March Madness 2016: Go Ahead and Pick a 16-seed This Year (Seriously)

  1. Let’s be clear: Anyone who picks a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is insane.
    Your bracket will hate you. Your friends will slowly back away from you. Your bosses will question why they thought it was a good idea to hire you.
  2. This is the year you should do it anyway.
  3. In the history of the NCAA tournament, there have been 124 games between No. 1 and No. 16 seeds, and the No. 16 seeds are 0-124.
    The most likely scenario is that they will be 0-128 by the end of the week.
  4. But there has never been a better time to get crazy with your bracket.
  5. The top seeds in the tournament—Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon—are as ripe as any this decade to be upset.
    Kansas enters the tournament as the 18th strongest No. 1 seed since 2005. North Carolina is right around the average. Virginia is the nation’s slowest team. Oregon is the weakest in a decade. (Photo: AP Image)
  6. It’s still unlikely that a No. 1 seed will lose, but it used to be unimaginable.
  7. The closest any team has come to the upset was when Georgetown survived Princeton, 50-49, in the 1989 tournament.
    (Photo: Sports Illustrated/ Getty Images)
  8. It didn’t happen then, and it hasn’t happened since.
  9. But here’s the thing: It should’ve happened by now.
    The 16-over-1 upset isn’t an impossibility. It’s only an improbability. And the math suggests it’s surprising that a No. 1 seed hasn’t lost already.
  10. Here’s one way to think about it:
    Every top seed in the last five years has opened with at least a 90% win probability, but the probability of all those top seeds winning was only 37%. (Photo: Getty Image)
  11. It’s true that No. 16 seeds have never won in the NCAA tournament.
    But it’s also true that teams have won in the NCAA tournament that could have been No. 16 seeds. Norfolk State was a No. 15 when it upset Missouri in 2012, and yet that win was even more remarkable because Norfolk State was a No. 16 seed in disguise.
  12. The heavy favorites have flaws, and a gamble on a No. 16 seed is really a gamble against the No. 1 seed.
    Maybe you can’t trust Kansas because you’ve seen the Jayhawks lose in the second round enough for one lifetime. Or maybe you went to Duke and simply want to short North Carolina. (Photo: Zuma Press)
  13. It seems silly to pick a No. 16 seed but you won’t win your pool anyway, so why not?
  14. The person who advances every No. 1 seed into the second round is the same as everyone else.
  15. But the person who accurately predicts the first No. 16 winner will be famous in his office forever.