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Adam Hermann | | February 20, 2019

What happens to teams' chances after an upset win?

UMBC upsets Virginia, 74-54

March Madness’s upset teams — 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 seeds — win in the first round 21.85 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 seven seeds following a first-round upset win, and that 21.85 percent figure leaps to 35.41 percent in the second round. 

First Round Win %s
Seed First round Ws First round Ls First round W%
10 52 84 38.24%
11 51 85 37.50%
12 47 89 34.56%
13 28 108 20.59%
14 21 115 15.44%
15 8 128 5.88%
16 1 135 0.74%
Totals 208 744 21.85%
Second Round Win %s
Seed Second round Ws Second round Ls Second round W%
10 23 29 44.23%
11 22 30 42.31%
12 20 27 42.55%
13 6 22 21.43%
14 2 19 9.52%
15 1 7 12.5%
16 0 1 0.00%
Totals 74 135 35.41%

Not bad at all. The only two seeds to see their chances drop in the second round are the 14 and 16 seeds. The former drops from 15.44 percent to 9.52 percent, and the latter from 0.74 percent to 0 percent. However, the 16 seeds should get a break here because they've only had one team play in the second round.

The 15 seeds, of course, also have a pretty small sample size: only eight of the 15 seeds have ever won a game. But out of those eight, one — Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 — won its second round game against No. 7-seed San Diego State. The 10, 11 and 12 seeds all improve by at least four percent. And one 11 seed, Loyola-Chicago, reached the Final Four.

How exactly do these runs 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 significant advantage against 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.

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