March ranks high on the “favorite month” power rankings. Not only do we gain daylight hours and see the temperatures finally start to warm up, spring break ushers in a memorable and relaxing week off to say goodbye to winter.
Not everyone gets to take the family on a well-deserved vacation, though. For those that have to continue working through the third week of March, the NCAA March Madness offers up a great opportunity to enjoy one of the finest sporting events of the year.
Along with the games, comes the ever-popular bracket challenge, where millions of fans and non-fans compete in office pools to be the most accurate predictor of the 64-team field that often contains entries from schools that few have even heard of.
The odds of correctly picking an entire bracket correctly is almost impossible. In fact, only one verified entry has ever gotten into the Sweet 16 with every game correct. But those long odds won’t stop millions from trying for that elusive grand prize- or for simple bragging rights at the office.
Whether you’re a seasoned college basketball fan that can correctly pick 60 of the 64 entries correctly or someone roped in who just selects their favorite mascots, there are strategies that can help you win your bracket challenge in 2022.
Teams are favorites for a reason. While simply picking the favored team is boring, a 2009 research piece showed that simply picking all favorites through each tournament would result in a better win percentage over time than the average bracket score submitted online.
There are, of course, always upsets, but riding the pine minimizes damages when trying to be cute and predict the next 13-seed to advance to the Final Four can destroy your entire region and bracket.
Many 8 vs. 9 games actually have the lower seed favored, so pay attention to actual Vegas lines before simply picking the higher seed and seed if there are some actual hidden favorites.
Simply picking favorites is like playing the dark side in craps. It also takes away from the natural emotion of rooting for the underdogs, but it is a slow and steady way to approach a bracket with people who are casual fans or are simply roped into filling one out.
The vast majority of sports fans love rooting for underdogs and that’s especially true in March Madness when small schools that most have never heard of have the chance to take on the perennial powerhouse programs.
When those small schools occasionally make deep runs in the tournament, they can make headlines and garner a ton of attention and momentum.
There have been upsets in every bracket ever played and the 2021 version was chock-full of upsets up and down each region. Entires that took it cautiously and picked all favorites last year undoubtedly didn’t fare well overall.
The key to picking upsets, especially from small schools, is to do a little research. Some teams simply match up well in games while others enter the tournament on a hot streak. With games almost entirely being played in neutral locations, a little bit of research can help identify the next double-digit seed to win.
Don’t forget to join our free to play Vegas Whispers Bracket Challenge for a chance at a free year of Vegas Whispers Premium!
History of Seedings
1 vs. 16
In the entire history of the NCAA basketball tournament, there has only been one 16-seed to win. Famously, that was in 2018 when the UMBC Retrievers stunned Virginia, who was the overall No. 1 team in the entire field. Before that game, 16-seeds were 0-132 all-time.
2 vs. 15
The No. 15 seed has upset the No. 2 team nine times in NCAA history. The most recent 15 to win, of course, was Oral Roberts over Ohio State just last season. Overall, 2-seeds have won 93.75% of their games.
3 vs. 14
14-seeds have pulled the upset more than twice as often as 15s. We’ve seen the No. 3 team lose 22 times, which is over 15% of the time, including Abilene Christian taking down Texas last year.
4 vs. 13
Over 21% of 13-seeds have upset their opponents in the first round. This has occurred 31 times, including twice last season when North Texas upset Purdue and the Ohio Bobcats toppled Virginia.
5 vs. 12
Everyone’s favorite upsets to target are always the 12-seeds against the 5s. There are more seasons that have a 12 upset a 5 than there are seasons where the favorites win all four games. Overall, the 12s have won 51 times since the field expanded to 64 in 1985, 35.4% of the games.
6 vs. 11
In 2011 and 2016, three No. 6 seeds lost in the first round to really destroy a lot of brackets. In all, 11s have a slightly higher hit rate than the 12s, pulling the upset 54 times (37.5%.)
7 vs. 10
2007 was the last time that all four 7-seeds won in the first round. In 2019, three of the four 10-seeds pulled the upset in Round One. These matchups are often tricky, as it’s not unusual at all to see a 10 actually be favored by Vegas in the matchup. Dating back to ’85, there have been 57 instances of the 10-seed defeating the 7.
8 vs. 9
A proverbial coin flip, No. 9 seeds have gone 73-71 against 8-seeds since the field expanded to 64.
Sweet 16 Odds
A team must win their first two games Thursday-Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 round. Here are the times that lower-seeded teams have managed to advance to the third round.
16 – 0
15 – 2
14 – 2
13 – 6
12 – 21
11 – 24
10 – 23
Final Four Odds
To win their region and advance to the final four, a squad must pull off four victories. It’s exceedingly difficult for higher-seeded teams to keep up that kind of momentum and no team higher than an 8 seed has ever won an NCAA Championship. Here are the times a lower seed has won their region’s bracket and advanced to the Final Four.
11- LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), VCU (2011), Loyola-Chicago (2018), UCLA (2021)
10 – Syracuse (2006)
9 – Wichita State (2013)
8 – Villanova (1985), North Carolina (2000), Wisconsin (2000), Butler (2011), Kentucky (2014)
7 – UCONN (2004), Michigan State (2015), South Carolina (2017)
The lowest-seeded team to ever win an NCAA basketball championship.
8 – Villanova (1985)
7- UCONN (2014) defeated 8th-seeded Kentucky
6 – Kansas (1988)
Now that you know the history, it’s time to take your shot at that elusive perfect bracket. Don’t forget to join our free to play Vegas Whispers Bracket Challenge for a chance at a free year of Vegas Whispers Premium!