Anatomy of the March Madness Upset Part 2

Following up on my last post, I wanted to evaluate what common trends we could find from the March Madness upsets of the last 15 years.  Last time we looked at difference between efficiencies, but this time I want to break it down further and look at some individual statistics behind these upsets.  Some interesting patterns arise, but it remains clear there are different play styles involved and there are multiple ways in which these upsets happen.  Lets get right to the data behind these college basketball upsets.

Year Lower Seed Higher Seed Score Seed AdjEMDiff 2Pt% 3Pt% Def TO% Off Reb% AdjDefEff
2016 Middle Tennessee Michigan State 90–81 15-2 -25.68 47.80 39.2 19.4 28.70 98.80
2016 Stephen F. Austin West Virginia 70–56 14-3 -11.38 54.50 36.9 25.9 33.50 95.50
2016 Hawaii California 77–66 13-4 -7.90 54.10 32.2 19.8 30.40 93.10
2016 Arkansas-Little Rock Purdue 85–83 (2 OT) 12-5 -12.18 48.90 38.2 21 26.70 95.00
2016 Yale Baylor 79–75 12-5 -6.07 51.40 36 17.8 39.30 94.90
2016 Northern Iowa Texas 75–72 11-6 -6.97 51.20 37.2 18.5 17.70 97.30
2016 Gonzaga Seton Hall 68–52 11-6 1.61 54.30 37.8 15.1 32.10 94.40
2016 Wichita State Arizona 65–55 11-6 -0.68 49.20 32.3 23.2 31.60 87.60
2015 Georgia State Baylor 57–56 14-3 -13.56 53.40 32.2 23.20 30.00 99.10
2015 UAB Iowa State 60–59 14-3 -20.17 46.60 33.2 19.70 34.20 99.80
2015 Dayton Providence 66–53 11-6 -3.43 52.60 35.60 21.10 23.30 93.00
2015 UCLA SMU 60–59 11-6 -3.37 47.40 36.8 17.90 28.60 96.10
2014 Mercer Duke 78–71 14-3 -18.34 51.60 38.80 19.00 31.90 101.80
2014 Stephen F. Austin VCU 77–75 (OT) 12-5 -9.91 52.30 34.90 23.60 38.12 100.90
2014 North Dakota State Oklahoma 80–75 (OT) 12-5 -8.89 55.40 34.70 17.10 30.60 103.10
2014 Harvard Cincinnati 61–57 12-5 -1.77 49.70 38.70 21.20 32.30 94.70
2014 Tennessee Massachusetts 86–67 11-6 7.57 50.60 31.90 16.90 39.70 93.60
2014 Dayton Ohio State 60–59 11-6 -8.76 50.40 37.70 18.80 34.00 99.00
2013 Florida Gulf Coast Georgetown 78–68 15-2 -18.78 52.30 33.40 22.10 32.50 96.80
2013 Harvard New Mexico 68–62 14-3 -13.76 51.50 39.80 20.90 25.60 99.30
2013 LaSalle Kansas State 63–61 13-4 -4.97 49.30 37.70 21.30 29.00 96.20
2013 Ole Miss Wisconsin 57–46 12-5 -6.42 49.40 32.40 21.50 34.10 93.60
2013 California UNLV 64–61 12-5 -4.53 48.80 30.20 16.80 32.50 92.30
2013 Oregon Oklahoma State 68–55 12-5 -4.56 49.10 33.30 22.00 35.70 88.10
2013 Minnesota UCLA 83–63 11-6 3.98 48.90 33.70 20.20 43.80 93.10
2012 Lehigh Duke 75–70 15-2 -11.88 49.40 34.70 21.30 31.00 96.60
2012 Norfolk State Missouri 86–84 15-2 -29.10 50.50 31.50 19.60 33.80 99.90
2012 Ohio Michigan 65–60 13-4 -7.30 47.70 34.00 26.40 33.90 92.00
2012 South Florida Temple 58–44 12-5 -4.05 49.00 31.20 18.70 34.00 88.10
2012 VCU Wichita State 62–59 12-5 -10.57 45.90 33.40 27.30 33.40 90.80
2012 Colorado UNLV 68–64 11-6 -7.79 48.30 34.60 18.40 29.20 93.30
2012 North Carolina State San Diego State 79–65 11-6 0.65 49.40 35.50 18.60 35.80 95.20
2011 Morehead State Louisville 62–61 13-4 -15.80 50.00 34.20 22.70 41.20 94.70
