How to find the right March Madness upset to bet on

March Madness Upset Alert: Charleston Over San Diego State

I’m ready for March Madness. But more so, I’m ready for the upsets that are bound to happen. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing an underdog overcome the odds and take out a higher-ranked side.

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I’m sure you remember where you were when No. 16 UMBC knocked off No. 1 Virginia 74-54 back in 2018. Maybe you don’t. If not, seeing this video will certainly jog that foggy memory of yours.

Upsets are not only fun to watch but they’re extra fun when you’ve got money on the underdog to win. Before you start placing money on a 16 seed to take out a No. 1, though, consider this: It’s only happened once. Ever.

So what matchup should you be looking for to find the right upset to bet on?

Upsets By First-Round Seed
MatchupNumber of UpsetsLast Time
16 vs 112018 (UMBC vs Virginia 74-54)
15 vs 2102022 (Saint Peter’s vs Kentucky 85-79)
14 vs 3222021 (Abilene Christian vs Texas 53-52)
13 vs 4312021 (Ohio vs Virginia 62-58)
12 vs 5532022 (Richmond vs Iowa 67-63)
11 vs 6572022 (Michigan vs Colorado State 75-63)
10 vs 7582022 (Miami (FL) vs USC 68-66)


Looking at that table, there’s a significant jump when we get to No. 12 seeds knocking out a 5 seed, with 53 such upsets. I’m going to focus on those matchups to look for my first-round upset, mainly because the chance of it happening is high and the payout is excellent with the average line at +170.

Average Dog Line
MatchupsAverage Line
10 vs 7+55
11 vs 6+173
12 vs 5+170
13 vs 4+298
14 vs 3+564


The average line for a 13 or 14 seed winning is much better, but with 10 and 22 upsets, respectively, the frequency is way too low for me to consider wagering on an upset in those spots.


I’m relatively new to covering basketball. I’m still getting my bearings on how to predict this sport. I look to others to get me started and I really like how The Athletic looks for a good upset.

Their criteria for finding a good dog is strong offensive rebounding and a strong three-point conversion rate. For these dogs to win, they’ve got to squeeze out every little bit of offense possible to overcome the favorite.

When it comes to a vulnerable favorite, they look for a team with a high turnover rate and low possession numbers. Again, the point here is to look for a favorite that will (involuntarily) allow the opponent to sway the momentum of a game in their favor.

Here’s how each 12 vs 5 matchup looks considering ranking in these stats:

March Madness 12 vs 5 matchups
FavoriteTurnoversPossessionUnderdogOff. Rebound3 Point %
San Diego State29177Charleston1211
Duke222309Oral Roberts23544
Miami (FL)310148Drake26435
Saint Mary’s315346VCU231216

*All stats are ranked vs all 363 schools

There isn’t a matchup that jumps off the charts by hitting all of the criteria, but I will say Charleston vs San Diego State has my attention.

The fact that the Cougars are the No. 1 offensive rebounding team and also happen to be just below middle-of-the-pack in three-point conversions is the type of dog I’m looking for. What makes them even more appealing is they don’t have one single player driving those results.

Nine of their players are averaging more than one offensive rebound per game. When it comes to converting three-pointers, the Cougars have three players averaging over five three-point attempts per game while also converting them at or above a respectable 32 percent.

At +190 on the moneyline, a winning $100 bet on Charleston to knock out San Diego State in the first round would return you $190 in profit. That’s an incredible way to start your March Madness betting.

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