March Madness Upsets: How to Spot Them with These Integral Trends

August 18, 2023

When it comes to March Madness, witnessing favored teams fall can be even more exhilarating with stakes on the underdog. Given historical outcomes, we delve into shared characteristics among NCAA Tournament upsets, offering insights that could enhance your betting strategies. 

As the echoes of UMBC’s monumental victory over Virginia still resonate, let’s explore trends that could provide a competitive edge in the chaos of college basketball’s grand spectacle.

Top-Five Seeds Overshadow Mid-Majors

Over the past six years, an unsettling pattern has emerged, highlighting the vulnerability of mid-major teams that secure top-five seeds. The spotlight shines on non-Gonzaga mid-majors that have faltered under the pressure of high expectations. 

A remarkable 12 out of 15 such teams suffered opening-round losses, with another six falling in the subsequent round. These upsets, often accompanied by ATS losses, underscore the unpredictability of the tournament and the potential value of betting against heavily favored mid-majors.


Year Mid-Major Seed Result Score Spread
2021 #2 Houston Lost 78-59 +5.0  
2019 #3 Houston Lost 62-58 +2.0  
2018 #2 Cincinnati Lost 75-73 -4.5  
2018 #4 Wichita State Lost 81-75 -13.0  
2015 #5 Northern Iowa Lost 66-53 +2.0  
2014 #5 VCU Lost 77-75 OT -5.5  
2014 #5 Cincinnati Lost 61-57 -3.5  
2014 #4 San Diego State Lost 70-64 +6.5  
2014 #5 St. Louis Lost 66-51 +9.0  
2013 #5 VCU Lost 78-53 +3.0  
2013 #5 UNLV Lost 64-61 -3.0  
2013 #4 St. Louis Lost 74-57 -3.5  
2012 #5 Temple Lost 58-44 -2.0  
2012 #5 Wichita State Lost 62-59 -8.5  
2012 #5 New Mexico Lost 59-56 +1.5  

Seven-Year Pattern Emerges: Alert for #11 Seeds

The NCAA Tournament has traditionally rewarded higher-seeded teams with safer passage through the early rounds. However, a compelling seven-year trend has emerged, where #11 seeds have defied historical norms and achieved remarkable success. With a notable win rate surpassing #12 seeds, #11 seeds have significantly impacted. 

Their exceptional performance over the last seven years, including multiple advancements to the Round of 32 and a consistent win rate of 60%, challenges conventional wisdom and beckons bettors to consider their upset potential.


Year Team Opponent Result
2021 #11 UCLA #6 BYU Win
2021 #11 Syracuse #6 San Diego State Win
2019 #11 Ohio State #6 Iowa State Win
2018 #11 Loyola-Chicago #6 Miami Win
2018 #11 Syracuse #6 TCU Win
2017 #11 Xavier #6 Maryland Win
2017 #11 Rhode Island #6 Creighton Win
2017 #11 USC #6 SMU Win
2016 #11 Wichita State #6 Arizona Win
2016 #11 Northern Iowa #6 Texas Win
2016 #11 Gonzaga #6 Seton Hall Win
2015 #11 UCLA #6 SMU Win
2015 #11 Dayton #6 Providence Win
2014 #11 Tennessee #6 UMass Win
2014 #11 Dayton #6 Ohio State Win


Favor Rankings Over Selection Committee Picks for Betting

In strategic betting, disparities between the Selection Committee’s seedings and analytics-driven rankings provide a unique opportunity. Examining the performance of teams ranked within’s top-35 that received #11 seeds or worse reveals a compelling trend. These teams have demonstrated a commendable 22-15 straight-up record (including First Four play-in games) and an 18-15 record excluding the First Four. 

The alignment of rankings with on-court outcomes offers a statistical advantage, empowering bettors to make informed decisions when considering potential upsets.





KP Rank



Saint Mary’s



First Round (0-1)





Final Four (4-1)


Rhode Island



Second Round (1-1)





Elite 8 (3-1)


Kansas St.



First Round (1-1 incl. First Four)





Sweet 16 (2-1)


Wichita State



Second Round (2-1 incl. First Four)





First Four (0-1)

Identifying Vulnerable #1 and #2 Seeds for Upsets

Betting on the fall of a #1 or #2 seed can yield substantial returns, but it requires a discerning approach. Although such upsets are relatively rare, analyzing historical data reveals intriguing insights. Among the key findings, teams that exhibit weaknesses in either offensive or defensive efficiency, as well as those that favor a slow tempo, are more susceptible to early-round upsets. 

By identifying teams with these characteristics, bettors can strategically assess matchups and the potential for unexpected outcomes. 


Year Team KP Off. Rank KP Def. Rank KP Tempo Rank
2021 #2 Ohio State 4th 82nd 251st
2018 #1 Virginia 30th 1st 351st
2016 #2 Michigan State 2nd 26th 254th
2013 #2 Georgetown 80th 4th 300th
2012 #2 Duke 8th 79th 108th
2012 #2 Missouri 1st 111th 152nd

While betting on #1 and #2 seeds to lose in the first round is rare, certain traits signal vulnerability. Teams with notable offensive or defensive efficiency weaknesses, particularly those that play at a slower tempo, have been more prone to upsets. 

This strategic insight can guide decisions when evaluating high-seeded matchups.

With these trends and data in mind, you’re better equipped to navigate the excitement of March Madness. Calculated bets make for a winning strategy, and responsible gambling is paramount. As you explore our comprehensive strategy section, embrace the unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament and make informed choices that elevate your betting experience.

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