The most common first round upsets are the 5 vs 12 and 6 vs 11. The past few years, I broke down these matchups going back to 2003 using Overall Efficiency and other factors, mainly Offensive/Defensive Effective FG%. I updated the post with the 2010 final results and will be adding my analysis of the 2010 matchups once they are announced.
Here's the schedule for the analysis I will be doing and links as I post each Part:
Part II: Historical Analysis of Top Seeds (1 through 4)
Part III: Historical Analysis of Upsets (5 vs 12 & 6 vs 11)
Part IV: 2011 NCAA Tournament Game by Game Analysis & Possible Upsets
2010: Michigan State(24) beat New Mexico State(115), Butler (26) beat UTEP (34), Temple (18) lost to Cornell (66), and Texas A&M (23) beat Utah State (20):
Analysis: Only one upset in 2010, with Temple losing to the offensive machine of Cornell. Cornell had won 26 of their last 28 games before beating Wisconsin and ranked 16th in offensive efficiency, including 3rd in effective FG% & 1st in three point shooting. This was a pretty obvious upset candidate.
Butler & Texas A&M were able to survive upset bids by UTEP & Utah State despite the overall efficiency rankings of the teams being pretty close. Normally that's a good sign that an upset could occur, but the 5 seeds came out victorious.
I'm still not sure how New Mexico State got a 12 seed over Murray State.
2009: Utah(25) lost to Arizona(39), Purdue(15) beat Northern Iowa(82), Florida State(35) lost to Wisconsin(30), and Western Kentucky(99) beat Illinois(23)
Analysis: 3 of the 4 #5 seeds lost in 2009 with only a highly ranked Purdue team coming out victorious. Utah was done in by an Arizona squad that was from a major conference and only 14 spots lower than them in Overall Efficiency. Utah was also overseeded at #5 and probably should have been a #7 seed. Wisconsin beating Florida State was almost a given considering they had a better overall efficiency and had the luxury of being from a major conference, which is always a key indicator of upsets in the 5 vs 12 matchups. Western Kentucky was semi-hot coming into this one with a 7 game win streak and they also had NCAA Tournament experience from the previous year, which helped them knock off a decent Illinois team.
2008: Clemson(13) lost to Villanova(43), Michigan State(15) beat Temple(65), Drake(27) lost to Western Kentucky(59), and Notre Dame(28) beat George Mason(94)
Analysis: Two upsets in 2008 with Clemson and Drake both getting knocked off. Clemson is an interesting case considering they were ranked in the top 13 in efficiency overall. They were done in by Villanova who had some of the worst effective FG% in the tournament, but their overall efficiency ratings in both offense(61) and defense(34) were not THAT far off from Clemson's ratings(29, 12). It also helped that Villanova was a veteran squad that played in a big conference, which means they certainly weren't worried if they could match up with Clemson, so they were not your typical 12 seed. Western Kentucky beating Drake was not a surprise, since their effective FG%'s on both offense and defense were better than Drake's.
2007: Butler(25) beat Old Dominion(73), USC(27) beat Arkansas(36), Tennessee(31) beat LB State(136), and Va Tech(39) beat Illinois(33)
Analysis: No upsets in 2007, but a couple of 12 seeds(Arkansas & Illinois) probably shouldn't have been 12 seeds but they both were flawed teams. Illinois was bad on offense and Arkansas had an average offense.
2006: Pitt(12) beat Kent St(75), Washington(13) beat Utah St(72), Nevada(35) lost to Montana(88), Syracuse(51) lost to Texas A&M(25)
Analysis: Only one upset here as Montana knocked off Nevada. Nevada was actually a better team but Montana had a better offense, especially since they were 9 in the country in Effective FG %. That was probably the driving factor in the upset. Also, it is worth nothing that a 5 seed that has an overall efficiency ranking in the Top 15(Pitt & Washington), probably isn't going to lose to a 12 seed.
