March Madness: 12 seeds still undervalued in NCAA tournament
No. 12 seeds are back.
After all No. 12 seeds fell in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, Yale and Little Rock brought the seed line back to fame with big upsets over their respective 5 seeds Thursday.
This really isn't much of a surprise, though, if you look at the data. At least one 12 seed has knocked out a 5 seed in now 28 of the past 32 tournaments, and 12 seeds have an impressive 35.4 winning percentage in the first round (that percentage is through 2015).
These 12-5 upsets always seem to be a popular pick among fans. However, they aren't popular enough.
When we looked at the last five years of data from the Capital One Bracket Challenge Game, we found users picked 12 seeds over 5 seeds just 22.5 percent of the time. This year, it was less. We picked 12-5 upsets 15.1 percent of the time.
That's a misstep from bracket pickers. For perspective: 33.7 percent of users selected at least one 11 seed to beat a 6, yet 11 seeds have a worse winning percentage than 12s (34.6 percent).
Thursday's action serves as the latest proof that 12 seeds deserve even more love from bracket pickers. Yale clearly outplayed Baylor for the majority of its upset win, and Little Rock more than proved it belonged against Purdue, coming from behind late in regulation and outlasting the Boilermakers after two high-intensity overtimes.
Interestingly enough, Yale and Arkansas-Little Rock were even more undervalued than the typical 12 seed. Only 19.6 percent and 13.1 percent of users picked the Bulldogs and Trojans to win their first-round game, respectively.
It's too late for us to atone for our 12-5 picking mistakes this year, but going forward there's no doubt we need to predict upsets in these games more often.