2011 Richmond Vanderbilt 69–66 12-5 -2.16 49.90 39.00 19.60 28.80 93.40
2011 Marquette Xavier 66–55 11-6 1.43 50.50 34.90 20.60 35.80 93.80
2011 VCU Georgetown 74–56 11-6 -9.96 48.00 37.00 22.10 30.70 95.40
2011 Gonzaga St. John’s 86–71 11-6 -0.29 51.90 36.10 20.80 36.30 91.60
2010 Ohio Georgetown 97–83 14-3 -16.50 46.40 36.50 21.60 31.20 95.60
2010 Murray State Vanderbilt 66–65 13-4 -3.08 54.20 38.10 24.00 39.60 90.40
2010 Cornell Temple 78–65 12-5 -7.23 51.10 43.30 20.90 31.50 97.70
2010 Washington Marquette 80–78 11-6 -2.65 49.50 33.60 22.20 36.60 90.10
2010 Old Dominion Notre Dame 51–50 11-6 -0.71 49.20 31.70 22.60 42.10 87.20
2009 Cleveland State Wake Forest 84–69 13-4 -8.54 47.40 30.40 24.10 33.50 90.20
2009 Wisconsin Florida State 61–59 (OT) 12-5 2.04 47.70 36.00 19.30 31.60 92.70
2009 Arizona Utah 84–71 12-5 -3.01 50.90 38.90 18.00 35.60 98.40
2009 Western Kentucky Illinois 76–72 12-5 -11.79 49.90 37.70 19.70 37.50 99.70
2009 Dayton West Virginia 68–62 11-6 -15.17 46.00 32.80 21.90 37.70 89.60
2008 Siena Vanderbilt 83–62 13-4 -6.49 48.10 38.20 24.00 31.30 96.90
2008 San Diego Connecticut 70–69 (OT) 13-4 -14.22 48.70 33.70 22.90 32.80 93.00
2008 Villanova Clemson 75–69 12-5 -9.31 47.80 34.40 23.40 36.00 91.80
2008 Western Kentucky Drake 101–99 (OT) 12-5 -7.81 51.20 38.90 24.50 36.80 94.00
2008 Kansas State Southern California 80–67 11-6 -0.97 50.20 32.00 22.40 44.30 91.40
2007 Winthrop Notre Dame 76–64 11-6 -6.04 55.10 35.50 20.60 35.40 93.10
2007 VCU Duke 79–77 11-6 -9.20 48.20 40.10 23.80 36.00 97.60
2006 Northwestern State Iowa 64–63 14-3 -11.87 50.50 36.20 24.10 38.20 95.70
2006 Bradley Kansas 77–73 13-4 -7.56 48.00 33.60 23.10 35.50 88.20
2006 Montana Nevada 87–79 12-5 -7.13 54.90 37.00 20.40 33.40 99.50
2006 Texas A&M Syracuse 66–58 12-5 2.44 49.10 36.10 27.30 43.20 87.10
2006 Milwaukee Oklahoma 82–74 11-6 -2.68 48.30 33.70 21.70 38.40 93.00
2006 George Mason Michigan State 75–65 11-6 -0.44 53.80 35.60 20.40 32.20 88.70
2005 Bucknell Kansas 64–63 14-3 -17.76 48.90 36.90 23.70 31.40 92.00
2005 Vermont Syracuse 60–57 (OT) 13-4 -7.43 48.70 35.80 19.40 35.50 94.30
2005 Milwaukee Alabama 83–73 12-5 -8.29 49.90 35.30 24.30 36.70 91.50
2005 UAB Louisiana State 82–68 11-6 -2.15 49.80 34.70 27.40 32.10 93.40
2004 Manhattan Florida 75–60 12-5 -8.59 47.10 36.80 24.00 35.40 91.00
2004 Pacific Providence 66–58 12-5 -9.71 52.50 35.50 19.40 31.10 95.10
2003 Tulsa Dayton 84–71 13-4 -4.42 51.00 36.80 20.30 33.60 91.80
2003 Butler Mississippi State 47–46 12-5 -7.01 53.40 39.10 20.00 28.70 96.40
2003 Central Michigan Creighton 79–73 11-6 -7.84 56.10 38.40 22.40 35.60 96.60
2002 UNC-Wilmington Southern California 93–89 (OT) 13-4 -10.22 46.50 37.30 24.00 33.20 94.00
2002 Creighton Florida 83–82 (OT) 12-5 -15.22 51.20 37.20 22.90 35.70 97.50
2002 Tulsa Marquette 71–69 12-5 -6.67 51.10 40.20 21.10 32.50 98.40
2002 Missouri Miami (Florida) 93–80 12-5 -1.44 49.70 39.10 20.00 39.70 96.70
2002 Wyoming Gonzaga 73–68 11-6 -8.41 50.60 30.90 18.70 35.80 94.60
2002 Southern Illinois Texas Tech 76–68 11-6 -4.81 49.90 36.60 21.60 36.20 93.60

