We are data reporters from NCAA.com, focused (for the time being) on NCAA tournament history and brackets.

We’ve spent the past few months researching and writing stories on the history of the NCAA tournament, statistics on how current and past bracket players have picked their brackets, and tips for picking your bracket. You can find all of them at our Bracket Beat hub page.

Last night, we also launched our Madness Matchup Tool. The tool is powered by data from every NCAA tournament game played (not including the First Four or play-in games, for seed purposes) since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Fun fact of the day: Through the end of the 2016 tournament, there have been 2,016 such games.

In case you didn’t know, the 2017 NCAA tournament bracket was released yesterday afternoon.

Ask us anything about 2017’s bracket or any other piece of NCAA tournament history, stats or trivia.

And when you’re looking for a place to put all of this knowledge to use, feel free (and encouraged) to join our Bracket Challenge Game, the only bracket game where you can watch every NCAA tournament game live right from your bracket.

Note: We are NOT the selection committee. Trust us, we had absolutely no say in the bracket.

Proof: https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/841313150637092869

EDIT: This has been fantastic, but we're signing off now. Good luck with your brackets. If you do really well, we get all the credit, but if you don't you're not allowed to blame us. Those are the rules.

Comments: 1761 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Snakebite71925 karma

Every year I pick based on which mascot would win in a hypothetical fight.

Based on your expertise, how should I handle games between birds (or other flying things) against storms (like cyclones and hurricanes)?

I would assume that the storms would win, but the birds could simply outfly the storm until it dissipates.

NCAAcom2356 karma

Great strategy. Bird and Weather teams have only met 11 times in the NCAA tournament since 1985, and your first guess is correct — Weather teams hold the 7-4 (63.6%) advantage. Against all other mascots, Weather teams win 47.9% of games, while Bird teams win 48.1% of games against all mascots but Weather. We went into (probably way too much) detail on the history of mascot matchups in the tournament here: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-01/march-madness-how-pick-your-ncaa-tournament-bracket

ZachAntonio1225 karma

Why is Wisconsin an 8 seed when they've beaten Maryland and Minnesota twice, beat NW in the tourney? They have the head to head and made into B1G tourney championship, yet is seeded as the fifth best big ten team.

NCAAcom329 karma

Reminder, we have absolutely no say in the bracket. BUT, we can take a guess. Honestly, it's hard to say why they landed at 8. The committee has said that seeding is one of the most difficult parts of their process. Good news for Wisconsin is that there has been success at No. 8, especially for teams like the Badgers. Villanova of course won the championship in 1985 from the 8 seed (they're still the lowest seed to have won) and in 2014, No. 8 Kentucky made it to the final against Connecticut, which was a 7 seed. That's a final that very few - if any - picked. As far as making it out of the first round, it's a coin flip, as 8 and 9 seeds are evenly split 64-64 in the Round of 64. But 8 seeds do hold a margin of +0.05 points per game, so… there's that. Here's more on the history of the 8 seed: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-13/march-madness-getting-know-no-8-seed-ncaa-tournament

horizjumper353 karma

You did not take a guess...

NCAAcom794 karma

That... is a fair point. Our guess: ¯\(ツ)

Capn_Barboza675 karma

Any idea why the committee seems to love the Arkansas vs UNC match up?

NCAAcom1444 karma

We have no idea. But, red vs. blue teams have been the most common matchup in the tournament's history. Good news for the Tar Heels, blue teams are 271-196 in those games.

GenghisKhanSays219 karma

Well, there's Duke, UNC, Kansas, UCLA, and Kentucky, so there's that.

NCAAcom252 karma

Yep. Six of the 10 winningest teams since 1985 are blue — 1. Duke, 2. UNC, 3. Kansas, 4. Kentucky, 5. UConn, and 10. UCLA. Those six teams have 18 of the past 32 national championships as well.

LovelandPlogs61 karma

Good point - who are the best red teams? Lousivlle, Ohio State, Wisconsin, NC State, UNLV? Does not have the historic power of blue teams.

EDIT - I meant historically, not this season.

NCAAcom145 karma

Arizona is the top red team with 52 tournament wins since 1985. Then you've got Louisville (48), Indiana (35), Oklahoma (35), Maryland (32), Ohio State (32), and Wisconsin (32). Only six red teams have won a national championship since 1985 — Louisville, Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Arkansas and UNLV

AnUpsidedownTurtle26 karma

Woah, now that is a very interesting statistic! I might even just do another "just for fun" bracket and pick based off teams colors to see what happens. Any other color match ups besides red and blue that are statistically significant?

