Speed Reads

March Madness

The 'maddest' NCAA tournaments ever, in one handy chart

In an alternate universe where pure chaos reigns, the NCAA tournament is down to only the lowest possible seeds, and the University of Albany is on its way to the national title. Ah, the madness. But the real tournament this year has also been roiled by its share of stunning upsets. Duke went home after one game, formerly-undefeated Wichita State got bounced in the second round, and the scrappy Dayton Flyers booted two powerhouse programs en route to the Sweet 16.

So how does this upset-heavy year stack up against years past? The following chart compares the sum of all Sweet 16 seeds in a given year since the tournament field ballooned to 64 teams in 1985. Higher numbers mean more chaos, while lower numbers — approaching the lowest possible sum of 40 — mean a fat payday for that jerk in your bracket pool who went all chalk.

By that metric, this has been the eighth-maddest tournament in the past three decades, with the remaining seeds adding up to a robust 79. 1986 was the wildest year ever (Sweet 16 seed sum: 89) with a No. 11, 12, and 14 seed crashing the party, and only seven of the expected seeds (Nos. 1-4) advancing past the Round of 32. On the other side of the spectrum, 2009 was the least-exciting year, with every single No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 seed making the Sweet 16 — the only time that's ever happened.