History tells us that multiple double-digit seeds will win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
In the average year, 6.03 teams seeded 10th or higher win their opening round games. If you’re going to pick a perfect bracket and win Warren Buffett’s $US1 billion, you need to pick some upsets.
Ken Pomeroy runs college basketball’s most respected advanced stats site. He published the data from his bracket prediction algorithm, and it should give you a starting points for picking upsets.
The seven most likely first-round upsets, according to KenPom’s ratings:
- Arizona State (10) over Texas (7), 47.7% chance (Nate Silver: 50%)
- Harvard (12) over Cincinnati (5), 43.7% chance (Silver: 42%)
- Stanford (10) over New Mexico (7), 43.1% chance (Silver: 36%)
- Nebraska (11) over Baylor (6), 41.1% chance (Silver: 30%)
- Tennessee (11) over UMass (6), 40.9% chance (Silver: 36%)*
- Providence (11) over UNC (6), 40.6% chance (Silver: 32%)
- BYU (10) over Oregon (7), 40.0% chance (Silver: 35%)
*The number for Tennessee is superficially low because they have to play a play-in game on Wednesday night, and that 40.9% figure factors in their chances of losing before they advance to face UMass.
There are a few interesting tidbits here. Baylor is a trendy pick to make a deep run, but the maths has them as the most-likely 6th seed to go down in the first round (although Silver’s model disagrees). In general, the 6-seeds are pretty weak this year.
The most likely upsets by seed:
Most likely 10 over 7: Arizona State over Texas, 47.7%
Most likely 11 over 6: Nebraska over Baylor, 41.1%
Most likely 12 over 5: Harvard over Cincinnati, 43.7%
Most likely 13 over 4: New Mexico State over San Diego St., 27.4%
Most likely 14 over 3: NC Central over Iowa State, 26.8%
Most likely 15 over 2: American over Wisconsin, 17.8%
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