March Madness is about to begin, and like many others we’re filling out our NCAA brackets hoping we’ll pick the winner. We decided to use Grow to visualize data from the last 20 NCAA men’s basketball tournaments to help us make the best possible selections for our brackets according to the numbers.
Where are upsets most likely to occur?
Using the chart of first round data above, we can see that in the last 20 years:
- A 1st seed has never lost to a 16th seed
- A 2nd seed loses to a 15th seed 6.3% of the time
- A 3rd seed loses to a 14th seed 12.5% of the time
- A 4th seed loses to a 13th seed 20% of the time
- A 5th seed loses to a 12th seed 40% of the time
- A 6th seed loses to an 11th seed 41.3% of the time
- A 7th seed loses to a 10th seed 42.5% of the time
- An 8th seed loses to a 9th seed 43.8% of the time
According to first round numbers, we decided it was best to pick the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeds to win.
After that, however, the data showed decent odds of a 13th seed beating a 4th seed. Despite a larger difference in their seeds, a 12th seed has about the same possibility of beating a 5th seed as a 9th seed does of beating an 8th seed. We’d recommend seeing if the 5th through the 12th seed teams have played against the same opponent that season and evaluate how they each performed during those games, which may give you a good idea of who is more likely to advance.
What seed is most likely to win it all?
For a better chance of selecting who the winner will be, we analyzed which seed ranking won the most over the last 20 years. A 1st seed team won 13 out of the last 20 tournaments. So according to the data, there is a 65% chance that a number one seed will win it all.
If you want to press your luck, you can pick a 2nd or 3rd seed. But there is only a 15% chance that a 2nd seed will win and a 15% chance that a 3rd seed will win.
Interestingly, only one team without a top three seed has pulled off a win in the last 20 years: the 7th seed Connecticut Huskies in 2014.
While reviewing this data, we had some other interesting discoveries: Connecticut is the only team to win in each of the rankings represented on the chart. They won as a 1st seed in 1999, a 2nd seed in 2004, a 3rd seed in 2011, and a 7th seed in 2014.
With four wins, Connecticut has the most championships from the last 20 years. Duke and North Carolina each have three championships, which ties them for the second most championships in the last 20 years.
Florida is the only team to win back-to-back championships in the last 20 years. They did so as a 3rd seed in 2006 and a 1st seed in 2007.
Who has the best all-time winning percentage?
We looked at the number of times a team has won and lost since the first NCAA Men’s basketball tournament began in 1943. There are several teams that only made it to the final game once and won, which gave them a perfect winning percentage when they made it to the final game. But we wanted to look at the winning percentage of some of the teams that made it more than once. Here are some of the insights that stuck out to us:
- Connecticut has four championship appearances and no losses meaning they win 100% of the time when they get to the final game. They’ve also won against 4 different opponents.
- UCLA has 11 championships and two losses meaning they win 84.6% of the time when they get to the final game.
- Indiana has five championships and one loss meaning they win 83.3% of the time when they get to the final game.
- Kentucky has eight championships and four losses meaning they win 66.7% of the time when they get to the final game.
- North Carolina has five championships and five losses meaning they win 50% of the time when they get to the final game.
- Duke has five championships and six losses meaning they win 45.5% of the time when they get to the final game.
- Kansas has three championship and four losses meaning they win 42.9% of the time when they get to the final game.
- Michigan has one championship and four losses meaning they win 20% of the time when they get to the final game.
Good luck on making this year’s March Madness bracket. We hope this data helps you make a better decision.
If you’d like to know how we created the charts we used in this post, check out Grow.