Plays That Busted Your Bracket (03/20/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
10 plays that busted your bracket.

How's your bracket?

That's what I thought.

The first round of the NCAA Tournament was bonkers. Ten double digit seeds won their first game (the most ever) and there were 13 upsets by seed in the first two days of March Madness, which tied a record since the Big Dance expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

With the Sweet 16 tipping Thursday, here are the ten plays that busted your bracket.

No. 11 Wichita State over No. 6 Arizona

The Shockers brought the defense forcing 19 turnovers resulting in 22 points and held an Arizona team that averaged more than 80 points per game to just 55 points. Wichita State's star duo of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker combined to score 29 points. The biggest play of the game was a Baker three pointer with 2:26 to play in the 1st half that increased the team's expected win probability by 9%. The Shockers built a 31-19 lead at halftime and never looked back.

No. 11 Gonzaga over No. 6 Seton Hall

Gonzaga won its first game of March Madness for the eighth straight time. The Zags put Seton Hall away with ease thanks to Domantas Sabonis' 21 point and 16 rebound effort. The Bulldogs took control for good on a Silas Melson three pointer with 7:13 to play (assist by Sabonis) in the first half. The long jumper gave Gonzaga the lead (one they would not surrender again) and increased the team's expected win probability by 14%.

No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock over No. 5 Purdue

It was all but over with Purdue leading by 13 points with 3:33 to play. Then the Sun Belt Champions went on an 18-5 run to tie the game at the end of regulation. Two overtimes later the Trojans were headed to the second round.

No. 12 Yale over No. 5 Baylor

It took 54 years but Yale finally returned to the Big Dance and the Bulldogs earned their first ever NCAA Tournament victory, upending Baylor 79-75. Yale led by as many as 13 points in the 2nd half but the Bears were able to cut the lead to 76-75 with just seconds to play. Baylor had a chance to tie or take the lead but Lester Medford turned the ball over on the Bears' last meaningful possession. Yale then converted a pair of free throws (+27% in expected win probability) to seal the victory.

No. 10 Syracuse over No. 7 Dayton

Did Syracuse belong in the tournament? They answered the naysayers with a 70-51 rout of Dayton. DaJuan Coleman made a layup in the final minute of the first half (+11% in expected win probability) to give the Orange a 30-28 lead, Cuse would never trail again.

No. 10 VCU over No. 7 Oregon State

JeQuan Lewis filled the boxscore with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in VCU's 75-67 first round win. Lewis gave the Rams the lead for good on a three pointer (+22% in expected win probability) with 7:16 to play.

No. 13 Hawaii over No. 4 Cal

Hawaii knocked Cal out of the Big Dance with a 77-66 victory that was the first win for the Warriors in the NCAA Tournament. Quincy Smith scored a career-high, with 19 points. Smith contributed eight of Hawaii's 15 points during a 6:30 minutes stretch late in the game after Cal had rallied to make it competitive (47-46 with 11:56 to left). Smith's jumper that ignited the run was the biggest play of the game and increased the Rainbow Warriors expected win probability by 14%.

No. 15 Middle Tennessee State over No. 2 Michigan State

Just the eighth 15-seed to pull a first round upset, Middle Tennessee State busted brackets around the country with a surprising 90-81 win. The Blue Raiders never trailed in the game and all five starters scored in double figures, including Perrin Buford who made a key basket in the game's final minutes. Buford's jumper with 3:21 to play gave Middle Tennessee State a three point lead and increased the team's expected win probability by 14%.

No. 14 Stephen F. Austin over No. 3 West Virginia

Thomas Walkup scored 33 points to lead Stephen F. Austin to a 70-56 win over West Virginia. Walkup, the bearded-one, drilled a three pointer for SFA's first points of the 2nd half (+16% in expected win probability). The Lumberjacks have now won 21 straight games.

No. 11 Northern Iowa over No. 6 Texas

Paul Jesperson banked in a half-court buzzer-beater to give Northern Iowa a 75-72 win over Texas. The Longhorns had tied the game on the previous play. If Jesperson doesn't make the unbelievable shot and the game goes to overtime, Texas becomes 55% likely to win.

After each play in an NFL, college football, college basketball, soccer (top leagues from England, Spain, Germany, Italy, French and USA) or NBA game and after each half inning in every MLB game, simulates the rest of the game 50,000 times to determine the projected score, likelihood of either team winning, ATS and O/U percentages, impact of all players and critical plays in determining the SU, ATS and O/U outcome.