NCAAcom135 karma

We've actually got an entire article on the breakdown of historical winning percentage for every color. A couple of fun facts from the data, only blue, orange, and yellow teams have a positive winning percentage in the tournament since 1985. Also, brown and yellow teams have never played each other. Here's the article, which includes a table of every color head-to-head record since 1985: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-02-21/march-madness-why-you-should-always-pick-blue-and-orange

And if you want to pick yet another bracket based on mascots, we've got you covered there too: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-01/march-madness-how-pick-your-ncaa-tournament-bracket

Ruff_Wizard013 karma

Where would I find stats like this?

NCAAcom12 karma

We compiled all of these stats for a couple of stories that give some very questionable advice. How to pick your bracket based on color and mascot

mbenzie1972546 karma

What are the most likely upsets?

NCAAcom1984 karma

  • No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 3 Florida State – Dunk City has a history of upsets; Florida State is 4-4 in its last eight games. In-state rivalry could add some spice.
  • No. 14 New Mexico State over No. 3 Baylor – Baylor is 10-7 after a 15-0 start to the year. Resume is more based on November/December than January/February. NMSU went on a 20-game winning streak in the middle of the season
  • No. 11 Rhode Island over No. 6 Creighton – Bluejays haven’t been the same since Mo Watson’s injury, Rhode Island has two studs in Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews and caught fire in the A-10 tournament
  • No. 12 Middle Tennessee over No. 5 Minnesota – Middle Tennesee is a better team than it was last year, when the Blue Raiders upset Michigan State, and Minnesota is worse than last year’s Spartans.

freekarl38100 karma

What is it about 5 and 12 seeds that make them such common upsets?

NCAAcom97 karma

That's a good question. Copying from an earlier response here: Through last year, the 12 seed and 11 seed were actually exactly the same in their win percentage, both winning 35.9 percent (46-82) of first round games vs. 5 and 6. But, in 28 of the last 32 years, the 12 seed has won at least one first round game. The only exceptions were in 1988, 2000, 2007 and 2015. We've got more on the 12 seed here: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-13/march-madness-getting-know-no-12-seed-ncaa-tournament

epic_apostle4519 karma

Wow I have all of those listed already. Lets go. Do you expect any of these teams to make it past second round?

NCAAcom80 karma

Rhode Island has a good chance. Creighton is without Maurice Watson and Oregon (who will probably take down Iona), is without Chris Boucher. They're playing two banged up teams and they're hot right now. That's a good mix.

WinstonWolf77123 karma

Everyone focuses on the first round upsets. But it's the ones in the 2nd and in the Sweet 16 that kill everyone's bracket.

NCAAcom135 karma

Exactly. Last year, Cole Parzych, whose bracket was the last to bust in our contest, picked his first 25 games correctly. But Parzych finished in just the 81st percentile of all bracket submissions. It's what happens in early April, the latter part of the tournament, that matters the most: Here's more on why the Final Four is so important: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-01-17/march-madness-brackets-how-important-it-pick-final-four

Gallaxee227 karma

I don't see many people talking about St. Mary's. They only have 4 losses, three of which are to Gonzaga. Think they can do some damage?

NCAAcom236 karma

Certainly possible, but the truth is – while the Gaels’ losses are perfectly defensible, their wins are underwhelming – they have only two wins against the field (Dayton and Nevada). St. Mary’s is solid on both ends, but we know as little about them as any single-digit seed.

taquestionc198 karma

How far do you think UCLA can go? Asking for a Lonzo Ball-loving friend...

NCAAcom618 karma

UCLA landed in probably the second hardest region (behind the East). Cincinnati is no cupcake, both Kansas State and Wake Forest have wins over top-10 teams this year, and getting past Kentucky and then either (likely) Butler or UNC is a nightmare. Can the Bruins get to the Final Four? Absolutely. But it'll take Lonzo Ball playing even better than his dad thinks he does.

AlexM314184 karma

What was the reasoning behind the Shockers (Wichita State) being a 10 seed this year? Strength of schedule combined with overall RPI Rank?

NCAAcom197 karma

The reasoning is that their wins are somewhat weak — they pass the eye test, but they haven’t beaten many quality foes. But still! They’re clearly better than a 10 seed — not only is it unfortunate for Wichita State, but it’s unfortunate for the other teams in the South that have to face a team that was woefully underseeded. That’s an extremely tough potential Round of 32 game for Kentucky.

timtim366163 karma

What is the best way for a person who does not follow collegiate athletics to fill out their bracket? Short of googling "Best NCAA Bracket 2017", Is there a systematic way a laymen like myself can fill out a bracket?

