Wisconsin’s unsightly 39-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament last week likely served as a giant red flag to anyone filling out an NCAA tournament bracket.
But any fans with a sense of recent history probably already would have known to take a “buyer beware” approach toward the Badgers.
Wisconsin is making its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and the Badgers have been eliminated by lower-seeded teams in three of the past four seasons. As the No. 4 seed in the Southeast Regional, Wisconsin will face No. 13 seed Belmont in the first round this season.
The Badgers aren’t alone.
We’ve put together a list of the teams in this season’s bracket that have lost to lower-seeded teams in the Sweet 16 or earlier at least three times in the past 10 tournaments. We also established a point total for each team based on the magnitude of each upset. For instance, a No. 8 seed losing to a No. 9 seed counts as only one point, while a No. 3 seed falling to a No. 14 seed gets 11 points.
If you pick any of these teams for a Final Four run and end up disappointed, don’t say we never warned you.
By the way, you may be surprised to see the team atop this list.
Here we go:
1. DUKE (6 upsets, 22 points)
Buzz: It’s perhaps a bit misleading to have Duke first on this list. When you’re seeded first or second in a region just about every season, you basically have two choices: Lose to a lower-seeded team or reach the Final Four. Duke lost in the regional semifinals as a No. 1 seed three times in the past decade (in 2002 to Indiana, in 2005 to Michigan State and in 2006 to LSU). As a No. 2 seed, the Blue Devils lost to West Virginia in the second round in 2008 and to Villanova in a 2009 regional semifinal. Duke suffered a rare down season in 2007 and lost as a No. 6 seed to VCU in the first round.
2. FLORIDA (5 upsets, 28 points)
Buzz: Florida has an odd profile. The Gators have won two national titles (2006 and 2007) in the past decade, but they also have been frequent postseason upset victims. Florida lost to a lower-seeded team every season from 2001 to 2005, though the Gators haven’t been upset victims since. The Gators fell in the first round in 2002 (to No. 12 seed Creighton) and 2004 (to No. 12 seed Manhattan). They lost in the second round as a No. 3 in 2001 (to No. 11 seed Temple) and as a No. 2 in 2003 (to No. 7 seed Michigan State). As the No. 4 seed in 2005, Florida lost to No. 5 seed Villanova in the regional semifinals.
3. OHIO STATE (5 upsets, 26 points)
Buzz: Ohio State has lost to a lower-seeded team each of the last two years. The Buckeyes were a No. 1 seed last year when they lost to No. 6 seed Tennessee in the third round. They lost to Siena two years ago in a first-round No. 8 vs. No. 9 game. Ohio State also dropped a No. 2 vs. No. 7 second-round game with Georgetown in 2006. The Buckeyes also lost to No. 12 seed Utah State in the first round in 2001. And as a No. 4 seed, the Buckeyes lost a second-round game to No. 12 seed Missouri in 2002.
4. PITTSBURGH (5 upsets, 20 points)
Buzz: Pittsburgh, Kansas and Gonzaga are the only teams in the nation with 20-plus overall wins, 10-plus conference wins and an NCAA tournament bid in each of the past nine seasons. But all that regular-season success hasn’t carried over to the postseason. Pitt has stumbled in the second round in three of the past five seasons. The Panthers fell to Bradley (a No. 13 seed) as a No. 5 in 2006, to Michigan State (a No. 5 seed) as a No. 4 in 2008 and to Xavier (a No. 6 seed) as a No. 3 last season. As a No. 3 seed in 2002, Pitt fell to No. 10 seed Kent State in the regional semifinals. Pitt also was seeded second in 2003 and fell to No. 3 seed Marquette in the Sweet 16.