2005: Villanova(5) beat New Mexico(36), Michigan St(7) beat Old Dominion(72), Alabama(17) lost to Wisc-Milw.(42), and Georgia Tech(21) beat George Washington(46)
Analysis: Two of the 5 seeds(Villanova and Mich St) were Top 10 teams in the country so they were badly underseeded. Both of them ended up losing to eventual champion North Carolina so that is nothing to be ashamed of. The one upset was Wisc.-Milw. beating Alabama. Alabama was a solid team overall that year and the numbers don't really explain why they lost, except that Wisc-Milw. was pretty good at holding opponents to a low effective FG%. So I figured there must be something else going on here and I saw that they had a 9 game winning streak coming into the matchup so they were a hot team.
2004: Illinois(11) beat Murray St(71), Providence(23) lost to Pacific(77), Syracuse(25) beat BYU(39), Florida(26) lost to Manhattan(57)
Analysis: Illinois was ranked too high to lose to a 12 seed, but there were 2 upsets this year. Providence fell victim to Pacific who was riding a 15 game win streak coming into this game. Pacific was also better in both offensive and defensive FG %. Manhattan knocked off Florida mainly because Florida had just an average defensive FG % and Manhattan was pretty good in that area. They also had won 19 of their last 21 games.
2003: Wisconsin(11) beat Weber State(85), Mississippi State(12) lost to Butler(45), UConn(21) beat BYU(24), Notre Dame(32) beat Wisconsin Milwaukee(58)
Analysis: Only one upset in 2003 with Miss. State getting knocked off by a Butler team with a great offense. They were 16th overall in offensive efficiency; fueled by top ten rankings in offensive effective FG%, ball protection, & three-point shooting. Meanwhile, Mississippi State was more of a defensive minded team, who turned the ball over a lot and didn't shoot the three well. Definitely ripe for an upset.
This Years 5 vs 12 Matchups:
West Virginia (21) vs Clemson (24)/UAB (56):
West Virginia(21) is extremely strong on the offensive boards (6th) and defending the three (4th). They don't shoot well from anywhere on the floor really, which is what scares me the most about them. In the past, they had DeSean Butler to hit big shots for them, but this year they don't really have a shot maker. The offensive rebounding is certainly the key for them because it keeps them in every game even when they aren't making shots.
Clemson(24) is a similar team to WVU in the sense that they do not shoot the ball exceptionally well, but have a solid defense. They do force more turnovers than WVU and guard against 2-Point shots better. They also are worse on the offensive boards, which is why WVU has a better offensive efficiency rating (31 vs 77 for Clemson.)
UAB(56) at least on paper looks like they would be a much easier game for WVU. Unlike UAB teams of the past, this version doesn't force turnovers at all and also can't shoot the three. I think WVU would just be too big and physical for them. UAB also doesn't really have any wins over opponents the quality of WVU. The best team they beat was UTEP(65) and the best team they played was Georgia(57), who they lost to. I'm not even sure how they are in the tournament. Clearly Virgina Tech should have been in over them. Of course this means they will probably beat both Clemson and WVU now.
If WVU draws Clemson, then my guess is that they would be victorious. While both teams struggle offensively, I think WVU would be able to score points off offensive rebounds, which is pretty much their normal offense anyway. I would compare Clemson to Louisville, except with a less efficient offense, and WVU fared well against Louisville this year.
I expect UAB to lose to Clemson and if they do make it past Clemson, then I would roll with WVU in that match-up. I think Clemson has a better shot at the upset, but I favor WVU in both. Clemson profiles historically as a team who has a better chance to pull the upset, since they are from a major conference and have an efficiency rank close to WVU.
Arizona (25) vs Memphis (85):
Arizona(25) has a top flight offense ranking highly in offensive efficiency(14), effective FG%(8), & 3-Point shooting(10). I do love their versatility on offense. Their defense(67) is not great overall, but they are outstanding at defending the three, where they rank 2nd overall. Their biggest weaknesses are forcing turnovers(256) and defending two-pointers(280). Memphis(85) happens to turn the ball over a ton(2670 and they probably will continue to do so whether forcing turnovers is Arizona's strength or not. However, Memphis is one of the better teams at shooting from 2-Point range(49) and pounding the ball inside is probably their only chance for the upset here. I think Arizona has too much firepower though and will be victorious.
Vanderbilt (32) vs Richmond (46):
Vanderbilt(32) has a solid offense(15) and defends the three well(19). They are, however, one of the worst teams at forcing turnovers(302). Meanwhile, Richmond is excellent at protecting the basketball(16) and shoots a high percentage from three(11), so they should be able to get the maximum amount of possessions against Vandy. Richmond also defends both the three(12) and two-point shot(41) extremely well and has the height to matchup with Vanderbilt. They've also won 11 of their last 12 games. I see a potential upset here and at the very least this should be a close game.
