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Breaking down the 5 vs. 12 matchup

Which of the 5-seeds will outlast the 12-seeds? ESPN Illustration

Editor's note: This infographic was published before the 2016 NCAA tournament tipped off. And the opening Thursday brought two more 12-seed wins over a 5-seed with Yale knocking off Baylor and Arkansas-Little Rock taking down Purdue.

This season has been full of upsets, so bracket builders and pundits alike are expecting plenty in this tournament. But one first-round matchup is infamously perilous for the earlier seed every year: the dreaded 5-seed vs. 12-seed matchup. From 2008 to 2014, No. 12 seeds actually had a winning record, taking 15 of 28 matchups.

This year, four new 5-seeds are ripe for the picking. (According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Indiana has the highest win probability as a 5-seed, at 88 percent, and Baylor's is just 61 percent. No 4-seed has a lower-than-84 percent chance of winning its first-round matchup.) So before you submit your brackets, make sure you know what to expect from one of the tournament's most common upsets.


Over the past 31 tournaments, 12-seeds have won 36 percent of games -- far better than a 13-seed's 20 percent and actually a percentage point better even than 11-seeds' records. In fact, 12-seeds have a better record (by one win!) than 11-seeds in the first round.

Don't expect 12-seed winners to be one-and-dones, either: 12-seeds actually have more wins in the second round than 11-seeds, too -- at 20-24, they're not too far off a .500 record. (No surprise, their better record is against 13-seeds.) In the Sweet 16, 12-seeds are just 1-19: one win coming against an 8-seed and 19 losses to No. 1s. Only one 12-seed has made the Elite Eight, when Missouri lost to Oklahoma in overtime in 2002.

There have been 26 wins by the 12th seed since 2000; there were just 18 from 1985 to 1999. Last season was one of just four since 1985 without a 12-seed upset. (Before last year, there hadn't been one since 2007.) There have been four seasons in which a No. 12 has pulled off three upsets in the first round, including two of the past three tourneys.

Stats compiled by ESPN The Magazine research department.