NCAA Tournament 2023: Where to find surprises in this year’s bracket based on past trends

There are few better feelings than nabbing an upset in your NCAA tournament. Whether it’s due to painstaking research or just plain luck, when you get a lower seed you often have a significant advantage in your bracket pool – not just in the first round, but beyond where your competitors may have a top- team that advanced even further.

It is therefore important to know how often to expect this type of excitement. It’s even helpful to have a general idea of ​​how many double-digit seeds to pick when making your selection. This is the 38th year since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (it was expanded again – to 68 – in 2011). Since that 1985 expansion, here’s the tally of seeded underdogs in the first round:

#9 vs. #8



#10 vs. #7



#11 vs. #6



#12 vs. #5



#13 vs. #4



#14 vs. #3



#15 vs. #2



#16 vs. #1



Here’s a few things we can take away:

  • The 8-9 game is almost a 50-50 split. Don’t fret too much about picking too many “upsets” here. Generally these teams are as balanced as they come. As you can see, there is a drop between the 9 over 8 win percentage and the 10 over 7 win percentage.
  • The likelihood of a seeding glitch decreases dramatically after the infamous 12-5 match. Since the 1985 expansion, 33 of the 37 NCAA tournaments have had at least one 12-for-5 glitch, and six of the last 10 have had several such upsets, including two last year.
  • That doesn’t mean you should be afraid to take a 13, 14 or 15 seed. These excitements happen, and they’ve been particularly prominent lately. In the last six tournaments, 12 teams seeded 13 or less have won in the first round. That’s two a year. Compare this to the previous six tournaments (2010-15) when only two teams with 13 or fewer seeded teams won the first round. Cinderella is back!

The hardest part, of course, is identification which low seeds you should take. Here’s a team from each lower starting line – 9 through 16 – that has the best chance of getting at least two songs at the Big Dance.

First-round opponents: Memphis Tigers

One of the deepest teams in March Madness, Florida Atlantic plays some of its best basketball games. Going deep with nine players, the Owls rampaged their way through the Conference USA tournament, winning the title game with a 22-point win over UAB. This is a really, really good team. No one, regardless of schedule or conference, wins 31 games by mistake.

The Owls had C-USA’s top offense and No. 2 defense, according to Kenpom’s numbers. They shoot the ball well, rebound extremely well – especially on defense – force a lot of turnovers and don’t commit too many themselves. It’s those last two attributes that will be crucial against Memphis. The tigers love to get out and run; their 19.6 transition points per game rank fourth in Division I. Florida Atlantic allows just 8.0 transition points per game — tied for 20th place in Division I — and ranks in the 93rd percentile when it comes to defense per Possession goes.

First Round Opponents: Northwestern Wildcats

Both Boise State (losing three of their last five) and Northwestern (losing four of their last five) are entering the NCAA tournament in small dips. But Boise State has a great chance to pull the (slight) upset here thanks to its length and strengths that pair well with Northwestern’s strengths. The Broncos have six regulars who are at least 6ft 5 tall, and that size — especially on the wings — could overwhelm a Northwestern team that relies on three-guard lineups. Northwestern’s greatest strength is forcing turnovers, but Boise State does a good job handling the ball, thanks in large part to outstanding point guard Marcus Shaver Jr. Boise State has a strong defense of its own, and it does it in a game , where margins will be thin Points will be very important, the Broncos could have more reliable scorers down the line.

First round opponents: Kentucky Wildcats

The top storyline of this game is Bryce Hopkins. After barely playing in Kentucky last season, Hopkins joined Providence and went on to become a First Team All-Big East performer. Standing at a sturdy 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Hopkins gets to the free throw line at will and has widened his open game. He will be a handful at both ends of the pitch for Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe, of course, represents Kentucky’s greatest strength: offensive rebounds. The Wildcats are seventh in Division I this season, 7.9 points behind on putbacks alone, but Providence has the staff to at least limit that impact. Coach Ed Cooley also has a bevy of experienced guards who are willing and able to take on big roles when the need arises. Kentucky looked like a title contender one day and a bubble team the next; Providence will be ready for any version that comes its way.

(12) VCU RAMs

First round opponents: Saint Mary’s Gaels

Two years ago, we were deprived of seeing one of the nation’s most entertaining guards – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland – when COVID-19 forced the VCU out of the tournament. Now the Rams are back with a new point guard (also with a great nickname) for America to fall in love with: Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr., the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year And Defensive Player of the Year.

VCU have won nine games in a row and are excellent defensively. Offensively, the Rams shoot the ball decently, but do a great job of getting to the free-throw line. Saint Mary’s are far from weak – the Gaels have won the West Coast Conference regular-season title after all – but once Baldwin picks up steam he will be the best player on the floor. This is a great ingredient for success in finding the 12-5 disorder.

First-round opponents: Indiana Hoosiers

Colleague David Cobb broke why Kent State could be a great Cinderella candidate, and I’m totally on board. However, the journey to Cinderella begins with the opening game. Indiana is good, but not unbeatable.

The Golden Flashes are great defensively and have an outstanding guard in Sincere Carry who – for lack of a better term – can carry the load offensively. He had 35 points in a win over Akron in the regular season finals and 26 more in the MAC Tournament title win against Toledo. The Golden Flashes are undersized and will struggle with Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis on the inside like almost every team does. But if carry can win its matchup with freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino at the point guard spot, Kent State has a chance to send the Hoosiers home.

First Round Opponents: Kansas State Wildcats

At this point, we’re looking for something—anything—that might create an excitement, and Montana State might have that “something” against Kansas State. The Bobcats reach the line at the second-highest rate of any NCAA tournament team, and the Wildcats allow a ton of free-throw attempts. While Kansas State has one of the best offensive duos in the country in Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, the Wildcats frequently flip the ball, a habit that can bite teams in the postseason. If Montana State can put one of Nowell or Johnson in early trouble, that’s a plus.

First round opponents: Texas Longhorns

Coach Matt Langel knows how to scare a high-level team. The Raiders had a late lead before finally falling to Wisconsin last year, jumped out to a huge lead before running out of breath against Arkansas in 2021, and nearly beat Tennessee in 2019. It seems unlikely they would finally break through against a The Texas team just clinched a Big 12 tournament title, but stranger things have been happening. The Raiders shoot the 3-pointer with the highest percentage in Division I. Also, they’re great inside the arc and rarely turn the ball over. Tucker Richardson – the rare Colgate grand piano, the is not a great outside shooter – had a triple-double in the Patriot League Tournament championship game and had double-doubles in the semifinals and quarterfinals.

First round opponents: Houston Cougars

One can always hope, right? Northern Kentucky is playing at one of the slowest paces in the nation, forcing a high turnover percentage and shooting decently from three. Guard Marques Warrick is a solid player who scored 45 points in a game against Tennessee Tech earlier this season.

As for the odds of beating Houston, that’s where the positives end. The idea here is that Houston is fighting enough off the field, and maybe Marcus Sasser (bar) isn’t quite 100%, and maybe Northern Kentucky can make enough 3-pointers and force enough turnovers and maybe somehow not get completely destroyed boards, and . .. You understand what is important. We’re probably not looking at UMBC 2.0.

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