Filling out a March Madness bracket can be a stressful endeavor — every year lower-seeded teams upset higher-seeded opponents, leaving sports fans flummoxed. But as the Round of 64 games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are set to tip off Thursday afternoon, the data's in on which teams could pull off upsets.
The popular bracket destination ESPN has listed the percentage of entrants who have picked each team in the college hoops tournament to win in each round. As of Thursday morning, the data hint at which teams fans expect to be responsible for upsets. The most popular upset pick is a slight underdog, with 71.5 percent of entrants choosing the No. 9 seed University of Connecticut over the No. 8 seed University of Colorado. Connecticut has won the NCAA championship four times, and twice since 2011, so fans could be counting on the historically successful program to outdo a school that hasn’t made the Sweet 16 since 1963.
Fans are also bullish on No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth University, which takes on No. 7 seed Oregon State University in the Round of 64. A little more than 58 percent picked the Rams over the Beavers. It’s become a popular notion that a No. 12 seed frequently tops a No. 5 seed. According to ESPN’s data, the most popular No. 12 seed this year is Yale University, with 20 percent of entrants picking the Ivy League school over No. 5 seed Baylor University. The data-focused website FiveThirtyEight appears to agree with the fans’ choice, giving Yale a 39 percent chance of winning its opening matchup, the best odds among all the No. 12 seeds.
Fans hoping for major upsets may be interested to learn FiveThirtyEight is seemingly high on No. 13 seed University of Hawaii and No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin State University, giving each squad a 15 percent chance of winning in the Round of 64. For those who focus more on their gut feelings than on data, No. 11 seed Wichita State University could be a popular upset choice. Four of five CBS experts picked the Shockers, to well, shock, No. 6 seed University of Arizona. Wichita State has found success in recent tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2015 and all the way to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed in 2013.
Upsets happen just about every year during March Madness, but a No. 16 seed has yet to topple a No. 1 seed. For fans hopeful 2016 is finally the year for the former, the most popular choices were Hampton University and Florida Gulf Coast University. According to the ESPN data, the two schools were each picked to win by 2.7 percent of entrants.