Which Teams Will Bust The Most March Madness Brackets?

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
march madness bracket busters

Two types of teams frustrate March Madness pool players: the Cinderellas and the Bracket Busters. When talking about the busters in this article, we mean those heavily-picked favorites many expect to waltz to the Final Four, only to see their run come to an untimely end. By analyzing March Madness odds and comparing those to pick splits, as well as the best projection tools in the industry, we can avoid tossing our brackets in the bin before the weekend hits.

Let’s lay out some of this year’s biggest potential bracket busters. For more NCAA Tournament projections, take advantage of a generous offer from PoolGenius. For just $39, you’ll get a full array of projection tools to help you win your bracket and pool contests. Click SIGN UP NOW to get the discounted subscription today:

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Potential March Madness Bracket Busters To Avoid

Let’s take a look at who the most brackets select as their champion and compare that to the team’s odds to win the National Championship (as of Mar. 19).

No. 1 Seeds

TeamPick%OddsWin Rate
North Carolina10%+17005.6%

It’s no surprise that the four No. 1 seeds are also the four most-picked champions. For three of these teams, there’s no alarming discrepancy between the pick rate and expected win rate. That is, except for North Carolina.

The Tar Heels are the third-most picked champion among ESPN Tournament Challenge entries. However, multiple projections suggest UNC is the least-likely No. 1 seed to emerge from its bracket. Two teams in the West Region project to be favored over UNC, with PoolGenius giving each better than a 50% chance to win a possible head-to-head with the Tar Heels. Also factor in that UNC would have to play either the highest-rated No. 9 seed according to both Haslametrics and KenPom, Michigan State, or the second-highest rated No. 8 seed in Mississippi State.

Final Four odds line No. 2 seed Arizona as the most likely team to advance from the West Region.

While your office pool hand-wrings over Purdue getting bounced by Fairleigh Dickinson last year, be sure to seriously consider North Carolina as the biggest No. 1 seed ready to bust everyone’s bracket.

No. 2 Seeds & No. 3 Seeds

TeamPick%OddsWin Rate
Iowa State4.7%+22004.4%

Again, no alarming discrepancies between the pick rate and the win rate. However, the surface numbers suggest there may be value in selecting Arizona. This correlates with the concerns about North Carolina above, as the Wildcats are favored to make the Final Four over the Tar Heels.

The Kentucky Wildcats are the lone No. 3 seed to be picked over a No. 2 seed by the most number of entries in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. UK appears in a whopping 30% of Elite Eights, more than No. 2 seed Iowa State. The ‘Cats’ odds to make the Elite Eight stand at , or about a 25% win rate. This 5% discrepancy between pick rate and win rate makes Kentucky an excellent team to fade in your bracket pools. That mark is only usurped by UConn’s championship pick rate and odds to win.

Kentucky’s pick rate also correlates with a slight value on Marquette. In head-to-head matchups, ESPN users selected UK in 53% of entries. PoolGenius lines Marquette with a 54% win expectancy in their power ratings and 52% in the Decision Tree. However, only 42% of simulations advanced the Golden Eagles past the Wildcats.

But, in terms of leverage, Kentucky is a good contender to be eliminated earlier than later.

Other Potential March Madness Bracket Busters

Two No. 4 seeds are the most popular Sweet 16 picks in their respective regions – the Alabama Crimson Tide and Kansas Jayhawks. Outside of having a sub-100 defense (per KenPom), the Tide face a very difficult potential second-round opponent. Saint Mary’s was picked in fewer than 20% of ESPN Tournament Challenge entries to advance to the Sweet 16, but their odds to reach the Sweet 16 stand at (37.8% win rate). PoolGenius advances Saint Mary’s in 61% of simulations and their power rating implies a 60% win rate over Alabama.

Kansas still has a couple of question marks. The injury report suggests Hunter Dickinson may return for Round 1, but guard Kevin McCullar might not. While those injuries may not be enough to bounce the Jayhawks in the Round of 64, it could be a death knell against a superior opponent like Gonzaga. Fewer than 23% of ESPN entries advance the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16. Odds line Gonzaga with a 42.6% chance to make the Sweet 16.

Bouncing both these four seeds early may prove to be fruitful in larger bracket pools.

Bracket Predictor Tool

Use PoolGenius’ bracket predictor tool below to compare potential upset picks quickly. Click on the school logo to select each team and see how they stack up with a single glance.