Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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The brackets are out and the Las Vegas Sun sports team is here to discuss UNLV's draw as the 5-seed in San Jose, Calif., and a rematch with Cal.
- Tourney Treats: Special prop bets available for UNLV-Cal game
- Rebels’ newcomers eager to live their dreams in NCAA Tournament
- Tourney Treats: UNLV-Cal rematch was ‘best we could do,’ committee chair says
- Ray Brewer: Making four straight tournaments is nice for UNLV duo, but there is more to achieve
- Cal’s Crabbe on UNLV matchup: ‘It’s like a home game for us’
- Rebels ready to get down to business in NCAA Tournament rematch
- NCAA Tournament opening lines: UNLV a 2.5-point favorite against Cal
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
- NCAA Tournament bracket
- All the Sun's NCAA Tournament coverage
Anybody who’s ever tried to fill out a few brackets knows about the 12-5 upset. At this point, trying to figure out which 12 is going to be in the Round of 32 is a March tradition almost as much as the CBS March Madness theme (which I obviously love).
Considering UNLV is a No. 5 seed for the first time in school history this season, that’s not exactly comforting news for Rebels fans.
A Google search for “12-5 upset” comes up with about 1.2 million results. Since 1985, when the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams, a No. 12 has defeated a No. 5 38 times, or 34 percent of the time. Last year, 12 seeds went 2-2; in 2009, they were 3-1, with only Northern Iowa failing to pull off the upset.
The 12-5 win percentage is exactly the same as a No. 11 over a No. 6, though those usually get less coverage. That’s likely for two reasons:
1. A 12, obviously, is a “worse” seed than an 11, and the bigger the number in the later rounds, the more attention people pay. 2. The 11-6 upset only caught up in the past two seasons.
As Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, er, illustrates in this 2011 story*, the 12-5 was the perfect upset point. The lower seeds didn’t pull it off at nearly the same rate, and at that time there were more Round of 64 victories by the 12s than 11s. It’s now even because No. 11 seeds went 5-3 the past two seasons, including Colorado’s 68-64 victory against UNLV last season.
*That story is worth it alone for the following quote: “We’re just trying to get more gravy.”
The general consensus about the reason for a 12-5 upset is that a No. 12 seed is traditionally a highly motivated mid-major while a No. 5 seed is often a middle of the pack BCS school. However, that doesn’t fit with any of this year’s 12-5 games.
UNLV plays Cal in a rematch Thursday at 4:27 p.m. in San Jose, Calif. The other games either feature two BCS teams facing off — No. 5 Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. No. 12 Oregon (Pac-12) and No. 5 Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (SEC) — or two non-BCS teams, in the case of No. 5 VCU (A-10) vs. No. 12 Akron (MAC).
According to The New York Times' Nate Silver’s projections, Oregon has the best chance (39.5 percent) to win one for the 12s. Las Vegas oddsmakers say it’s Cal, who as a 2.5-point underdog just edges out the Ducks, who are getting 3 points.
The last time the No. 5 seeds all made it into the Round of 32 was 2007. That's the only time it's happened in the past 12 years, though it did also happen to be the last time the Final Four was in Atlanta, so maybe all the No. 5 seeds are due to survive.
But the odds suggest otherwise.