Data and sports go hand-in-hand these days. Whether it’s fans using advanced stats to argue over who the GOAT is, sportsbooks crunching numbers to set betting lines, or front offices analyzing years worth of film and stat sheets to determine who they’ll end up drafting, data is everywhere. And it comes in all sorts of different formats.
One major sports event that’s no stranger to data is everyone’s favorite early springtime tournament: March Madness. From basic team stats like average points-per game, to more complex things like KenPom ratings, the NCAA tournament has all metrics you could ever need.
Our friends over at OddsSeeker sat down to analyze the tournament this year, and more specifically, they looked at the history of upsets on college basketball’s biggest stage. Here’s what they found.
The History of March Madness Upsets
In their research, OddsSeeker took a look at all upsets in the tournament from the years 2000 to 2022. They defined an upset as a win by a team who was seeded five or more seeds below their opponent on the bracket.
Since 2000, they found a total of 176 upsets over the span of 22 years. That’s over two March Madness tournaments worth of upsets! Of those 176 upsets, 110 occurred in the first round, 50 happened in round two, six came from the Sweet 16, and there were 7 in the Elite Eight with the final 3 in the Final Four.
OddsSeeker calculated an average of eight upsets per year, with 5 happening in the first round on average, 2.27 in the second, .27 in the Sweet 16, .318 in the Elite Eight, and .136 in the Final Four. How does that compare to this year? Well, we saw four upsets in the 2023 March Madness tournament’s first round, another three in the second round, and one in both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.. One of those first round upsets was Purdue, a 1 seed, losing to Fairleigh Dickinson University (16), which only happened one other time in 2018.
This past weekend of games saw FAU (9) add two more upsets to the total with their wins over Tennessee (4) in the Sweet 16 and Kansas State (3) in the Elite 8. While a win next week against San Diego State (5) in the Final Four wouldn’t technically qualify as an upset, it’d be pretty close. Should they end up winning against SDSU, AND end up facing University of Connecticut (4), AND winning it all, they’ll end their tournament run with one last upset.
How Do Conferences Perform?
Another piece of data OddsSeeker dug into was how each conference performs as far as March Madness upsets go. And… well… surprise surprise, the Big Ten leads the way with experiencing the most upsets among all conferences since 2000.
It’s a tough statistic to come to terms with given it’s one of our favorite conferences, but the numbers don’t lie. Technically, Purdue was the only Big Ten school to be upset this year with eight of the conference’s schools making it. But, they were really the only Big Ten school in a position to be upset with the five seed or more difference qualification set by OddsSeeker. In the second round, Michigan State upset Marquette as a 7-seed beating a 2-seed. So with one upset given and one taken, we can essentially call this year a wash for the Big Ten…. right?
Visit OddsSeeker to check out more of the data behind March Madness upsets and see what they uncovered in their latest research. It just might help you fill out that bracket next year!
Featured image credit: Northwestern Men’s Basketball on Instagram.