Busting Brackets

Ranking every first round March Madness upset by how improbable it was

We all love upsets in March Madness, but just how likely are they to happen?

Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Yale Bulldogs players embrace after upsetting Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Yale Bulldogs players embrace after upsetting Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is called March Madness for a reason, anything can happen. For the first time ever in 2018, Virginia, a 1-seed, was upset by UMBC, a 16-seed and it happened again just last year when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson.

In this year's March Madness tournament, there has been no shortage of upsets in the first round. While everyone and two seeds have made it past the first round, other single-digit seeds have given us all the chaos we love to see this time of the year.

Here is a ranking of each upset and just how improbable it was.

2394. upusets. 76. 525. Final. 78

This upset was a shock as the majority of people had Auburn winning this game. A good portion of people had the Tigers going far in this tournament and some even had them winning it all. This is probably the upset that shocked the most as Auburn had a 90.5% chance to win the game from the beginning.

2384. upsets. 76. 528. Final. 80

This was an upset only very few people saw coming, I know I didn't. With Kentucky being a blue blood in college basketball, everyone at least expected them to make it out of the first round, but the Oakland Golden Grizzlies had other plans. Kentucky had an 89.5% chance to win before tipoff.

457. upsets. 67. 540. Final. 71

This game is not as likely of an upset as BYU came in as the 6-seed and Duqesne came in as the 11-seed. It is not impossible though and more likely than you think. BYU had an 81.7% chance to win the game in the beginning, but the Dukes were on a hot streak and showed up when the Cougars didn't.

2514. Final. 75. 2519. upsets. 66

I will be honest, this was an upset I never saw coming. I figured with how well Saint Mary's was playing they would be able to handle Grand Canyon easily. Typically this is not an upset you see a lot with a 5-seed losing to a 12-seed but it does rarely happen. Saint Mary's has a 78.9% chance to win the game.

2364. upsets. 61. 493. Final. 72

This game, like the NC State vs. Texas Tech game was another upset a lot of people saw coming. Wisconsin struggled at the end of the season and only showed flashes of greatness in the Big Ten Tournament. James Madison is on the hot streak of hot streaks and there was no denying them in the first round. Wisconsin had a 68.6% chance to win the game.

514. upsets. 100. 526. Final. 102

This is a matchup that I also believe is tough to call because it may not be an 8-seed against 9-seed, but it is still a game of two fairly evenly-matched teams. Plus there were two teams from Power Five conference that each had solid seasons with a few weeks ranked in the top 25. The Gators seemed favored in this one though with a 63.2% chance to win the game.

468. Final. 80. 2272. upsets. 67

NC State is on one of the hottest streaks I have seen in college basketball in a long time. After winning five straight games in the ACC Tournament to win the automatic bid to get into the tournament, I think a lot of people had this upset coming, at least I know I did. However, Texas Tech was still favored with a 61.8% chance to win before the game started.

486. upsets. 51. 530. Final. 69

This was the first upset we had in the NCAA Tournament, but it is also the most likely upset to see. Mississippi State was an 8-seed this year while Michigan State was the 9-seed. This is known as one of the toughest games to pick when selecting your bracket because both teams are so evenly matchup it makes it almost impossible to pick. Mississippi State came into the game with a 57.7% chance to win and lost.

73. 533. Final. 87. 515. upsets

Here we have another 6-seed versus 11-seed upset. It think this was a closer likely upset as this was two Power Five teams going up against each other and Oregon just had just won the Pac-12. South Carolina only had a 55.6% chance to win the game in the beginning, so clearly the oddsmakers could smell an upset brewing.

2276. Final/. 77. 489. upsets. 65

This was another one of those tough 8-seed versus 9-seed matchups. Both teams were evenly matched and a lot of people were excited to see what the Owls would do after their Cinderella run to the Final Four last season. FAU as the higher seed only had a 54.2% chance to win the game at tipoff.

488. Final. 98. 535. upsets. 83

Here we have our last 8-seed versus 9-seed upset. Three out of the four games with this seeding, the 9-seed was the one to win it. Nebraska however continued their streak and is now 0-8 in the NCAA Tournament and is the only Power Six school not to ever win a game. Nebraska however, even as the higher seed, wasn't even favored to win the game as Texas A&M had a 52.6% chance to win the game.