Well that is a lot of numbers.  First off as I mentioned before 11-6’s aren’t great upsets.  So I will focus on the 12 and higher seeds for my analysis.  We see a lot of upsets coming from teams with specialized skill sets.  For instance just last year Middle Tennessee was an elite 3 point shooting team, finishing in the top 5 percent in the NCAA in that category.  Sure enough when they knocked off Michigan St. they finished with 11/19 shooting from behind the arc.  Now this performance may be somewhat of an outlier, but given the opportunity to score 3 points a possession is the kind of stat that is needed to cause this caliber of an upset.  They were not alone in this, when Arkansas Little Rock upset Purdue, also last year, they too were a top 3 point shooting team.  Similarly Mercer over Duke in 2014, Harvard over Cincinatti in 2014, and Harvard over New Mexico in 2013 were all excellent long range shooters.  Not all of these games had great 3 point performances, but it can lead to a more variable outcome, meaning if a team gets hot they may beat teams they otherwise shouldn’t, exactly where an upset in March stems from.

3 pointers are just one of the skill sets that lead can to an upset.  A couple other patterns arose too.  Lets talk about offensive rebounding.  As the game evolves we saw a lot of teams move away from even attempting these rebounds, preferring to get back on defense and prevent the fast break opportunity.  However, those that can own the boards, can get higher efficiency put back shots and not give up the possession can reap the rewards.  Teams like Morehead State in  2011 managed to obtain over 40% of their offensive rebounds that year, which is one of the reasons they were able to upset Louisville.  2010’s Old Dominion upset Notre Dame after owning the boards all season, as did Kansas state in 2008.

Forcing turnovers is another skill that when teams perform at an elite level can cause a March Madness upset.  Some of this may be more match-up dependent, some teams see more opponents that play full court press (a.k.a. West Virginia), and can adjust accordingly, but if it’s an opponents first time encountering this style of play in a while it can be a game-breaker.  We saw this last year when Stephen F. Austin knocked off West Virginia early, forcing 22 turnovers giving them a taste of their own medicine.  Georgia State forced 21 turnovers upsetting Baylor in 2015.  Ohio was also a turnover specialist knocking off Michigan in 2010.

Some other stats to look for include elite 2 point shooting, and overall adjusted defensive efficiency (typically allowing less than 0.9 points per possession adjusted for competition).  What seems to be the common pattern though, is that a team goes above being well-balanced and really excels in at least one of these areas.  I don’t mean in excel in the top 25% of teams, but rather in the top 5-10% among Division 1 teams seems to be what the data shows.  What category seems to matter a little less, but teams that are excellent 2 or 3 point shooters seem to lead to the most upsets.

I looked at a couple other stats where I didn’t see the same patterns.  Particularly I looked at whether or not a team won its conference tournament (which is a bit of misnomer since most of the 12-15 seeds punched their ticket from winning their respective tournaments).  However, even with the bigger schools, this didn’t seem to be of any relevance.  Another area I looked at was how a team performed in its last 10 games leading up to the tournament, but again this didn’t seem to show much.  A lot of the smaller conference schools may have inflated win percentages due to playing lesser competition, it really needs to be considered on a team by team basis and does not seem to work well being generalized across all teams.

Since html isn’t the best format to work with, I have uploaded my excel data here, including highlighting the elite categories for easier viewing.  NCAA Upsets Data

Enjoy, and check back later this week after Selection Sunday for part 3, where I will explore the likely upset candidates for 2017.

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One thought on “Anatomy of the March Madness Upset Part 2

  1. Pingback: Anatomy of the March Madness Upset – 2017 Picks | Predict Basketball

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