Breaking Down The 12-5 Upset

FAYETTEVILLE -- It's one of the first lessons people learn when they fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket, one Arkansas basketball fans could point to as encouraging.

Always mark down a No. 12 seed to knock off a No. 5 seed.

The math is tough to ignore. The statistics are impossible to disregard.

Since 1985, when the NCAA Tournament field was expanded to 64 teams, at least one No. 12 seed has recorded an upset in every year except 1988 and 2000.

"Isn't that kind of crazy?" said Dick Vitale, ESPN college basketball analyst. "That just goes to show you how many talented teams there are that make the NCAA Tournament every year."

It's a trend Arkansas (21-13) hopes to validate Friday night in its East Regional first-round game against No. 5 seed Southern California (23-11) in Spokane, Wash.

Twenty-eight of the 88 games between schools seeded Nos. 5 and 12 have been won by the lower seed (31.8 percent).

Lately, No. 12 seeds have been even more successful.

Over the past six NCAA Tournaments, No. 12 seeds seeds are 11-13 (45.8 percent) in first-round contests.

At his Tuesday news conference, Arkansas coach Stan Heath decribed why he felt lower-seeded teams have experienced success in the tournament.

"Outside of maybe the top (four) seeds, I think the balance in college basketball right now is at an all-time high," Heath said. "There might be a hair difference between a (No.) 12 seed and a (No.) 5 seed."

Las Vegas oddsmakers agree.

They collectively made Southern California just a 1.5-point favorite over Arkansas when spreads were released late Sunday, despite the differential in seeding.

Both coaches seem to act as if the particular seeding made little difference. They each see only a matchup of one quality team against another.

"Five-12 has always been one of the historical upset brackets," USC coach Tim Floyd told The Los Angeles Times. "We'll make sure our players are aware of that."

In Arkansas, USC is encountering a No. 12 seed that has another statistic working in its favor.

Teams seeded No. 12 that went to the NCAA Tournament the previous year are 13-11 (54.2 percent) in first-round games. Those that didn't are 16-48 (25 percent).

Arkansas fell to Bucknell 59-53, as a No. 8 seed, in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

A different statistic of interest lies in analyzing the performances of No. 12 seeds beyond the first round.

No. 12 seeds that actually pull off a first-round upset have claimed victories in 13 of 28 second-round games (46.4 percent). Only Missouri, in 2002, has reached the Elite Eight as a No. 12 seed.

"We know it's been done before," Arkansas forward Charles Thomas said. "That's what we want to do. We don't want a one-and-done."

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