5. WISCONSIN (4 upsets, 25 points)
Buzz: Wisconsin’s first-round date with Atlantic Sun champion Belmont seems tricky because the Badgers have been eliminated by lower-seeded teams from outside the six major conferences three of the last four NCAA tournaments. Wisconsin has fallen to teams from the Mountain West Conference (UNLV), the Southern Conference (Davidson) and the Ivy League (Cornell). Wisconsin lost to UNLV (a No. 7 seed) as a No. 2 and Cornell (a No. 12 seed) as a No. 4 in the second round and to Davidson (a No. 10 seed) as a No. 3 in a regional semifinal. Wisconsin also lost to an 11th-seeded Georgia State team in the first round in 2001.
6. SYRACUSE (4 upsets, 23 points)
Buzz: Syracuse earned a No. 1 seed last season, only to lose to No. 5 seed Butler in the West Regional semifinals. At least the Orange reached the third round. Syracuse lost in the first round to No. 13 seed Vermont in 2005 and to No. 12 seed Texas A&M in 2006. Syracuse also was an upset victim in 2004, as it lost a Sweet 16 game to Alabama in a No. 5 vs. No. 8 matchup.
7. GONZAGA (4 upsets, 19 points)
Buzz: Gonzaga established a name for itself by knocking off better-known programs in this tournament, but the Zags often have been on the wrong end of postseason upsets since rising to prominence. Gonzaga fell in the first round to No. 11 seed Wyoming in 2002. Gonzaga earned a No. 2 seed in 2004 and lost to No. 10 seed Nevada in the second round. As a No. 3, the Zags fell in the second round again to No. 6 seed Texas Tech in 2005. Davidson began its run to a regional final in 2008 with an opening-round victory over a seventh-seeded Gonzaga team.
8. MARQUETTE (4 upsets, 16 points)
Buzz: Marquette’s first-round loss to No. 11 seed Washington last season continued the Eagles’ recent tradition of early stumbles against lower-seeded teams. Marquette also lost in the first round to No. 12 seed Tulsa in 2002, to No. 10 seed Alabama in 2006 and to No. 9 seed Michigan State in 2007.
9. TEXAS (4 upsets, 11 points)
Buzz: Just because Texas is on this list doesn’t necessarily mean you should pencil them in for an early exit on your bracket. The two biggest upsets involving Texas were long ago, and one of them came only after the Longhorns had reached the Sweet 16. Texas lost to No. 11 seed Temple in the first round in 2001. As a No. 3 seed, Texas lost to No. 7 seed Xavier in a 2004 regional semifinal. The Longhorns also lost a No. 8 vs. No. 9 first-round matchup to Nevada in 2005 and a No. 4 vs. No. 5 second-round game with USC in 2007.
10. (tie) KANSAS (3 upsets, 28 points)
Buzz: Kansas’ recent postseason history has featured plenty of highs and lows. The Jayhawks won the 2008 national title and reached the championship game in 2003, but they also have been on the wrong end of some of this decade’s biggest postseason shockers. The magnitude of the upsets involving Kansas is evident from the Jayhawks’ high point total. Kansas lost first-round games to No. 14 seed Bucknell in 2005 and No. 13 seed Bradley in 2006. Perhaps the most stunning result came last season, when Kansas was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and fell to No. 9 seed Northern Iowa in the second round.
10. (tie) CLEMSON (3 upsets, 13 points)
Buzz: In each of the past three seasons, Clemson has lost to a lower-seeded team in the first round. The Tigers fell to No. 12 seed Villanova in 2008, No. 10 seed Michigan in 2009 and No. 10 seed Missouri last season. This season’s draw has assured that streak won’t continue for a fourth consecutive season. As one of the last four at-large teams in the field, Clemson is facing UAB in the First Four.
10. (tie) CINCINNATI (3 upsets, 9 points)
Buzz: Cincinnati is making its first NCAA appearance since 2005, but the Bearcats didn’t have much postseason success earlier in the decade, when they were making the field on an annual basis. As a No. 1 seed in 2002, Cincinnati lost to No. 8 seed UCLA in the second round. The Bearcats also dropped a No. 8 vs. No. 9 first-round game with Gonzaga in 2003 and a No. 4 vs. No. 5 second-round matchup with Illinois in 2004.