College Basketball Fans are Really Good at Predicting Tournament Upsets

In honor of March Madness, a few days ago I conducted a short MaxDiff study among 2,644 college basketball fans, primarily recruited from the awesome community at r/collegebasketball and had them rank 20 potential first round upsets from most to least likely to happen.


Since predicting upsets (i.e. choosing lower seeded teams to beat higher seeded ones), is critical to winning the ever important office bracket pool, I was sincerely interested in how accurate the collective mind of over 2,500 basketball fans would be. So how accurate were they? The short answer is pretty damn accurate.

In the graph above, the games at the top were the ones voted most likely to end in an upset. The teams that actually won are highlighted in orange. As you can see there’s a lot more orange in the left column toward the top of the graph than there is at the bottom.

One way of looking at it is take the 20 potential upsets and cut them in half. Of the top ten potential upsets voted most likely to happen, SEVEN of them actually came to fruition. Of the remaining ten potential upsets, only one actually happened – #12 Liberty’s upset of #5 Mississippi State. That’s pretty insane. If you were to have followed the voters in this research when choosing upsets for your bracket, you would have done significantly better than average.

There’s not enough time to do this exercise again for the Round of 32, which tips off in only a few hours, but we can do it for the Sweet Sixteen. If you’d like to participate, follow FanJuicer on Twitter or join FanJuicer’s online panel to ensure you don’t miss when the survey link goes live.



If so, consider joining FanJuicer’s online panel, and we will let you know when new sports research studies are available in which you can participate and when new study results have been released.