Kansas State (29) vs Utah State (16):
Utah State(16) always ranks highly in efficiency, but can't seem to get out of the first round when they are matched-up with teams from the power conferences. I think they may be able to breakthrough this year though. The first indicator is that they have won 25 of their last 26 games. The second is that they play at a slow pace, 302nd overall, while K-State like to play at a much faster pace(97th overall.) These are both key indicators in predicting upsets. Utah State is also exceptional in the following areas: Defensive Efficiency(6), Defensive Effective FG%(6), Defensive Rebounding(2), & Offensive Effective FG%(44).
Kansas State(29) is an exceptional offensive rebounding team(4) and they might struggle to score against Utah State in a slow paced game, since Utah State is so good on the defensive boards. They also turn the ball over a ton ranking 265th in that area. Utah State doesn't force turnovers, but they might get a few more than usual against K-State. I think Utah State can pull off the upset, but their history against power conference teams gives me at least some hesitation.
6 vs 11 Matchups: Team(Overall Efficiency Rank)
2010: Tennessee (35) beat San Diego State (40), Xavier (22) beat Minnesota (25), Marquette (28) lost Washington (29), and Notre Dame (38) lost to Old Dominion (33)
Analysis: Poor seeding here as San Diego State should have been a 10 seed, Minnesota should have been an 7 seed, Washington should have been an 8 seed, and Old Dominion should have been a 9 seed. It's no surprise that we saw two 6 seeds lose to 11 seeds and Tennessee barely beat San Diego State. ND should have been a 10 seed themselves and ODU actually had a better efficiency rating. ND was also pretty poor on defense rating only 132nd in defensive efficiency. Marquette lost on a buzzer-beater to a Washington team that was pretty much their equal. If we see seeding like this again this year you can pretty much bet on at least two of the 11 seeds coming out victorious.
2009: West Virginia(8) lost to Dayton(83), Marquette(20) beat Utah State(56), UCLA(9) beat VCU(55), and Arizona State(12) beat Temple(47)
Analysis: West Virginia(8) was the rare case of a team that was underseeded(they graded out as #2 seed) that was upset in the 1st round. Usually these types of teams are the types to pull off the upsets in the later rounds. A closer look at West Virginia and Dayton shows that even though these two teams were so far part in overall efficiency, they were also pretty similar in most categories. They both were poor shooting teams, who rebounded well, and had solid defense. In the end, that proved to be enough for Dayton to pull off the upset. The other three #6 seeds were underseeded as well, but still struggled against their tough opponents, especially UCLA and Marquette, who squeaked out one-point victories. I suspect these 6 vs 11 games will be toss ups again this year.
2008: Marquette(11) beat Kentucky(55), USC(26) lost to Kansas State(17), Purdue(23) beat Baylor(42), and Oklahoma(46) beat St. Joe's(54)
Analysis: USC lost to Kansas State, but considering that K-State ranked better than USC in efficiency, this is just a case of poor seeding. Anytime the lower seeded team is ranked higher than the top seed in a matchup like this, it would be a good bet to pick the upset. On the flip side, Marquette was also badly underseeded as a 6 seed, so no surprise they were able to get past Kentucky.
2007: Duke(11) lost to VCU(66), Louisville(12) beat Stanford(53), Notre Dame(20) lost to Winthrop(69), and Vanderbilt(35) beat George Washington(92)
Analysis: Two big upsets here with Duke and ND going down. The Duke upset was surprising, because they graded out well overall at 11, but they had lost three straight games coming into the tournament and they were a very slow paced team that year, so they may not have been as athletic as a normal Duke team. The Winthrop upset was not as surprising, they were 24 in offensive FG% and had won 18 straight games before upsetting ND and making it 19 straight.