NCAAcom102 karma

It depends on how much time you want to put into it. We have a website dedicated to bracket tips if you want to read stories on statistics from past tournaments and lessons from past bracket winners. If you want a quicker way to compare any two teams, our Madness Matchup Tool can help you out with direct comparisons.

TooManyWoodChucks110 karma

Will a 16 seed ever upset a 1 seed?

What are some of the most interesting Cinderella teams in the history of the tournament?

NCAAcom206 karma

Maybe? Probably? Statistically, the odds for a 16 seed winning are greater than zero, but that doesn't mean we're going to ever see it happen. Though, according to users of our bracket game, we're getting closer to witnessing history. Last year, 5.68 percent of all brackets had a 16 seed over a 1 seed. That's a slight drop since the all-time high of 6.2 percent in 2015, but the percentage is trending upward since 2011, when it was just 1.74 percent. But that trend is probably due to the Gambler's fallacy. Looking at the data, there's nothing saying that the 16-v-1 games are getting closer. The last time one of these matchups was even decided by one possession was 1996. Here's more on the history of the 16-v-1 game: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-07/march-madness-have-1-seed-vs-16-seed-games-been-getting

pointingbeggar103 karma

Is Gonzaga as good as most people think? Will a lack of a strong schedule hurt them?

NCAAcom177 karma

We'll go out on a (short) limb here and say this is the best Gonzaga team ever. Very few weaknesses. Impact players at PG, PF and C. At the same time, we saw what happened with BYU in round two of that matchup. They aren't invincible. But there aren’t five better bets to win it all.

iravereflex93 karma

Am I an idiot for taking Michigan all the way to the Elite 8? They seem to be just about the hottest team in the country right now, do you think they will be able to sustain this run?

NCAAcom101 karma

Not at all. The Midwest Region is up for grabs — Kansas has been playing with fire all season long. Michigan is hot, has shooters and has past March success. Of any team below the 5-line, they look like the best bet to get to Phoenix.

Kovie4768 karma

Any chance for an internship opportunity?

CaptainShiverPiss48 karma

How far do you expect Kansas to go this year. As a fan, I always love to see the Jayhawks go far, but it seems that more often than not, they take a beating early in the tournament. I know this can be credited to having a mostly young team, but with seniors like Mason and Lucas, and Graham and Mykhailiuk being talented juniors along with the talented sophomore Vick and freshman phenom in Jackson, do they have a chance to go 5-1 or 6-0?

NCAAcom60 karma

Kansas definitely landed in one of the easiest regions in the tournament, but it's still no cakewalk. Who put a stake through Kansas’ 51-game Allen Fieldhouse winning streak? Iowa State. That could be a Sweet 16 game in Kansas City. But that matchup seems like the toughest speed bump on a relatively smooth trip to the Elite Eight. After that, we'll see.

only1alanad38 karma

What are the odds that a #1 seed wins again this year?

NCAAcom93 karma

Exact odds? We're not sure. But it's pretty high. Since the tournament expanded, 1 seeds have won 19 of the 32 championships. The next highest is 2 seeds, who have captured 5 titles. In fact, only 8 championship games since 1985 have NOT involved a 1 seed. In total, 1 seeds have the highest winning percentage of all seeds (81.9%) with a 411-91 record in the tournament. Here's more on the history of the 1 seed: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-13/march-madness-getting-know-no-1-seed-ncaa-tournament

Slug_DC37 karma

What's the best strategy for a non-expert to go about making their choices? Say, one who doesn't really follow college basketball at all, but is always roped into participating in their office bracket bet. Just pick all the highest seeds? Is there some specific trend to look for? I usually just pick Virginia to win it all every year because why not.

NCAAcom57 karma

Picking all the lower seeds is not usually the smartest bet. Last year, the average score in our bracket challenge was just over 68 points, but a bracket picking just the lower seeds would have scored 66 points. So it can certainly get you a respectable bracket, but it probably won't get you a winning one. The smartest call is to pick a few upsets in the first round, but focus on picking the Final Four correctly — that's where you make your money. On average there have been about 6 upsets in the first round ever year. If you want to have some fun with it, check out our Madness Matchup Tool to see head-to-head stats for every potential matchup of the tournament.

cmakelky36 karma

How well does a total chalk bracket do on average compared to the national average?

NCAAcom53 karma

Great question. Usually it's a little worse. Last year, the average score in our bracket challenge was 68.18, while a chalk bracket scored 66. So it's not the worst option, but it's not a quick way to beat the pool either.

