Every year, a 12-seed upsets a 5-seed. I don’t know exactly how many straight years this has happened, but it’s enough that the first rule of NCAA Tournament bracket predicting is: thou shalt predict a 12 seed to beat a 5 seed. It’s moved beyond mere suggestion and become a steadfast rule.
And that is why I was beyond pleased that my sure-to-go-awry statistically-based bracket prediction system picked at least one 12 seed to beat a 5 seed.
In this post I’ll analyze the 5-12 matchups and tell you which ones are good upset picks and which ones are not.
But whatever you do, by all means pick one of them.
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South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
A lot of people are going to pick VCU as an upset pick because a) they’ll be searching for a 5-12 upset pick; b) VCU made a name for itself last year; c) most people don’t know how good Wichita State is; and d) VCU plays a frenetic, pressing style that can give teams fits come tournament time.
I’m not biting though.
Wichita State is a really good team, one that has an effective field goal percentage of 54.2% and that that has better defensive stats than Shaka Smart’s Rams. The best stat to show the difference between the two teams is this: Wichita State’s efficiency margin is 26.6, which is actually a tick better than #4 seed Indiana’s, while VCU’s is 13.7; and Wichita State accumulated that margin while playing a much tougher schedule.
VCU had a great run last year, but it won’t carry over to this year.
Prediction: #5 Wichita State beats #12 VCU
Related: Andy’s Wichita State-VCU Preview
Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 California/South Florida
This one is a bit tricky because the #12 seed is yet to be determined, and for most bracket challenges you have to choose the #12 seed as its own entity, regardless of winner.
This is also the 5-12 upset pick that my system picked.
First of all, I think California will beat South Florida. The Golden Bears had an up and down regular season, but this is a team that actually has better defensive turnover %, defensive offensive rebounding %, and defensive free throw rate numbers than South Florida, a team renowned for its defense. Additionally, Cal amassed an efficiency margin of 19.2, as opposed to South Florida’s 10.8, though it should be noted that South Florida played the tougher schedule.
I think California will beat South Florida, and assuming they do I think they will also beat Temple.
And before you poo-poo that as a ridiculous notion – a team in the First Four beating a single-digit seed in the Round of 64 – just remember that VCU did exactly that en route to the Final Four last year.
Cal’s 19.2 efficiency margin is also greater than Temple’s (17.4). The Bears don’t shoot it quite as well as Temple, but they are better in every Four Factor defensive metric. Remember, this is a team that many picked to be pretty good before the season. There is talent there. And this year, Cal is my #12 seed that will make some noise.
Now just don’t lose to South Florida damnit.
Update: I initially predicted Cal to beat South Florida and then beat Temple in the next round. I clearly was wrong. South Florida blasted Cal, so I am taking a mulligan since most brackets aren’t due until Thursday.
Prediction: #5 Temple beats #12 South Florida
East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
Despite its struggles in recent tournaments, Vanderbilt probably won’t be as big of an upset pick this year because of their victory over Kentucky today in the SEC Tournament title game. And I’m okay with that. As solid as Harvard is, this feels like the Vanderbilt team that can finally make that long-awaited tournament run.
Vanderbilt, of course, played the tougher schedule this season, and the Commodores ran up an efficiency margin of 20.7 to Harvard’s 15.0. In addition, Vanderbilt shoots the ball incredibly well, amassing an eFG% of 54.4.
Would I be shocked if Harvard won? No. It’s a 5-12 game. No 5-12 upset ever surprises me anymore. But Vanderbilt has a solid inside-outside game, and they now have the confidence and swagger of being Kentucky and winning their conference tournament. I look for that to carry into this weekend.
Prediction: #5 Vanderbilt over #12 Harvard
Related: Andy’s Vanderbilt-Harvard Preview
West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
Now this is an interesting 5-12 matchup. Long Beach State is a really good team, and I can’t imagine that Steve Alford and the Lobos were too excited to see the 49ers opposite them when the brackets were announced today.
Long Beach State played a tough non-conference schedule, and they actually have a higher schedule strength than New Mexico. Still, the Lobos have an efficiency margin of 22.1 to the 49ers’ 14.9. That’s a solid advantage to New Mexico. In addition, New Mexico is the much better rebounding team, and they both shoot and defend more efficiently than Long Beach State.
If I hadn’t dug into the stats, this is a 5-12 upset I’d have been tempted to pick. But since I did, I understand why New Mexico was seeded at #5, and I think they’ll put an end to Long Beach State’s Cinderella run before it ever begins.
Prediction: #5 New Mexico beats #12 Long Beach State
So there you go. I’m only predicting one 5-12 upset this year. I know, not very exciting. But then again, what the hell do I know? I wouldn’t be surprised if South Florida beats Cal, Temple beats South Florida, and then the rest of the #12 seeds win. Such is the unpredictable nature of the NCAA Tournament.
But more importantly, what do you think? Let’s crowdsource some upset picks:
For further 5-12 analysis, Andy ranked all four 5-12 matchups in order of the likelihood that they will result in an upset.