March Madness 5-12 seed upsets history and 2023 Matchup analysis
March Madness is finally here! After a wild and unpredictable regular season, this year’s NCAA Tournament could be one of the best in recent memory. There is one question that many basketball fans ask before filling out their bracket each year: Which upsets will bust my bracket?
A common upset pick in most brackets every year is at least one #12 seed to knock off a #5 seed. This is a proven trend, as 12 seeds have defeated 5 seeds nearly 36% of the time in the first round since 1985. It pays to pick upsets and look for value with these matchups, and I expect that trend to continue this March.
Let’s take a look at some recent history in the 5-12 matchups, before analyzing which #12 seed has the best chance to continue that upset trend in March Madness 2023. Make sure you also check out our March Madness picks for every game throughout the NCAA tournament.
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March Madness #5 vs #12 seed upset history
There have been 53 instances of a #12 seed knocking off a #5 seed since 1985, with this trend especially ratcheting up over the last decade. Last year, we saw Richmond knock off a red-hot Iowa team that had just won the Big Ten Tournament, and New Mexico State defeat UConn as a 6.5-point underdog. At least one #12 seed has advanced to the round of 32 in 13 of the last 15 NCAA Tournaments, with multiple 12-seeds advancing in 8 of those 13 years. Needless to say, this is a trend that should continue for years to come. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of 5-12 matchups.
East Region: #5 Duke Blue Devils vs #12 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
This is an interesting case of a team that would’ve been a public darling in this spot (Oral Roberts) going up against one of the nation’s most public teams (Duke). The Blue Devils are the biggest favorite out of all the #5 seeds, and it’s likely based on recent performance. Duke has looked like the ACC’s best team over the last month. While that isn’t saying much given how poor the league is this season, the Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the season, particularly on the defensive end. However, this Oral Roberts offense should test Duke’s defense, as Max Abmas and the Golden Eagles can score inside and from beyond the 3-point arc. This should be an exciting contest from beginning to end, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Oral Roberts back in the round of 32.
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South Region: #5 San Diego State Aztecs vs #12 Charleston Cougars
Given that Charleston won 31 games this season and was a mid-major darling for most of the year, I could see the Cougars being a popular pick to knock off the Mountain West’s best team. However, San Diego State profiles pretty well in this matchup. The Aztecs boast an elite defense that guards the perimeter really well, which is imperative against a Charleston team that attempts a ton of 3-pointers every game. San Diego State also has experienced leadership on offense with its veteran guards and strong post play. While I do think we see a close game here, I expect the Aztecs to survive and advance.
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West Region: #5 Saint Mary’s Gaels vs #12 VCU Rams
This is a game that I see as being a popular choice in many brackets for a few reasons. The primary reason would be that Saint Mary’s is far from a public team and the WCC doesn’t exactly have a positive reputation among some college basketball fans (likely stemming from anti-Gonzaga sentiment). Additionally, VCU is a program that has been in this position before and pulled off an upset over a #5 seed — most notably in 2012 over Wichita State. From a matchup perspective, the Rams do square up nicely against Saint Mary’s, as both teams play at an extremely slow pace and play very good defense. VCU is elite at forcing turnovers, which is something that could be an issue for the Gaels backcourt to handle as we saw in recent losses against Gonzaga.
Midwest Region: #5 Miami Hurricanes vs #12 Drake Bulldogs
This is a matchup that I expect to be the most common 12-5 upset picked by the public and experts alike, and it’s easy to see why. As I mentioned in my Sweet 16 longshots column, Drake has won 16 of its last 18 games — including a dominant showing in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Per BartTorvik, the Bulldogs have been one of the 15 best teams in the nation over the last month — going 8-1 against the spread in those contests. This is a veteran team that is deep and experienced at all positions. Furthermore, they could be playing against a Miami team that is poor defensively and will likely be missing big man Norchad Omier in the interior. Drake is the shortest underdog on the board at most sportsbooks, and I expect the Bulldogs to move on.
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