Wisconsin or James Madison? How to pick 5 vs. 12 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

The 12-over-5 upset is a tale as old as time in March. History tells us at least one upset is likely each year, though 2023 pushed back on that narrative. In a year believed to be loaded with strong 12-seeds, each lost. 

In their defense, two 5-seeds went all the way to the Final Four. Could this year’s 5-seeds be more vulnerable? If there is one that has been pegged as a potential early exit, it’s Wisconsin.

The Badgers are coming off an impressive showing in the Big Ten Tournament, but they were just 3-8 over their last 11 games to close the regular season. What burned Wisconsin in the past was a sluggish offense. The Badgers’ offense is arguably a strength this season, but the losses still piled up after a terrific start to the year. Which Wisconsin will show up on Friday?

Greg Gard’s team will have to bring its best, as James Madison lost just three games all season and took down Michigan State in East Lansing days into the season. The Sun Belt champions are one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the country. How likely is an upset in this meeting?

Let’s separate fact from fiction about this popular upset and break down Wisconsin’s matchup with James Madison, including odds, key metrics and more to know. 

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Wisconsin vs. James Madison odds

Wisconsin enters Friday’s matchup favored, though this line is tied for the narrowest among the 5 vs. 12 matchups

Early odds have the Badgers as 5.5-point favorites, according to BetMGM, reiterating that many expect the Dukes to at least keep the game close.

  • Odds: Wisconsin (-5.5)
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 9:40 p.m.
  • TV: CBS
  • Arena: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Wisconsin (22-13, 11-9 in Big Ten)

It was only two months ago that Wisconsin was in play for a potential No. 1 seed. Then came a 3-8 stretch to finish the regular season, which knocked the Badgers out of the top four seed lines entirely. 

In years past, Wisconsin has endured similar slides because the offense just couldn’t score. That largely hasn’t been the case this season. While imperfect, the Badgers’ offense has been rejuvenated by the arrival of St. John’s transfer AJ Storr. It still wasn’t enough at times in Big Ten play.

Could the Badgers who showed up during the Big Ten Tournament also make their presence felt in the big dance? Wisconsin rolled past both Maryland and Northwestern before showing serious grit in an overtime battle against Purdue in the semifinals. Even a loss to Illinois in the title game was promising, with strong shot-making from the starting lineup. 

That kind of performance from Wisconsin is enough to not just handle business against James Madison, but potentially knock off Duke in the second round.

Wisconsin is coached by Greg Gard, who is in his ninth season in Madison. Gard has reached the NCAA Tournament in all but two seasons with the Badgers, excluding 2020, but he hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 2017. After showing signs of life in the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin sees this year as an opportunity to get back there. 

  • NET ranking: 18
  • KenPom ranking: 17
  • Quad 1 record: 5-9
  • Quad 2 record: 9-4
  • Quad 3 record: 4-0
  • Quad 4 record: 4-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 13th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 47th

Key players

AJ Storr, G, So. (6-7, 205): 16.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.9 apg

Steven Crowl, F, Jr. (7-0, 247): 11.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.1 apg

Chucky Hepburn, G, Jr. (6-2, 195): 9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.4 rpg

EXPERT PICKS: DeCourcy (UConn) | Bender (UConn) | Iyer (UConn) | Yanchulis (South Carolina women)

James Madison (31-3, 15-3 in Sun Belt)

Like FAU last season, James Madison enters the NCAA Tournament with only three losses. Why wouldn’t the Dukes have earned an at-large bid if they hadn’t won the Sun Belt Tournament? 22 of their 31 wins came in Quad 4 games. James Madison did get the better of Michigan State in November, but there is still much to prove against higher competition for this team.

There’s no doubt the Dukes can score, which makes it unfortunate for the program that this Wisconsin team is one that can actually score at a high level. James Madison averages 84.4 points per game, ranking 10th in the nation, and shoots well above average both overall and from beyond the arc.

