Story by Brandon Bonaparte
Grand Canyon did what had never been done before Sunday afternoon: they heard their name called on Selection Sunday.
The path to even one victory in the NCAA Tournament is always difficult, especially for a mid-major. Finishing the year 17-6, including 9-3 in conference play, GCU expected a slightly higher seed to be etched next to their name.
“We were thinking we’re going to be a 14, and our NET was higher than some of the teams ended up being a 14,” said GCU head coach Bryce Drew. “So I don’t know what the final determining factor was in that.”
In many projected brackets, the Lopes were the highest 15 seed, meaning that they were one team away from jumping to the 14 line. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi thought the same.
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 14, 2021
While the jump from a 15 to a 14 seed doesn’t seem like much, the odds of an upset drastically increase with every improved seed.
According to sportingnews.com, 15 seeds are just 8-132 against 2 seeds since 1985. Once the jump is made to the 14 line, the record noticeably improves, with 14’s holding a 21-119 against 3 seeds.
The 13-12 line is typically where mid-major upsets lie, with 13 seeds winning 20.7 percent of first round games and 12 seeds taking an astounding 35.7 percent of first round games.
“There’s no question that when you get a little bit better seed, when you can get that 12 or 13, your winning percentage goes up,” Drew said. “When you’re the 15, 16, obviously it’s really difficult because you’re playing some of the best teams in the country.”
“Anytime you’re a 15-14 seed, a lot of it is going to be matchups,” Drew added. “When you get to that 11, 12, 13 column, man, it really increases your chances.”
While the coveted 12-5 matchup is always an attractive upset pick, this year it will be viewed differently. Two non-mid-major schools occupy the 12 line: Georgetown and Oregon State.
Both of these teams played their way into the field by virtue of a conference tournament championship. This means only two mid-major teams get to enjoy being the highly-sought after 12 seed.
GCU looks to accomplish what only eight other 15 seeds have done: get out of the first round. The Lopes take on the David vs Goliath role on Saturday, squaring off against Luka Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes.