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Sports Betting Sites / How Many Upsets Are There In March Madness

How Many Upsets Are There In March Madness

Publish Date: 03/10/2023
Fact checked by: Allan Howe


If there was one thing that March Madness brings, it is plenty of opportunities for sports fans to place a bet. Whether you are a basketball die-hard or someone who just keeps an eye on this annual tournament, wagers will be made throughout.

This means you can either be someone who pores through the form guides, studies the latest injury news, and looks for whatever edge they can find over the sportsbooks or you could be someone who simply goes with the flow and bets using gut instinct alone.

Whatever the betting style that you decide to choose, the one thing you want to avoid is a March Madness upset. One where the minnow gets the better of the giant. Yes, it may make for a great headline but it can sometimes lead to your betting slip going into the bin.

A headline that only adds to the madness that unfolds in March and with every upset that is then recorded in the history books, the allure of this tournament continues to grow. The 2023 edition is just around the corner, there is surely another shock lying in wait.

If you can avoid the pitfalls that are waiting to catch you out, then a profitable tournament might not be all that far away. Of course, you still need to be wise but at least you will stay clear of the booby traps.

Of which there have certainly been many of the years and with that in mind, we are now going to look at some of the biggest upsets in March Madness history. Some you will undoubtedly remember and some you will certainly want to forget.

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While the best place to start is perhaps the biggest shock of all and in March Madness circles this means the tournament’s top seed is paired with the 16th seed in the First Round (64 teams) of the bracket and losing.

An outcome that has only happened once in March Madness history and one that took place in 2018. The top seed and overwhelming favorites were Virginia, their opponents would be UNMBC.

A pairing that would see very little offered in terms of sportsbooks odds, as Virginia was expected to get the job done with relative ease. Unfortunately for both they and those who set the moneyline, this did not prove to be the case.

Instead, it was UNBC who reigned supreme in what is considered the biggest tournament shock of all time. Simply put, a 16th seed is not meant to beat its top seed equivalent, in 2018 lightning really did strike and one wonders if this feat will be repeated in 2023.

While we should also follow up on how the UNBC Retrievers fared in the Second Round. Unfortunately for them, the path to glory would be blocked off by Kansas State as they lost by 50 points to 43.

The Second Seeds

Although there is just one example of the top seed crashing out in embarrassing circumstances, the next pairing has occurred slightly more often, Not a great deal more but still enough for 10 second seeds to be sent packing in the 64-team first round.

The most recent of these upsets took place just last year as Saint Peter’s got the better of Kentucky. It may have needed overtime for the deadlock to be broken but it would eventually allow the Peacocks to advance by virtue of an 85-79 win.

That shock came just one year after a similar outcome unfolded in the First Round of the 2021 March Madness tournament. Again, overtime was needed to split the difference and again, the 15th seed would eventually prevail.

This time it was Oral Roberts who came out on top, as they handed the embarrassment baton to Ohio State. 75-72 is the score in the history books, a result that will never be forgotten by those who wore the Golden Eagles jersey.

2016 would see Middle Tennessee get the better of Michigan, In this instance, there was no requirement for overtime, as a nine-point margin was recorded. However, that was not the biggest winning margin of a 10-game sample.

The biggest winning margin for an upset of this kind would come 19 years prior. Coppin State played the proverbial role of David and South Carolina would be cast as Goliath at the other end of the court.

10 games in our sample and this one saw a winning margin of 13 points. South Carolina had no answer as Coppin State hit basket after basket and recorded one of their most memorable March Madness victories.

A stunning performance in 1997 and the same could be said in 2013. That was the year that Georgetown was stunned by Florida Gulf Coast, as the latter earned a 10-point winning margin on the way to the Second Round.

1997 may have provided the year with the biggest winning margin between a 15th and second seed, but 2012 would be the year when more than one upset of this kind would be recorded.

Not one 15 vs 2 upset 11 years ago but two. First up Lehigh would be celebrating after getting the better of Duke. A 75-70 win may have been rather tense, an 86-64 victory for Norfolk State over Missouri would have been even more so.

Third Not Safe Either

If that was the pick of the bunch as far as second seeds and their most surprising First Round exits are concerned, we should also shine some light on those third seeds that have suffered a similar fate.

This time we will look at when the colleges that were handed third seeds in the Round of 64, were subsequently dumped out by their 14th-seeded counterparts. 10 surprises were recorded in the last combination, the reading gets worse this time around.

Because for 10 upsets, read 22 instead. In fairness, this does stand to reason that the number will increase the lower down we go - if only because the competitive balance is beginning to be redressed,

Then again, try telling that to any of the 31 colleges that have been sent home early in this manner and the most recent example of this was back in 2021, as Abilene Christian got the better of Texas,

The Lonestar State would have been feeling rather lonesome by the time the final buzzer was sounded, A 53-52 scoreline suggested a really tight affair on the court but unfortunately for Texas the score would not land in their favor.

No joy for Texas in 2021 and the same can be said for West Virginia in 2016. That was the year in which the bracket paired them with Stephen F. Austin and after a 70-56 defeat, the bracket would not open up to the second round.

This win for Stephen F. Austin would come a year after two more upsets were recorded in the annals of March Madness history. 2015 would also say earlier goodbyes than planned for both Baylor and Iowa State.

Two big scalps were claimed and were claimed by the pair of Georgia State and UAB. The former won their encounter by 57 points to 56, the latter also won by a single point in regulation time (60-59).

The upset double was also recorded in both 1995 and 1986 and there was a rather interesting run of results from 1986 to 1992. In each of these seven years, a third seed was sent home by a 14th equivalent.

Special mentions must be made and they go to the octuple of Cleveland State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Austin Peay, Murray State, Northern Iowa, Xavier, and East Tennessee State.

Each of these eight colleges was granted the 14th seed between 1986 and 1992, and each of them came out on top against far loftier opposition. The likes of Illinois, Indiana, and Arizona may want to look away now.

A Second Shock In Store

Of course, it is not only the First Round where the shocks take place, but the Second Round also is not immune to such upsets either. For those 15th seeds that were causing mischief earlier in the article, some would create more March Madness mayhem.

With the 15th seed progressing from the Round of 64, the logical conclusion is that a seventh seed would subsequently lie in wait in the Second Round and this was precisely the case in 2013, 2021, and 2022.

Not only was it precisely the case but it also saw another three upsets entered into the history books. The first of those was 10 years ago, as Florida Gulf Coast swirled past San Diego State by 81 points to 71.

One-nil to the 15th seeds and next up in this triumvirate of meetings would be Oral Roberts taking on Florida. Taking on and winning by 81 points to 78, they would also move on to the Sweet Sixteen.

We should not overlook Saint Peter’s either, as they completed the treble when it came to 15th seeds getting the better of seventh in the Second Round. Not wanting to be left out, they managed a 70-60 win and showed that no seeds are safe when it comes to March Madness.

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