Since 1985, the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Tournament has featured a bracket of at least 64 teams seeded 1 through 16 in four different regions. For the second time ever, a 16 seed defeated a 1 seed, cementing its place in March Madness history.
What Happened: The 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament could see $15.5 billion in wagers across sports betting platforms, among friends and through bracket competitions. A total of 68 million Americans are expected to wager on the games this year.
Some of those betting could back top underdogs and see huge payouts like one that happened on Friday night. Fairleigh Dickinson, a small school in New Jersey, defeated one of the top teams in college basketball Friday night.
The victory marked the second time ever a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The win by the Knights is also the biggest upset of the tournament of all time based on the betting spread.
At many sportsbooks like DraftKings Inc DKNG, Fairleigh Dickinson was a 23.5 point underdog and offered at betting odds of +2000. The win topped the previous record of Norfolk State winning in the 2012 NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed and a 21.5 point underdog.
This means that a $100 bet on Fairleigh Dickinson to pull off the upset paid out $2,100 for a profit of $2,000.
Some bettors were lucky enough to cash in on the huge upset.
Action Network broke down some of the largest wins from the game.
- $300 bet to profit $6,000 at PointsBet
- $500 bet to profit $10,000 at Caesars Entertainment CZR
- $33,000 bet at +1500 for a profit of $495,000 at DraftKings
- $2,000 bet to profit $40,000 at FanDuel, a unit of Flutter Entertainment PDYPY
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Why It’s Important: The win by Fairleigh Dickinson marked a first round full of some double-digit seed upsets. Princeton, a 15-seed, took down 2-seed Arizona and knocked out one of the betting favorites for the Final Four and ruined President Joe Biden‘s bracket. Thirteen-seeded Furman also defeated 4-seed Virginia in the opening round.
Prior to Friday’s game, 16 seeds held a 1-150 record against the 1-seeds going back to 1985.
The victory by Fairleigh Dickinson once again ruined the chance of a perfect bracket, which has near impossible odds, in the Tournament Challenge presented by ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Company DIS.
Out of more than 20 million brackets in the Tournament Challenge, none remain perfect. A total of 96.25% of people picked Purdue to win the first-round matchup. Purdue was also a popular option to reach the Final 4 and the Championship Game, selected in 15% and 7.9% of brackets, respectively. Purdue was the fourth most popular bet for the Final 4 and Championship Game.
Upsets winning in the March Madness tournament can often provide a boost to television ratings, which could help Paramount Global PARAPARAA and Warner Bros. Discovery WBD, who share television coverage in 2023.
Fairleigh Dickinson is a small school that comes from one of the smaller conferences in the tournament. The Knights had to win a play-in game between 16-seeds earlier in the week to make it into the field of 64.
The Knights didn’t win the Northeast Conference Tournament to secure an automatic qualification for the tournament and shouldn’t have been in the field. Merrimack College, who defeated Fairleigh Dickinson, wasn’t eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament this year, clearing the way for the Knights.
Wins by small schools in the NCAA Tournament can help provide a boost to athletics programs, recruiting, merchandise sales, and in some cases, enrollment. Fairleigh Dickinson expects enrollments to rise.
“From an applications and admissions standpoint, I expect applications to go through the roof,” Fairleigh Dickinson athletic director Brad Hurlbut told Action Network. “This will change everything for us.”
Fairleigh Dickinson will take on 9-seed Florida Atlantic Sunday night for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. The Knights will once again be double-digit underdogs, listed at odds of +14.5 at DraftKings.
The no. 16 seed has never reached the Sweet 16 with the only other first-round winner UMBC losing 43 to 50 in the second round to 9-seed Kansas State in 2018.
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