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Daniel Wilco | | March 21, 2019

The world's favorite 16 seed to win a game in the 2019 NCAA tournament

Is this the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history?

NCAA tournament fans never forget. But in case you did: Last year, Virginia became the first-ever 1-seed to lose its opening-round game to a 16-seed. 

So it follows that this year, out of millions of brackets in our Bracket Challenge Game, the Cavaliers were the 1 seed picked most often to be upset in the first round. 

In total, 2.9 percent of all brackets picked Gardner-Webb to beat Virginia in Friday’s first-round game. That may not seem like much, but 16 seeds have won just 0.7 percent of the 136 games they’ve played (and even that number is probably a misrepresentation of the real odds). 

Last year, we saw a staggering eight percent of all brackets pick a 16 seed to win. That was the most in the eight-year history of the tournament. Since 2011, when just under two percent of all brackets picked a 16 seed, we had seen a fairly steady rise year over year.

But this year’s tournament saw users wise up a bit. Only 4.4 percent of all brackets had a 16 seed taking down a 1 seed this year — the fewest percentage since 2013.

Exactly why that number dropped is a mystery, but we’re guessing the gambler’s fallacy is at play — since it happened just last year, it can’t possibly happen again for a long time, right?

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY: Have 1 seed vs. 16 seed games been getting closer in March Madness?

Back to this year's picks. Naturally, the most popular champion pick in our bracket game — Duke — received the most confidence in the first round. The Blue Devils were picked to win in 98.5 percent of all brackets. 

Here are all four 1-v-16 game matchups ranked: 

Seed Team Picked to win Seed Team Picked to win
1 Duke 98.5% 16 ND St 1.5%
1 Gonzaga 97.4% 16 FDS 2.2%
1 Virginia 97.2% 16 Gardner-Webb 2.9%
1 North Carolina 98.1% 16 Iona 2.0%

College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
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