2006: West Virginia(16) beat Southern Illinois(47), Michigan State(33) lost to George Mason(23), Indiana(46) beat San Diego St(56), and Oklahoma(50) lost to Wisc-Milw.(63)
Analysis: George Mason at 23 was actually a better team then Michigan St so it's no surprise they won the game. Oklahoma was probably seeded to high with an overall rank of 50, they probably should have been a 10 or 11 seed themselves. They were basically equal with Wisc-Milw. but Wisc Milw. was a fast paced team while Oklahoma was one of the slowest paced teams, so WM was able to quicken up the pace of the game to beat Oklahoma.
2005: Wisconsin(16) beat Northern Iowa(54), Utah(22) beat UTEP(66), Texas Tech(30) beat UCLA(69), and LSU(38) lost to UAB(51)
Analysis: Only one upset here as LSU lost to UAB. LSU was a slow paced team that was bad on defense and it showed as they gave up 82 points to UAB, who was one of the fastest paced teams that season. So it's no surprise they ran all over LSU.
2004: Wisconsin(5) beat Richmond(40), North Carolina(10) beat Air Force(47), Vanderbilt(24) beat Western Michigan(48) and Boston College(31) beat Utah(41)
Analysis: No upsets here since all four of the 6 seeds were solid teams who were in the top 30 in defensive efficiency.
2003: Maryland(6) beat UNC Wilmington(34), Missouri(26) beat Southern Illinois(67), Oklahoma State(29) beat Penn(NR) and Creighton(30) lost to Central Michigan(72)
Analysis: Central Michigan was the only 11 seed able to pull off an upset in 2003. They had won 11 of 12 coming into the tournament and were 2nd overall in the nation in offensive effective FG%. They were also 27nd in three-point shooting. Creighton was also from a mid-major conference and those types of teams seem to fair worse when they are the higher seeded team.
This years 6 vs 11 Matchups:
Xavier (37) vs Marquette (33):
Xavier(37) always seems to perform well in the tournament as of late, but they have a difficult draw in Marquette(33). Marquette is a solid offensive team(20), who does everything well offensively, but struggles on defense. Marquette is underseeded and rates as more of an 8/9 seed, however, they always seem to find a way to lose close games and Xavier has been hot winning 16 of their last 18. I could go either way on this one, but my gut tells me Xavier will be able to take advantage of Marquette's soft D and outscore them.
Cincinnati (23) vs Missouri (34):
Cincinnati(23) is a team I kind of like and I kind of don't. They don't shoot the three that well(193), but they are an awesome offensive rebounding team(10) and rank 15th overall in defensive efficiency. Missouri is a little more balanced on offense than Cincinnati is, but I think Cincinnati has the advantage defensively. Almost all of Missouri's value on defense comes their ability to force turnovers(9), but Cincinnati is actually pretty strong in ball protection(69). I think Cincinnati's size and strength inside will be the difference in this one.
Georgetown (31) vs USC (44)/VCU (84):
Georgetown(31) was one of the better teams in the Big East having won 9 of 10 games before Chris Wright got injured. They hit the two-point shot exceptionally well checking in at 5th in the nation, which fuels their 11th overall rating in offensive effective FG%. Their weaknesses are turning the ball over and forcing turnovers and they also aren't the strongest rebounding team.
USC(44) is just an average team pretty much across the board. Their strength is defensive rebounding(19), but they are a horrible offensive rebounding team(234) and they don't force turnovers(293). They are also in the middle of the pack when it comes to defending the paint. I like Georgetown to beat them if USC advances.
VCU(84) is one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers(48), but they are also a horrible rebounding team both offensively and defensively. They do shoot the 3 at a decent clip though. I think they can beat USC, but I don't think they do enough things well to exploit all of Georgetown's weaknesses.
St. John's (35) vs Gonzaga (27):
St. John's(35) is really going to miss D.J. Kennedy. He was their leader in steals and rebounds and was one of their better shooters and their second most efficient offensive player. St. John's is excellent at forcing turnovers(13), but their defense is a little shaky if they aren't able to turn other teams over. They are one of the worst teams defending the three and they don't defensive rebound well.
Gonzaga(27) struggled earlier in the year, but they have won 11 of their last 12 games. Their weaknesses are ball protection and defending the three. St. John's may give them fits pressuring the ball, but I think Gonzaga is going to hurt them on the boards since that is one of Gonzaga's strengths. If Gonzaga can limit their turnovers I think they could actually have a chance to blow out St. John's. I like the upset possibilities in this one.
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