Las Vegas Sun

July 12, 2024

UNLV quick hits:

Tourney Treats: Upsets in the 12 vs. 5 games a March Madness tradition

UNLV has never before received a No. 5 seed so this is the team’s first experience on this side of a tournament crowd pleaser

2013 Selection Sunday

Steve Marcus

UNLV Runnin’ Rebel head coach Dave Rice watches with the men’s basketball team as they wait to learn their selection while watching the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Show at the Mendenhall Center Sunday, March 17, 2013. UNLV will play Golden Bears in its NCAA tournament opener on Thursday at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

The Rebel Room

Rebels get a rematch in NCAA Tournament

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.

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.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy