March Madness brackets: How often we pick NCAA tournament upsets
Picking upsets accurately in the NCAA tournament bracket is always a dicey task.
History has shown they happen frequently enough with the higher seeds that you at least want to pay attention to them, and pick enough to steal a few important points in the first round.
With that in mind, we decided to look at how we’ve typically chosen upsets in the first round, using bracket data from the past six years from the official bracket game of the NCAA tournament. We compared those six years of pick percentages - from millions of picks - in the first round to actual on-court percentages back to 1985, when the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams and 32 first-round games.
The data is below, but here are some things we learned.
- The world is not picking the 12 seed enough, but oddly, has a pretty good handle on the 6-11 game. The No. 12 seed wins 13 percent more than we typically pick.
- Through 128 games, the 8-9 game is a lock, with each winning 64. We have picked the 8 seed at a slightly higher clip, but we are very close here.
- The world does best picking the 7-10 game, picking in almost the exact percentage as on court. We also do well in the 1-16 game.
- As you might expect, bracket selection falls in line with the seeds. The bracket-picking population sticks closely to the selection committee’s seeding by selecting No. 1 seeds at the greatest rate, No. 2 second most and follows that trend in order through No. 16.
- The NCAA tournament selection committee does a pretty solid job seeding teams considering the on-court win percentage in the round of 64. The graph goes in a smooth line with 5-6 seeds and 8-9 seeds interchangeable based on results.
• If you are going to pick the higher seeds in the first round, you probably want a total of six upsets picked among the 10-15 seeds. History shows that’s the about the average. That’s where the skill comes in – picking those six and trying your best not to knock out a potential Final Four team seeded 7 or better. However, there were 10 such double digit seeds that won in 2016.
|SEED||FIRST ROUND WIN PCT||FIRST ROUND PICK PCT||DIFFERENCE|