Month: March 2022

2022 Final Four

CBS Sports writer David Cobb makes the case that this is the bluest blue-blood Final Four in the history of the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament.  This year’s group of four teams has combined for 17 championships.  North Carolina has 6, Duke 5, Villanova 3, and Kansas 3.  Cobb’s selection of the #2 blue-blood semifinals is the 1975 Final Four, featuring four teams (UCLA, Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse) that now boast 23 total championships.  However, in 1975 those programs still only had 14, with ten of those owned by UCLA, and four by Kentucky.  The article’s #3 selection is 1993, featuring 11 championships at the time of the tournament.  The #4 selection is 1991, featuring 6 championships.  The teams in the 2022 tournament have had more years to pile up the titles, but these are certainly four very well-decorated programs over the 83 years of the tournament.

In terms of Final Four appearances, this field claims a gaudy number of visits: North Carolina 21, Duke 17, Kansas 16, Villanova 7.

As for the actual game matchups, Villanova and Kansas have opposed each other three times in the NCAA Tournament.  Villanova holds a two games to one edge, with the last meeting coming in the 2018 Final Four.  Atlantic Coast Conference rivals North Carolina and Duke have never clashed in the NCAA Tournament, which seems surprisingly improbable given that UNC has 52 tourney appearances and Duke has 44.

In Villanova’s (2-seed) Elite Eight victory over Houston (5-seed), the Wildcats overcame one of the weirdest seed-versus-seed record anomalies of the tournament.  Number 2 seeds were previously 1-5 against 5 seeds, with the only victory coming in a 48-team 1980 tourney field when Louisville downed Iowa in the Final Four.  Houston defeated Villanova in their previous Elite Eight collision when the 1983 “Phi Slama Jama” Cougars were in the midst of three straight Final Four trips.

Saint Peter’s (15-seed) victory over Kentucky (2-seed) was the tenth time a 15 has advanced to the second round.  The Peacocks win over Murray State (7-seed) in the Round of 32 improved the record of 15s versus 7s to 3-2.  When 15s encounter the 10 seed in the second round, they are 0-5.  Saint Peter’s was the first 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight.  Never has a 13, 14, or 16 seed experienced the final eight.

2022 Sweet Sixteen

The Saint Peter’s University Peacocks, from Jersey City, New Jersey, became the third 15 seed to survive into the Sweet Sixteen.  Oral Roberts (2021) and Florida Gulf Coast (2013) were the others.  Saint Peter’s had not won a tournament game in three previous berths.  A #15 has never advanced to the Elite Eight.

This is the fifth-straight year that the defending champ hasn’t made the Sweet Sixteen.  2021 champion Baylor (1-seed) made a stirring comeback attempt in the Round of 32 against North Carolina (8-seed), but fell in overtime.

The following conferences still have schools alive.  The total number of bids the conference received follows in parentheses:

  • Atlantic Coast: 3 (5 berths)
  • Big 12: 3 (6 berths)
  • Big East: 2 (6 berths)
  • Big Ten: 2 (9 berths)
  • Pacific 12: 2 (3 berths)
  • American Athletic: 1 (2 berths)
  • Metro Atlantic Athletic: 1 (1 berth)
  • Southeastern: 1 (6 berths)
  • West Coast: 1 (3 berths)

This has not been a good showing by the SEC and Big Ten.  The same could be said for last year’s tournament as well, and is especially appalling for the Big Ten considering the high seeds they have received.

Teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for current consecutive seasons: Gonzaga 7-straight years (2015-2022), Michigan 5, Houston 3, Arkansas 2, UCLA 2, Villanova 2.  The Houston Cougars (5-seed) have been to more Final Fours (6) than any other school without winning a national championship.

Last year’s tournament set a record for the highest aggregate seed total ever to make the Sweet Sixteen (the sum of the seed numbers of all sixteen teams).  The aggregate seed total in 2021 was 91.  The 2022 aggregate total is 85.

The Miami Hurricanes (10-seed) versus Iowa State Cyclones (11-seed) Sweet Sixteen matchup features two teams sustaining incredible bounce-back seasons.  Secure loose objects; high winds are predicted!  Miami of Florida was 10-17 last season and was a preseason pick for 12th place in the ACC.  Iowa State was 2-22 last season and was picked to finish last in the Big 12.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo opposed each other for the sixth time in the championship tournament, the most matchups in history.  Duke was victorious, 85-76.

North Carolina walloped Marquette 95-63 in the largest margin of victory ever for a #8 over a #9.  The previous high was Michigan over Tennessee in 2011, 75-45.

2022 Tournament Preview

The 83rd NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is about to get underway!

Two teams make their tournament debuts this season: the Longwood University Lancers and the Bryant University Bulldogs.  Longwood (14-seed, 22-6 record against div. 1 opponents), out of Farmville, Virginia, won the Big South regular season and conference tournament titles.  Bryant (16-seed, 21-9), out of Smithfield, Rhode Island, won the Northeast Conference Tournament and regular season championships.  Since 1990, 96 teams have made their NCAA tourney debut, but only six of those 96 won a first-round game in their first trip. The last to do it was Northwestern in 2017.

Michigan State (7-seed, 22-12), under head coach Tom Izzo, earned its 24th consecutive tournament berth.  Izzo ties Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski for the longest streak of consecutive bids for a head coach.  Krzyzewski’s streak was ended last year.

The Montana State Bobcats (14-seed, 25-7) enter the tournament for the first time in 26 years.  This is the longest absence of any team in the field.

This is the first year that no team from the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast or Southeastern Conference received a 1 seed.  This year’s top seeds – Gonzaga, Arizona, Baylor and Kansas are all from west of the Mississippi River.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-3) enter the tournament as a 1 seed for the third year in a row, and for the fifth time in nine tournaments.

Five of the past six national champions (and eight of the last twelve) have come from the South Region.  The University of Arizona Wildcats are the top seed of the South this year.  It is their sixth tourney as a 1 seed.

No defending champion has made it past the Sweet Sixteen since Florida in 2007.  Baylor (1-seed, 26-6) has the seed position to break this curse, but their player injuries are well documented.  In the past four tournaments, the defending champ was eliminated in the first or second round (4-seed Virginia in 2021, 6-seed Villanova in 2019, 2-seed North Carolina in 2018, and 1-seed Villanova in 2017).

This is the first time since official seeding numbers were issued in 1979 that the Atlantic Coast Conference has only one team among the top 4 seeds (Duke, 2-seed, 28-6).

Notre Dame (21-10) previously made NCAA tournament appearances at seeds numbers 1 through 10, and now enters as an 11 seed.

A team seeded 4th or worse has made the Final Four in each of the last eleven seasons. The Auburn Tigers, Loyola Ramblers, and UCLA Bruins are the three most recent teams to do so, and all return to the tournament this year.

Number 5 seeds are the only seed of the top eight that has not yet won a championship.  This year’s 5 seeds are Houston (28-5), Iowa (25-9), Saint Mary’s (24-7), and Connecticut (23-9).