CrosseyedDixieChick34 karma

Does Vermont have a chance against Purdue?

NCAAcom33 karma

Definitely. Catamounts haven’t lost since Dec. 21, and honestly, do we really know how good the Big Ten was this season? Vermont is just as capable as Arkansas Little-Rock was last year, and we saw what happened there.

only1alanad28 karma

What low ranked team is most likely to go the farthest?

NCAAcom114 karma

We talked about this somewhat above, but No. 11 Rhode Island has a decent shot. Their first matchup is against a Creighton team without Maurice Watson and their likely second-round game is against an Oregon team without Chris Boucher. They're playing two banged up teams and they're hot right now. That's a good mix. After that, it'll get tougher, as No. 7 Michigan is on a roll and has one of the best stories in basketball right now. 2-seed Louisville has also dropped 3 of its last 5, including a 7-point loss to unranked Wake Forest.

Popeyesmotherfucker27 karma

Do you guys hold your own challenge?

NCAAcom362 karma

We do. The grand prize this year is a toaster that prints the NCAA logo on your toast, so yeah, things are getting pretty heated.

canitasteyourjuice17 karma

Any thoughts on FGCU beating FSU?

NCAAcom29 karma

Definitely possible. FGCU has a history of upsets and Florida State is 4-4 in its last eight games. In total, 14 seeds are 21-107 vs. 3 seeds, and the margin of victory is 10.6 points per game in favor of the 3. Also, in our Bracket Challenge Game, FGCU over FSU is the most popular upset, with 14 percent of our brackets so far picking the Eagles. All other 14-3 games have selected 14 seeds between 2 and 7 percent of the time so far.

gmwdim12 karma

Why do you think upsets are so common in the 5-12 matchup? In fact historically the 12 seeds win their first round games slightly more often than the 11 seeds. Is this a sign that the bracket folks need to do a better job with choosing the 5-6-11-12 seeds?

NCAAcom23 karma

This is very astute. The seeding generally holds up based on data from 1985. Through last year, the 12 seed and 11 seed were exact in their win percentage, both winning 35.9 percent (46-82) of first round games vs. 5 and 6. So it's pretty close. All other seeds go in a steady line of win percentage. But, in 28 of the last 32 years, the 12 seed has won at least one first round game. The only exceptions were in 1988, 2000, 2007 and 2015. We've got more on the 12 seed here: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-13/march-madness-getting-know-no-12-seed-ncaa-tournament

avaughn9160010 karma

How far has a First Four team gone in the tourney?

NCAAcom47 karma

In the first year of the 68-team tournament, VCU reached the Final Four as an 11 seed from this position. An 11 seed is still the highest seed to reach the Final Four ever.

sans_ferdinand8 karma

What common mistakes do people make when filling out their bracket?

NCAAcom41 karma

Most common - too much emphasis on first round and too many double digit seeds progressing. A common trait among winners: Focus on Final Four and Elite Eight first. Here's a story on 7 mistakes you should try to avoid: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2016-03-13/march-madness-7-mistakes-avoid-when-filling-out-your

dmac2266 karma

Has a 13 seed ever made the Sweet 16 or beyond? And has there ever been a 12-13 matchup? Asking for a friend who might be thinking of going out on a crazy limb...

NCAAcom10 karma

Since 1985, a 13 seed has made it to the Sweet 16 five times, but never to the Elite Eight. New Mexico State was the most recent. The 13 seed is 26-102 in first round games against the No. 4 seed.

And there have been 16 12-13 matchups, the most recent being No. 13 La Salle's 76-74 win over No. 12 Ole Miss in 2013's Round of 32.

Here's more on the 13 seed: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-03-13/march-madness-getting-know-no-13-seed-ncaa-tournament

Kapono246 karma

What's the closest someone has come to a perfect bracket? What even happens if someone gets one?

NCAAcom11 karma

The longest perfect bracket we've seen verified was 34 games. That's just two games into the second round. We've got a bottle of champagne ready to pop in the office if it happens (hint: it's probably not going to happen. The odds are a frightening 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808).

that_one_buddy4 karma

Everyone always claims to have the toughest path, but which team do you truly think was given the hardest path for their ranking? Also is the South region really as up in the air as it seems?

Meunderwears6 karma

Has to be Villanova. Wisconsin is a laughable 8 seed, which is who Nova will likely play in Round 2. Then Duke is waiting eventually as the 2 seed.

