The Madness Begins: Most Likely First-Round Upsets and Huddle Trading Insights

March 21, 2024

The Madness Begins: Most Likely First-Round Upsets and Huddle Trading Insights

With Selection Sunday done with and the field for March Madness officially set, there’s one thing that I’m most excited about. There is nothing more representative of a tournament literally dubbed “Madness” than mind-boggling upsets. Over the years, we’ve had plenty. 

In the past decade, we’ve had two No. 1 seeds fall to No. 16’s – Purdue, who lost last year to Fairleigh Dickinson, and Virginia, who lost in 2018 to UMBC. We’ve also seen three consecutive years of a highly-touted No. 2 seed falling to a No. 15 – Arizona in 2023 (lost to Princeton), Kentucky in 2022 (lost to Saint Peter’s) and Ohio State in 2021 (lost to Oral Roberts). It’s now more than a decade ago, but nobody can forget the iconic mini-run that Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU) went on to reach the Sweet 16, beating No. 2 Georgetown (who were led by Otto Porter Jr.) and No. 7 SDSU.

Today, I’m going to chat with Huddle Trader Max Fortune regarding teams that he believes are primed for an upset, and what Huddle does to make their college basketball trading the best in the nation – no upsets or surprises on their end, just high-quality, high-uptime college basketball betting. 

In a year with remarkable parity, I would not be surprised if we saw quite a few upsets on the first weekend of March Madness. While I’m not suggesting that we’re going to see a repeat of a No. 1 seed going down in the first round, there are definitely single-digit seeds that could find themselves at the mercy of an underdog ready to stun the college basketball world.

Jake: When it comes to college basketball, what is your approach to predicting game outcomes, and how does Huddle utilize an in-game model?

Max: You might be surprised to hear this, but we don’t project upsets before the game starts. We let bettors and the market tell us who they think is going to win, and by how much. Once the game starts, that’s when we make predictions using our in-game model – which we believe is one of the best in the entire industry.

Jake: I assume preparing for March Madness is a more unique challenge than, say, a regular season or conference tournament game?

Max: Absolutely. It’s challenging from both a technical and systems perspective. What I mean by that is that new matchups are announced – basically on a daily basis – and it’s a race to get them up as soon as possible so that people can place their bets. Then you add on the difficulty of making totals for these games. Teams in March Madness usually play less efficiently than their underlying metrics would suggest. That could be because of travel, playing in unfamiliar venues, or just chalked up to players being nervous. It’s the biggest stage in college basketball.

Jake: Are there any matchups that have you thinking: “Something is amiss?”

Max: I wouldn’t go so far as saying that the selection committee made a mistake, but every year there are seeding matchups where you wonder if something went slightly askew, sure. The market is currently saying that South Carolina (No. 6 seed) and Oregon (No. 11 seed) are evenly matched, despite there being a 5-seed difference between them. We’re currently giving South Carolina a 53% chance to win that affair. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the 11th seed has pulled an upset 38.2% of the time. 

Jake: That’s a great kickoff point for me, as Oregon beating South Carolina happens to be one of my first-round upset predictions!

3. Oregon (11) beats South Carolina (6)

This wouldn’t be an upset of epic proportions, but one that I still see as totally viable. The Oregon Ducks just won the Pac-12 tournament, and have received very consistent guard play from their two lead guards in Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad. N’Faly Dante, the Ducks’ center, is the X-factor though. The Gamecocks only have two forwards averaging more than 20 minutes per night, and neither of them comes close to Dante’s 7’0” stature. He could be a matchup nightmare for South Carolina. 

2. JMU (12) beats Wisconsin (5)

Wisconsin is one of those teams that just feels primed for a first-round exit. They’re perfectly okay, but I’m very curious how they intend to handle the JMU Dukes and their elite three-point shooting (all but one member of their roster shoots 3pointers at a 35% clip or better). This is a game that could either be close throughout, or one that gets out of hand early for the Badgers.

1. McNeese State (12) beats Gonzaga (5)

What, no top-4 upsets? Not today. This is less about Gonzaga, and more about a havoc-wreaking McNeese Cowboys squad. The feisty squad implements a full court zone press designed to irritate and harrass opponents, and they force a ton of turnovers. Fifth-year guard Shahada Wells averages nearly 3spg, and he brings a Marcus Smart-esque level of intensity to every possession. Winners of eleven straight matchups, I’m taking the Cowboys to force Mark Few’s squad out of Madness earlier than many anticipate. 

What does all of this excitement mean for the average college basketball fan? It means Huddle is ready to deliver an unparalleled betting experience – no matter if you’re a sharp or a casual bettor. Huddle’s innovative offerings are here to elevate your March Madness experience, offering an array of betting opportunities that will put your knowledge to the test.