Since the NCAA moved to a 64-team tournament in 1985, only one tournament has had more upsets than this year's — and only one tournament has had as many big upsets.
After the second round of the tournament, The Wire took a look at how it compared to past tournaments, finding that while the first two rounds had a lot of upsets, they weren't that uncommon. But as the tournament progressed, ending with a 7-seed versus 8-seed championship match, 2014 moved into the top tier.
There are two different ways to measure the upsets in an NCAA tournament. One metric is the number of upsets — defined as any match in which a lower-seeded team beats a higher-seeded team. So Monday night's final wasn't an upset: a 7-seed beat an 8-seed. The other metric is the strength of the upset, which we measure by simply comparing the seedings of the two teams. If a 16-seed beat a 1-seed — which has never happened — that's an upset value of 15 (16 minus 1).
The tournaments with the most upsets in total, out of 63 games:
- 1999: 23 upsets (7 one-seed difference)
- 2014: 21 upsets (3 one-seed difference)
- 2001: 21 upsets (6 one-seed difference)
- 2006: 21 upsets (4 one-seed difference)
- 1989: 20 upsets (9 one-seed difference)
- 2010: 20 upsets (4 one-seed difference)
- 2011: 20 upsets (4 one-seed difference)
- 1990: 19 upsets (3 one-seed difference)
- 2003: 19 upsets (8 one-seed difference)
- 2005: 19 upsets (6 one-seed difference)
Only the 1999 tournament had more upsets than 2014, although the 2001 and 2006 tournaments had the same number of upsets. Note, though, that 2014 also had fewer upsets that were between teams that were only one seeding apart — meaning that it had fewer 9-seeds beating 8-seeds and so on.