NCAAcom9 karma

Agreed. The East is loaded. Nova is probably going to face a veteran Wisconsin team in the second round. An even more veteran Baylor is also a possibility, as is a Florida team that beat Kentucky. By 22. Also SMU. When a team is 30-4 and has won 26 out of its last 27 games and is seeded — let’s check this again, yep — SIXTH, the region is made of pretty stern stuff.

TicketToThePunShow3 karma

What's the best bracket selection strategy you've seen? Call a couple upsets in the 2nd round? Pick mostly the favorites? Go big or go home with a 7 or 8 seed in the Final Four?

NCAAcom7 karma

The best strategy is to focus on the Final Four. With most bracket game scoring, a perfect Final Four is worth 32 points for just that round (and 60 points total for those four teams including the previous rounds). Picking every game in the first round correctly is also worth 32 points. For reference, the average score among brackets in our bracket challenge was just over 68 points last year. So pick your upsets, but hedge them with strong teams down the line.

BenZoobs3 karma

What team has the best potential Cinderella chance/story?

NCAAcom20 karma

Michigan might be one of the best potentials for a Cinderella story. They went from a plane crash last Wednesday to playing in their practice uniforms Thursday and then knocking off Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin en route to becoming the lowest seed (8) to ever win the Big Ten Tournament. A hungry team playing like they have nothing to lose is dangerous in March.

Other potential Cinderalla runs that are popular picks: NCAA tourney newcomer Northwestern, Dunk City 2.0 (Florida Gulf Coast), Rhode Island, and last year’s 15-seed Cinderella, Middle Tennessee, which is back in the dance in a popular upset, the 12th seed.

Cofmatic2 karma

What are small tips on picking a bracket that can have a big impact on creating a successful bracket?

NCAAcom12 karma

Part of the fun of the bracket is that they are so different every year. The main things we see: 1. There is little to no gain from picking a lot of double-digit seeds, though it's always nice to pick them correctly. Only 15 double-digit seeds have ever made it to the Elite Eight, which is where you start to make your money. And none were higher than a 12. Pick your spots here. 2. The champion has been a 1, 2, or 3 seed 28 of the 32 years since the tournament expanded. Keep the top seeds in the game as long as possible. Remember, getting four Final Four spots correct is the same point value as going 32-for-32 in the first round. A perfect or 3-for-4 Final Four is a standard among our bracket winners.

Dan0071212 karma

Statistically speaking, who should you pick as the winner in order to give yourself the best chance of winning a medium sized bracket pool(30-50 people)?

That means taking to account the odds of winning and the proportion of people who chose that team to win.

NCAAcom2 karma

Statistically, 1 seeds have the highest chance of winning the tournament (they've played in 24 and won 19 of the past 32 championships). But of course, they're a popular pick. The most common championship picks in our bracket game right now are UNC, Kansas, Villanova, UCLA, and Duke. If you want a look at how often people pick upsets vs. how often they happen (for example, No. 12 seeds win almost 36 percent of their games, but we pick them a little less than 23 percent of the time), check out this story: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-01-18/march-madness-brackets-how-often-we-pick-ncaa-tournament

hokie1016242 karma

Which one seed will lose first & who will they lose to?

NCAAcom13 karma

While Villanova is probably the best team in the field, they also landed the toughest region, which starts off with the hardest second round matchup thanks to No. 8 Wisconsin. After that, a potent No. 4 Florida most likely awaits, and then a probable matchup with No. 2 Duke, one of the hottest teams in the tournament. Good luck getting through that unscathed.

Wissmania2 karma

If you were picking against someone with no knowledge of college basketball (essentially picking upsets at random, within reason). What do you think the likelihood is you would have the better bracket at the end?

NCAAcom3 karma

Seeing as it's our job, we'd like to think that having some knowledge of college basketball makes an impact on your bracket's success. It's what we tell ourselves at least. And theoretically, it should matter. The most important thing when picking your bracket is to focus on the Final Four. Knowing which teams can make those deep runs is pretty important. But if we're being honest, all of us here have lost family pools to people who make picks based on which mascot would win in a fight.

AdamZumwalt1 karma

What are the odds of selecting a perfect bracket, assuming NOT all games are coin flips?

NCAAcom6 karma

The odds of this vary on how much you think basketball knowledge helps. One expert we talked to estimates 1 in 128 billion for those with a good understanding of the game. The coin flip odds are 1 in 9 quintillion. We've done our best to track verified online brackets for the last 5-6 years at all major games and have not seen anyone progress past 34 straight to start a tournament. Read more about the odds here: http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracket-beat/2017-02-13/march-madness-bracket-challenge-how-hard-it-pick-perfect