Which March Madness Underdogs Have The Highest Win Probability?

Written By Brett Gibbons on March 15, 2023 - Last Updated on March 16, 2023
March Madness Cinderellas

In March, everyone loves the college basketball underdog. Every year, we see unexpected double-digit seeds knock off power after power en route to deep NCAA Tournament runs. Cinderellas put the “Madness” in March Madness. Last season, St. Peter’s became the first 15-seed to ever reach the Elite Eight.

But is there a way to narrow down who this year’s Cinderella might be in your bracket pools and contests? Below, we’ll look at the lower-seeded teams who have the highest first-round implied win probability, based on the betting markets. After all, the run has to start somewhere. Implied win probabilities are derived from moneylines found at DraftKings Sportsbook.

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March Madness Cinderellas: Lower Seeds With Highest Implied Win Probability

TeamOpponentImplied Win %
9 West Virginia8 Auburn56.5%
10 Utah State7 Missouri55.6%
9 Auburn8 Iowa53.5%

OK, maybe it’s counterintuitive to begin a Cinderellas piece with the word “favorites.” However, some lower-seeded teams are indeed favored in their Round of 64 matchups. For your home bracket pools, this might be a good place to start to differentiate from your chalky adversaries. For larger pools, leaning the ‘dogs here might actually be an intuitive play.

West Virginia, the 9-seed in the South Region, has the highest implied win rate of any lower seed over 8-seed Maryland. The Mountaineers have an expected 56.5% win rate and are picked in 50.5% of brackets at ESPN.

10-seed Utah State holds the highest implied win probability of a double-digit seed over 7-seed Missouri. The Aggies have a 55.6% implied win probability and are selected in 43.4% of brackets, per ESPN – the most of any double-digit seed. Most respected metrics pick Utah State, too, except for ShotQuality, who leans Mizzou. Higher point totals mean higher variance and this game comes down to who shoots the three better. This game has a point total set at .

9-seed Auburn also holds a slight advantage over 8-seed Iowa in their Round of 64 matchup. Overall, the Tigers are a popular pick, setting up as the most popular nine seed selected at 52.3% on ESPN. However, this is another high-total game (), creating more variance. More variance should give bettors more confidence in underdog picks, making Iowa a strong contrarian option.

March Madness Cinderellas: Close To Coin Flip Chance Of An Upset

TeamOpponentImplied Win %
10 Boise State7 Northwestern48.8%
9 Illinois8 Arkansas47.6%
12 Drake5 Miami47.6%
10 USC7 Michigan State46.5%
9 Florida Atlantic8 Memphis46.5%
10 Penn State7 Texas A&M42.6%

It’s unsurprising to see 8/9 matchups litter this article, as these teams are more evenly matched than any other seed matchup. 9-seed Illinois has a 47.6% implied win rate over 8-seed Arkansas and 9-seed Florida Atlantic has a 46.5% implied win rate over 8-seed Memphis. However, FAU might prove to be a good contrarian pick in large bracket pools as they’re the lowest-picked 9-seed at just 32.6%. Their pick rate sits lower than all the 10-seeds, 12-seed VCU, and 11-seed NC State.

Chances are, you clicked on this article to hear about double digit seeds. 12-seed Drake over 5-seed Miami (FL) is shaping up to be a popular upset pick among the betting community. However, just 29.3% of March Madness brackets at ESPN chose the Bulldogs over the ‘Canes – second-fewest among 5/12 matchups. At least one 12-seed advanced in 32 of 37 NCAA Tournaments, including two just last year. Drake holds a 47.6% implied win probability and growing since open.

The rest of the 10-seeds come in next: Boise State, USC, and Penn State. Of the group, Boise State was a popular pick among respected metrics while USC was picked by Haslametrics. Those two teams are also the two least-picked among 10-seeds at ESPN at 41.8% and 40.3%, respectively.

The Bracket Busters

TeamOpponentImplied Win %
13 Kent State4 Indiana40.0%
13 Furman4 Virginia34.5%

Now onto the good stuff. When you consider a, “Cinderella,” you likely think 15-seeds like St. Peter’s and Oral Roberts. Could we see another 15-seed run? Perhaps, but these 13-seeds make for a better first-round bet.

The Golden Flashes officially earned their bid to the Big Dance when they won the MAC Tournament. However, Kent State proved their mettle much earlier in the year, taking 1-seed Houston to the wire in a rock fight and keeping their matchup against Gonzaga within single digits. Per TheLines lead college basketball writer Eli Hershkovich, Kent State, “scares the s–– out of [him].” They also scare the s–– out of the betting market, who gives the Flashes the best expected win rate of a 13-seed by over 5%.

Another exciting 13-seed includes Furman, who has a 34.5% implied win rate over 4-seed Virginia. The Paladins could get a date with trendy upset pick Charleston, the second-most popular 12-seed picked to move on. Charleston has equivalent 34.5% odds to upset 5-seed San Diego State in the Round of 64. That upset would give Furman an exciting opportunity to make a Sweet 16 appearance (+750 at DraftKings Sportsbook), perhaps the most direct route to that quarterfinal round of any 13-seed.

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Brett Gibbons Avatar
Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons