March Madness Upsets


Alex Bader '26

Every year in March when the NCAA basketball tournament comes around people try to predict the outcome of every game in the bracket by filling one out on paper or on an app. There has never been a perfect bracket completed since the expansion to a 64 team tournament in 1985. There are two main reasons nobody has ever filled out a perfect bracket. The first, is how mathematically impossible it may seem, and secondly, one must also predict the correct upsets. 

Mathematically it is hard to predict a perfect bracket. If you were to pick a random team to win each game of the tournament it would yield a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of being perfect. To put that in perspective there are 7 quintillion 500 quadrillion grains of sand in the world. Therefore if one were to pick up a grain of sand they would have a better chance of selecting the exact grain of sand than predicting a perfect bracket.

The second reason it’s nearly  impossible to guess a perfect bracket is because of the upsets that occur every year. With just evaluating the beginning of this year’s tournament, in just the first 2 rounds, 16 of the 48 games have had the outcome of the lower seed winning. This shows how hard it can be to predict the correct team, as the higher seed only wins around 66% of the time. Some of the best runs so far include the #15 St. Peter’s Peacocks, the #11 Michigan Wolverines, the #11 Iowa State Cyclones, the #10 Miami Hurricanes, and the #8 North Carolina Tar Heels who all made it past the first two rounds and are dancing on to the sweet 16. 

The #15 Peacocks have stunned people across the world by knocking off both the #7 overall Kentucky Wildcats and the #7 seeded Murray State Racers. Kentucky had a great season before the loss to the Peacocks. The WIldcats lost by a score of 85-79 in overtime after missing many free throws that could have sent them to the next round. The Racers also had a great season before the heartbreaking loss to Saint Peter’s. The Racers were 31-2 before their loss and their only other losses were to the high ranked Auburn Tigers and to East Tennessee State. Additionally, the Racers won the Ohio Valley Conference and went 18-0 in conference play. This shows how impressive the run by the Peacocks has been. They are also only the third team all time to make the sweet 16 as a #15 seed following the run last year from Oral Roberts  who defeated the #7 Florida Gators and #2 Ohio State Buckeyes and the University of Florida Gulf Coast in 2013. WIll the Peacocks keep dancing?

The next impressive team would have to be the #8 North Carolina Tar Heels. This run started after beating the famous Coach K from the Duke Blue Devils in his final game in his home stadium. The Tar Heels defeated Coach K by a score of 94-81. Their first game in the tournament was against the #8 seeded Marquette Golden Eagles who also had a very successful season, but this game was not close as the final score was 95-63. Then, they went on to beat the winners from last year, the #1 seeded Baylor Bears in overtime two days later. Although they had a 25 point lead halfway through the second half, Baylor closed in after the leading scorer for the Tar Heels, Brady Manek, was ejected with a flagrant 2 foul. Manek received this foul after being too rough in the paint fighting for a rebound. This call was very controversial and changed the momentum of the game but the #9 seed hung on and now will play the #4 Bruins from the University of California Los Angeles.

Next year while filling out your March Madness bracket be optimistic but be prepared for defeat. Many upsets happen each year leading to the difficulty of being able to predict a perfect bracket. However, with enough research, lots of luck, and some prayers being answered, you may be the first. 


Disclaimer: This was written on March 23rd. 

Update: The Final Four teams who play tomorrow (4/2) in New Orleans are Kansas v. Villanova and Duke v. University of North Carolina (UNC).