The Dukes have an array of 3-point shooters, but their most impactful scorer is junior Terrence Edwards Jr., who is averaging 17.4 points. While Edwards is James Madison’s No. 1 scoring option, him having at least five assists in each of his last six games is a testament to how well this group plays together.

James Madison is coached by Mark Byington, who is in his fourth season with the program. Byington is 81-35 with the Dukes, but this is his first NCAA Tournament appearance. He previously coached Georgia Southern from 2013-20, putting together five winning seasons.

  • NET ranking: 52
  • KenPom ranking: 59
  • Quad 1 record: 1-1
  • Quad 2 record: 0-1
  • Quad 3 record: 7-1
  • Quad 4 record: 22-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 56th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 79th

Key players

Terrence Edwards Jr., G, Jr. (6-6, 190): 17.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.5 apg

Julien Wooden, F, Sr. (6-8, 225): 9.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 40.9 3P%

T.J. Bickerstaff, F, Sr. (6-9, 220):13.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.7 apg

UPSET PICKS: 10 seeds | 11 seeds | 12 seeds | 13 seeds

Wisconsin vs. James Madison prediction

There is always one popular upset pick that just doesn’t go the underdog’s way. Last year’s was arguably Oral Roberts over Duke, which lasted about 10 seconds before the Blue Devils jumped out to a commanding lead. Don’t be surprised if this matchup ends with the same result.

While it would be surprising if James Madison’s offense allowed this to be a Wisconsin blowout, the Badgers might be better positioned than many believe. This isn’t a Wisconsin team that has struggled to score, as AJ Storr has taken over the lead role well and allowed complementary pieces to actually be complementary pieces. Facing a James Madison defense that ranks 79th in adjusted efficiency, this could be a major opportunity for Wisconsin to officially put regular season demons behind them. 

James Madison should have the rebounding advantage, which is notable, but Wisconsin isn’t completely lacking size between Steven Crowl, Tyler Wahl and even Storr as a 6-7 guard to match Edwards. 

It’s hard to trust James Madison knowing the competition the Dukes have faced. It’s not as simple as a smaller conference team playing teams from smaller conferences. 22 of 31 wins coming in Quad 4 games — and all but one coming in Quads 3-4 — leaves a dramatic gap on the resume for James Madison.

The win over Michigan State was proof James Madison is capable of winning this game. It just doesn’t look like the Dukes are catching Wisconsin at the right time.

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

History of 5 vs. 12 matchups in NCAA Tournament

2023 came and went without a 12-seed winning, as Drake and Charleston put forward impressive efforts against eventual Final Four teams but couldn’t finish the job. Meanwhile, Oral Roberts and VCU disappointed in their respective matchups. 

Does that mean a 12 vs. 5 upset is unlikely? Absolutely not. 12-seeds have a .349 winning percentage against 5-seeds, making an upset more likely than not in a given year.

James Madison could wind up being the most popular pick among the 12-seeds, over Grand Canyon, McNeese and UAB. It’s not out of the question, but Wisconsin shouldn’t be underestimated so easily.

16 vs. 115 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

Here’s a look back at all 12 over 5 upsets since 2010:

Year Result
2022 Richmond 67, Iowa 63
2022 New Mexico State 70, UConn 63
2021 Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56
2019 Murray State 83, Marquette 64
2019 Liberty 80, Mississippi State 76
2019 Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54
2017 Middle Tennessee 81, Minnesota 72
2016 Yale 79, Baylor 75
2016 Little Rock 85, Purdue 83 (2 OTs)
2014 Stephen F. Austin 77, VCU 75 (OT)
2014 North Dakota State 80, Oklahoma 75 (OT)
2014 Harvard 61, Cincinnati 57
2013 Oregon 68, Oklahoma State 55
2013 California 64, UNLV 61
2013 Ole Miss 57, Wisconsin 46
2012 VCU 62, Wichita State 59
2012 South Florida 58, Temple 44
2011 Richmond 69, Vanderbilt 66
2010 Cornell 78, Temple 65


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