mind that upsets occur far less frequently after the first round. 23 teams seeded 10th or lower have advanced past the Round of 32 in the past 10 years.
In the later stages of the tournament where mid-major teams performed well, the spilt is more even with 12 of the 23 teams that reached at least the Sweet 16 in the past 10 years having come from a major conference. Of the five teams in the past 10 years that have made it all the way to the Elite Eight, just one won their conference.
So while you might have a hunch that a low seed from a smaller conference will upset a powerhouse in the first round, you’re better off sticking with college basketball’s big guns as the tournament progresses, regardless of where they finished in the regular season. Just remember that trends can be helpful for determining the layout of your bracket.