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Adam Hermann | | March 16, 2018

What happens to teams' chances after an upset win?

March Madness’s upset teams — 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 seeds — win in the first round 25.51 percent of the time. But what happens to their chances once they secure that rare win?

They increase!

We looked into every outcome since 1985 for those six seeds following a first-round upset win, and that 25.51 percent figure leaps to 35.46 percent in the second round. 

First Round Win %s
Seed First round Ws First round Ls First round W%
10 51 81 38.64%
11 49 83 37.12%
12 47 85 35.61%
13 26 106 19.70%
14 21 111 15.91%
15 8 124 6.06%
Totals 202 590 25.51%
Second Round Win %s
Seed Second round Ws Second round Ls Second round W%
10 23 28 45.09%
11 20 30 40.00%
12 20 27 42.55%
13 6 20 23.07%
14 2 19 9.52%
15 1 7 12.5%
Totals 72 131 35.46%

Not bad at all. The only seed to see its chances drop in the second round is the 14-seed, which falls from 15.91 percent to 9.52 percent. Every other seed improves at least three percent. The 15 seed, of course, has a pretty small sample size: only eight 15 seeds have ever won a game. But out of those eight, one — Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 — won its second round game over No. 7-seed San Diego State.

How does this influence this year’s bracket? Take No. 11-seed Loyola (IL), which topped No. 6-seed Miami on Thursday. The Ramblers had a 37.12 percent chance to win in the first round. Then they won! Now, their chances of reaching the Sweet 16 have ticked up to 40 percent when they face No. 3-seed Tennessee on Saturday.

Why exactly does this happen? A couple factors are decidedly in the double-digit seeds’ favor: 

1. The next opponent probably hasn’t seen much on this team. Often this is a mid-major conference champion, meaning they generally operate outside the national conversation. It’s harder to prepare for a team you don’t know very well, especially on a short turnaround.

2. Sheer confidence! The double-digit squad is flying as high as it has all season long. An NCAA tournament win over a team the nation believed was better? That’s a huge boost in the momentum department.

The higher-seeded team still holds a nearly two-to-one advantage over teams riding the high of an upset, but the numbers say things are trending up once you get one — and in March, all you need is one.