March Madness: Ranking the Most Likely 12/5 Upsets, Presented By The Belko Experiment
Over the last 15 NCAA Tournaments, we've seen a 12 seed knock off a 5 seed 26 times, good for a 43.33% rate. And only two tourneys -- that's 2 of 15 -- over this time period saw zero 12-5 upsets.
It's probably going to happen again this year. So be prepared for it.
How can you be ready? By utilizing numberFire and our metrics, of course.
So let's do just that. Here's a look at the least probable to most probable 12-5 upset in this year's tournament, ranked by nERD. For those of you who may be new to the site, nERD measures the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one on a neutral court.
4. Virginia (5) vs. UNC Wilmington (12)
You might recall, but North Carolina-Wilmington played Duke well last year in the big dance, losing as a 13 seed by single-digit points. They were actually within five points with under a minute and a half left in the game. That team's returning many of their starters, which could spell trouble for the 5-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the "second round" of this year's tournament.
Virginia's known for playing at a snail's pace, which actually is intriguing when you think upset: fewer possessions means more volatility, which could result in a higher chance of an upset. With that being said, though, Virginia has a nERD -- the number of points we'd expect them to win by against an average squad on a neutral court -- of 17.31, which is ninth-best in all of college basketball. UNC Wilmington's nERD of 8.55 suggests they'll lose this game by almost nine points. They may just be overmatched in this one.
3. Notre Dame (5) vs. Princeton (12)
According to our numbers, Princeton is the worst of all the 12 seeds with a nERD of just 6.52. That type of rating usually goes to a 13 seed in the tournament.
Notre Dame and their 13th-ranked adjusted offensive rating will be a tough out -- since the start of February, the Fighting Irish have lost just three games, each coming against brutally tough competition in Louisville, North Carolina, and Duke. Over this stretch, they've taken down Florida State twice and Virginia, among others.
Despite the fact that Princeton rolled through the Ivy League this season without a loss, our numbers aren't in love with them, especially with no meaningful wins outside their conference.
2. Iowa State (5) vs. Nevada (12)
The average nERD of a 5 seed since 2000 has been 13.01, so Iowa State's 15.62 mark makes them an above-average team for the seed. But Nevada's 9.46 nERD is 1.03 points better than the average 12 seed, so it looks like the committee just undervalued both teams in this year's tourney.
Iowa State is an experienced team with good guard play, and the team ended up shooting over 40% from downtown this year. Nevada was 13th-best in three-point shooting percentage against, though, which could make them a tough out. We expect Iowa State to win, but don't be surprised if it's close.
1. Minnesota (5) vs. Middle Tennessee (12)
The bracket gods -- the selection committee -- blessed us with a 12-5 matchup between the worst 5 seed and nearly the best 12 seed in the tournament. That screams upset.
Middle Tennessee has lost once since the calendar flipped to 2017, and they have wins this year against the aforementioned UNC Wilmington and Vanderbilt. Despite playing in the Conference USA, they had a strength of schedule this year that ranked in the 50th percentile among all Division I teams.
Minnesota has a nERD of just 12.04, which is a full point below the average 5 seed mark we've seen over the last decade and a half. And while they've had some strong wins over the second half of the season, they're just 9-7 over their last 16 games.
If our numbers were to favor any 12-5 upset to happen, it'd be this one.