When looking for possible upsets to pencil in the bracket, there are multiple sets of metrics to sort through. I prefer the KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency rankings when making the decision on what upsets are most likely. Of course, this tournament is so unpredictable and that’s what makes it fantastic.
I have compiled data on the 12-15 seed upsets for the last 7 years to give you a little more information to find Cinderella. Last year, the only “upset” was MTSU over Minnesota in a 12/5.
(Note: O-EF is offensive efficiency, D-EF is defensive efficiency, DOG is the underdog’s added rankings, and FAV is the favorite’s added rankings).
|12 MTSU||55||47||5 Minnesota||81||18||102||99|
|12 Yale||92||21||5 Baylor||13||72||113||85|
|12 UALR||85||35||5 Purdue||21||18||120||39|
|13 Hawaii||105||41||4 California||47||15||146||62|
|14 SF Austin||65||29||3 WVU||23||6||94||29|
|15 MTSU||197||71||2 Michigan St||2||19||268||21|
|14 Georgia St||56||102||3 Baylor||13||32||158||45|
|14 UAB||129||128||3 Iowa State||7||82||257||89|
|12 Harvard||47||34||5 Cincinnati||110||8||81||118|
|12 SF Austin||38||102||5 VCU||107||6||140||113|
|12 NDSU||29||131||5 Oklahoma||16||91||160||107|
|14 Mercer||76||119||3 Duke||2||116||195||118|
|12 Oregon||94||10||5 Ok State||68||15||104||83|
|12 Ole Miss||31||63||5 Wisconsin||108||1||94||109|
|14 Harvard||73||145||3 New Mexico||53||18||218||71|
|15 FGCU||104||109||2 G’Town||78||2||213||80|
|12 Cal||100||38||5 UNLV||135||11||138||146|
|13 LaSalle||36||99||4 Kansas St||15||56||135||71|
|12 VCU||102||19||5 Wichita St||14||31||121||45|
|15 Lehigh||71||102||2 Duke||10||81||173||91|
|15 Norfolk St||181||177||2 Missouri||1||146||358||147|
|12 S. Florida||169||4||5 Temple||27||104||173||130|
|13 Ohio||88||40||4 Michigan||19||61||128||80|
|12 Richmond||36||59||5 Vandy||12||129||95||141|
|13 Morehead St||117||73||4 Louisville||55||3||190||58|
Let’s look at some trends since 2011:
*There have been 25 such upsets in the last seven years…so pick at least 3-4 in your bracket if you want to live a little.
*20 of 25 upsets included teams with an offensive or defensive efficiency outside of the Top 50. In 2017, Minnesota’s offensive efficiency was outside of the Top 50.
*Of the 25 upsets, 22 of the teams had a combined ranking of 225 or less.
*Only three of the upsets featured lower-seeded teams with an offensive or defensive efficiency ranking outside the Top 150.
*Since 2011: 12 seeds are 12-16; 13 seeds are 4-24; 14 seeds are 5-23; 15 seeds are 4-24.
*The last six upsets, the 12-15s were more efficient on defense than offense.
2018 Efficiency Ratings
|12 Davidson||18||115||5 Kentucky||25||23||133||48|
|12 S. Dakota St||41||148||5 Ohio State||27||16||189||43|
|12 Murray St||56||82||5 WVU||14||39||138||53|
|12 New Mex St||116||14||5 Clemson||48||8||130||56|
|13 Buffalo||42||138||4 Arizona||15||70||180||85|
|13 UNCG||164||30||4 Gonzaga||12||17||194||29|
|13 Marshall||96||144||4 Wichita St||5||107||240||108|
|13 Charleston||87||167||4 Auburn||16||44||254||60|
|14 Wright St||248||53||3 Tennessee||40||4||301||44|
|14 Montana||82||65||3 Michigan||29||5||147||34|
|14 SF Austin||177||67||3 Texas Tech||46||3||244||49|
|14 Bucknell||99||112||3 Michigan St||9||9||211||18|
|15 Georgia St||101||106||2 Cincinnati||54||2||207||56|
|15 Lipscomb||197||131||2 UNC||4||34||328||38|
|15 CS Fullerton||176||134||2 Purdue||2||28||310||30|
|15 Iona||80||212||2 Duke||3||7||292||10|
Two matchups feature higher seeds with at least one sub Top 50 efficiency rating and lower seeds with a combined ranking of 225 or less.
13 Buffalo vs 4 Arizona
15 Georgia St vs 2 Cincinnati
Most Likely Upsets (one per line)
12 New Mexico St vs. 5 Clemson
This one is going to be a defensive battle, as both teams are in the Top 15 in defensive efficiency. Clemson has played pretty well since Grantham went out, but I like the Aggies in an upset here.
13 Marshall vs 4 Wichita St
I may be in the minority here, but I don’t think Wichita is that good. They are 107th in defensive efficiency, and Marshall is red hot. This one wouldn’t surprise me.
14 Montana vs. 3 Michigan
Michigan is a popular Elite 8/Final 4 team, and Bilas/Greenberg/Williams all have them going that far. According to the rankings, Montana is the 4th strongest team on the 12-15 lines. The Grizzlies have won 19 of 21.
15 Georgia State vs. 2 Cincinnati
When teams struggle to score, they can be ripe for an upset. This one fits the bill with the recipe for an upset with Georgia State under 225 in combined ranking, and Cincinnati’s 54th ranked offense.
Plus, Ron Hunter falling off the chair will always be classic.