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Andy Wittry | | March 20, 2019

7 signs you picked too many NCAA tournament upsets

Andy Katz crowns his NCAA tournament champion

We know how fun it is to pick that 15 over a 2. Hey, it's March, so maybe it even makes sense to do it more than once. But that made us wonder: how do you know when you've overdone it and made too many upset picks?

Here's how, including a tip for those 15 vs 2 games:

1. You pick a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed

Look, we know it's tempting. But last year was the first time this had EVER happened. Is there a UMBC in the 2019 tournament field? Maybe, but likely not.

UMBC's historic 20-point upset of Virginia in Charlotte, North Carolina last year was the first time a 16-seed had beaten a one-seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Before the Retrievers pulled off what was once deemed impossible, only 15 games in the 1/16 matchup had been decided by less than 10 points. There hadn't been a game decided by one possession since 1996, before many of today's college players were alive.

UMBC aside, the other three No. 16 seeds in 2018 didn't have nearly the same luck, losing by an average of 20.3 points.

Sure, it'd be great to tell your friends that you predicted the next UMBC. Heck, we wouldn't blame you if you put it as a bullet point on your resume. But we we're warning you. A No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed for the second straight year seems extremely unlikely.

2. You pick more than 10 double-digit seeds to win in the first round or more than five in the second round

...and more than two to win in the Sweet 16. None of those things have ever happened since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams. On average, about 6.1 double-digit seeds win in the first round, 2.2 in the second round and 0.5 in the Sweet 16.

In 2018, just six double-digit seeds won in the first round, two advanced to the Sweet 16, and only one -- Loyola Chicago -- made the Elite Eight.

In 2016, a record 10 double-digit seeds won in the first round and five double-digit seeds won in the second round in 1999. You're better off picking between four and eight double-digit seeds to win in the first round and two or three to win in the second round.

3. You don't have at least two Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16

It seemed like this trend might break last season, as the Big Ten put just four teams in the NCAA tournament field. Still, for the 11th straight season, the Big Ten put two teams in the Sweet 16 as Purdue and Michigan carried the torch for the conference.

In total, 30 Big Ten teams have made the second weekend since 2008.

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4. You don't have at least one ACC team in the Elite Eight

Since 2007, at least one ACC team has advanced to the Elite Eight in 11 of the 12 seasons. Most notably, four ACC teams made the Elite Eight in 2016 and three made it in 2015.

Last season, Florida State and Duke made the Elite Eight, but couldn't crack the Final Four.

5. The sum of the seeds of your Final Four teams is greater than 20

For the first 20 years of the 64-team tournament format, the number could have been 10, not 20. In 14 of the years, the sum of the seeds of the teams that made the Final Four was 10 or lower, but there have since been more dark horse teams making runs in March.

Since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams, the average sum of the seeds of the Final Four teams is 11.2 and on just two occasions (2000, 2011), the total was greater than 20. It's fine, if not encouraged, if not realistic, to pick a dark horse team or two to make the Final Four – since 2013, at least one team seeded as a No. 7 or higher has made the Final Four every year – but don't get carried away.

The sum of last year's teams was 16, with No. 11 Loyola Chicago, No. 3 Michigan and two No. 1 seeds in Villanova and Kansas making up the field.

6. You don't have any teams in the Final Four whose primary color is blue or orange

Heading into the 2018 NCAA tournament, college basketball teams whose schools have a primary color of blue or orange had the two highest winning percentages of any color. "Blue" teams were winning NCAA tournament games at better than a 57 percent rate and "orange" teams won more than 54 percent of their tournament games.

Last season, three teams with a shade of blue as a primary color -- Kansas, Villanova and Michigan -- made the Final Four.

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Blue schools have combined for 22 national championships, the most of any color.

7. You've picked a No. 15 seed over a No. 2 seed without considering free throws

A common trait, if not the common trait among No. 15 seeds that have upset No. 2 seeds, is free throw shooting. And we're not talking about quality of free throw shooting, but rather quantity. Those upsets have historically come down to the No. 15 seed attempting and, more importantly, making more free throws than the No. 2 seed.

The last time we saw a 15-seed upset a 2-seed, when Middle Tennessee State beat Michigan State in 2016, the Blue Raiders went 13-of-21 from the charity stripe, while the Spartans made 10-of-15 shots from there. author Mitchell Northam contributed to this story.

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