So, how many brackets actually picked UMBC to beat Virginia?
In 33 years of picking NCAA tournament brackets, the Holy Grail — being among the chosen to choose the first-ever 16-v-1 upset — has always been out of reach. Until now.
UMBC's historic upset over top overall seed Virginia broke a 135-game streak that dated back to the introduction of the 16 seed in 1985.
But exactly how many people picked the Retrievers and earned the ultimate bracket bragging rights?
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Don't worry, if anyone you know is one of them, they'll tell you.
Seeing that many people pick something that had never happened before isn't too surprising. Over the last eight years, a growing number of fans have been picking 16 seeds over 1 seeds, according to data pulled from all BCG brackets.
In fact, the UMBC game wasn't even the 16-1 upset that was picked the most in 2018.
That would be Penn over Kansas, picked in 3.28 percent of all BCG brackets, making it the most popular 16-v-1 upset pick since we started tracking. The Jayhawks won that game 76-60.
UMBC ranks as the sixth-most popular 16-seed pick since 2011:
|Year||1-v-16 matchup||% picked 16 seed||Result|
|2018||Kansas vs. Penn||3.28%||Kansas wins 76-60|
|2015||Villanova vs. Lafayette||3.05%||Villanova wins, 93-52|
|2016||Virginia vs. Hampton||2.85%||Virginia wins, 81-45|
|2017||Gonzaga vs. South Dakota State||2.73%||Gonzaga wins, 66-46|
|2016||UNC vs. FGCU||2.69%||UNC wins, 83-67|
|2018||Virginia vs. UMBC||2.18%||UMBC wins, 74-54|
|2018||Xavier vs. Texas Southern||2.12%||Xavier wins, 102-83|
|2017||UNC vs. Texas Southern||1.98%||UNC wins, 103-64|
|2016||Oregon vs. Holy Cross||1.98%||Oregon wins, 91-52|
|2017||Villanova vs. Mt. St. Mary's||1.79%||Villanova wins 76-56|
The trend is definitely upwards. This year, 7.95 percent of all brackets had at least one 16 seed over a 1 seed.
That's a record high, and a huge jump from when we started tracking in 2011, when that number was just 1.74 percent.
Of the past 24 1-v-16 games, 22 have had more than 1 percent of bracket-pickers going for the 16 seed. Seven matchups have seen the 16 seed picked in over 2 percent of all brackets. That was a lot of confidence in something that had never happened before. We're sure this number will increase drastically next year, now that the Retrievers have shown what's possible.
Each of the No. 16 seeds was selected in at least 1.6 percent of all brackets this year. In 2011, not one No. 16 was picked on more than 1 percent of the brackets.
Here’s a look at the numbers:
|Virginia vs. UMBC||2.18%|
|Villanova vs. Radford||1.69%|
|Kansas vs. Penn||3.28%|
|Xavier vs. Texas Southern||2.12%|
|Villanova vs. Mt. St. Mary's||1.79%|
|Gonzaga vs. South Dakota State||2.73%|
|Kansas vs. UC Davis||1.71%|
|UNC vs. Texas Southern||1.98%|
|Kansas vs. Austin Peay||1.45%|
|Oregon vs. Holy Cross||1.98%|
|UNC vs. FGCU||2.69%|
|UVA vs. Hampton||2.85%|
|Villanova vs Lafayette||3.05%|
|Wisconsin vs Coastal Carolina||1.67%|
|Kentucky vs Hampton||1.29%|
|Duke vs Robert Morris||1.27%|
|Wichita State vs Cal Poly||1.67%|
|Virginia vs Coastal Carolina||1.58%|
|Arizona vs Weber State||1.34%|
|Florida vs Albany||1.21%|
|Gonzaga vs Southern||1.47%|
|Kansas vs W Kentucky||1.46%|
|Indiana vs James Madison||0.90%|
|Louisville vs NC A&T||0.58%|
|Syracuse vs UNC-Asheville||1.64%|
|Michigan State vs Long Island||1.46%|
|Kentucky vs W Kentucky||0.55%|
|North Carolina vs Vermont||0.55%|
|Kansas vs Boston||0.91%|
|Pittsburgh vs UNC-Asheville||0.83%|
|Ohio State vs Texas-San Antonio||0.57%|
|Duke vs Hampton||0.54%|
Why do we pick 16 seeds at this rate? After all, when brackets were being filled out this year, the 16 seed was 0-132 against the No. 1 seed. Not only was it the lone seed without a win in the tournament, 16 seeds had lost by an average margin of almost 25 points per game.
Perhaps couch bracketologists were buying into the gambler's fallacy (which doesn't seem so fallible now), that, eventually, the number was going to come up for a No. 16 seed and, when it does, everyone wants to say they called it.
Before the 2018 tournament, the No. 15 seed has won eight of its 132 games vs. the No. 2 seed. That probably leads to a sprinkling of No. 16 picks, too.
Another possible reason No. 16s seem increasingly attractive: The number of people who pick brackets online is increasing. Though you'd think percentages would stay constant, if a growing audience means more casual fans, perhaps that means more who are willing to take a risk -- or less aware of how risky it is for your bracket.
Bracket experts will tell you that picking a No. 16 seed is a horrible risk-reward proposition. Yes, even after UMBC's win. Since a 16 seed is unlikely to advance to the Sweet 16 as well, that huge upset pick is liable to earn only a single point in your bracket.
The moral: A No. 1 seed still is the most likely NCAA champion and Final Four participant. So picking the upset might be good for bragging rights, but it could take you out of contention very early if you're wrong. But UMBC has opened the floodgates, and where's the fun in listening to reason now?