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It’s March Madness, the NCAA Tournament is here, and we haven’t had one since 2019…almost 2 years since the last NCAA Tournament game was played. So can we pack two years of upsets into this postseason? It’s certainly possible. Let’s take a look at some of the notable upsets over the last few years, and I will tell you if there’s a chance of it happening in 2021.
16 vs 1 – No. 1 seed Virginia loses to No. 16 seed UMBC 84-64….TWENTY POINTS as a +2500 dog! This is the only time in history a 16 has upset a 1 and it may be the last, but that won’t stop bettors from lining up at the window this postseason to back the 16 seeds and their dream. For what it’s worth, Virginia came back in 2019 and won the National Championship… Chance of it happening in 2021? 0.00% chance.
15 vs 2 – Eight times in history we’ve seen a 15 seed upset a 2 seed, most recently in 2016 when Middle Tennessee shocked Michigan State 90-81. Before that it was Dunk City, Florida Gulf Coast upsetting Georgetown….can it happen this year? I believe it has just as good of a chance as any, especially with Oral Roberts, who boasts a top 10 scoring offense. If they get hot, they can keep pace with anyone. So watch out, Buckeyes, if you slip up, you could see your name on this list next year! Chances it happens this year? 25%.
14 vs 3 – 14 seeds have defeated 3 seeds exactly 21 times in tournament history, 15% of the games have ended in an upset. The most recent was in 2016, when Stephen F Austin beat West Virginia, and in 2015, when Georgia State upset Baylor (Baylor, we’re watching you this year…). And who could forget 2014 when mighty Mercer beat the Duke Blue Devils? Chances it happens this year? Unlikely in my opinion, since West Virginia is already on this list I do not see them coming on for a second visit by losing to Morehead State. The best shot a 14 has this year is Eastern Washington beating Kansas, but only if Kansas loses to COVID first….I give this a 0% chance this year.
13 vs 4 – Statistically, the closer the seeds get, the more often the upsets will happen, and a 13 has beaten a 4 seed exactly 29 times or 21% of the total times played. Most recently, 2019 gave us UC Irvine beating Kansas State (I had the UCI moneyline here :)), and in 2018 it happened twice with Buffalo whooping Arizona and Marshall shocking Wichita State. Watch out this year, because we could see it happen multiple times. Biggest chance this year would go to the Ohio Bobcats who are facing (technically) defending national champion Virginia. Virginia is a team that can sometimes struggle to score, and if Ohio gets hot, the Hoos could have some flashbacks of 2018’s nightmare. You can put Purdue in the same boat against North Texas, however Purdue is 17-2 in their last 19 first round games. The best 4 seed in my opinion is Liberty, however they have the toughest matchup against Oklahoma State. Chances of a 13 over a 4 this year? 75%. Very likely.
12 vs 5 – Now we get into the territory of “is this really an upset?” A 12 has beaten a 5 seed 50 times or 36% of the time. The last time it happened was in 2019, when three out of the four No. 5 seeds were upset. It WILL happen this year too. Where will it happen? A weak Colorado team could easily fall to a HOT Big East Champion Georgetown; Winthrop could easily beat a banged up Villanova squad, which lost its best player Conor Gillespie to a torn ACL; and finally Pac-12 champ Oregon State could carry their conference championship momentum in and give Tennessee a run for their money. There is a 100% chance a 12 beats a 5 this year. 100%!
We all know that 2020 was a wacky year in sports, and something tells me that the 2021 NCAA Tournament will continue that trend. We are about to see upsets, hearts broken, and champions crowned. So who do you give the best chance at pulling off the unthinkable upset?