Author: Scrutinous

2024 Tournament Preview

The 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament continues an 85-year streak that there has been at least one team making their tournament debut. This year’s virgin team is the Stetson University Hatters from Deland, Florida, representing the Atlantic Sun conference.

Conference tournament upsets resulted in an unprecedented number of ‘Bubble-Buster’ teams. Analysts feel that six teams from multi-bid conferences earned an automatic berth when they otherwise would not have made the tournament. This means that those six conferences received an ‘extra’ invitation, stealing a bid from an otherwise higher rated team. Those bubble-busters caused the ‘Last Four In’ – the final at-large invitees – to move up to the number 10 seed line. This is the first time the First Four Round contains games between number 10 seeds.

Twenty-one (21) number 1 seeds lost in their conference tournament this postseason. This is the largest number of conference tournament upsets in at least ten years.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack (11-seed, 22-14) became the first double-digit seed (the ACC 10-seed) to win a conference tournament in more than a decade. NC State claimed their first Atlantic Coast Conference tourney title since 1987 when NCAA champion Jim Valvano was their head coach.

The Iowa State Cyclones’ (2-seed, 27-7) 28-point victory over the Houston Cougars (1-seed, 30-4) in the Big 12 conference championship final was the largest margin of victory over an Associated Press Number 1-ranked program in fifty-six seasons.  The last game to exceed this margin of victory was UCLA’s win (101-69) over Houston in the 1968 Final Four.

The East Region headed by Connecticut has 11 automatic qualifiers (teams that won their conference tournament), the West has 8 AQs, the Midwest: 7, and the South Region: 6.

The Big 12 and SEC led all conferences with eight teams earning tournament berths. The Big Ten and Mountain West tied for the second-most with six teams receiving bids.

If you are looking for information to talk you off prohibitive favorite Connecticut, consider this: no defending champion has made it past the Sweet Sixteen since Florida in 2007. In the past six tournaments, the defending champ was eliminated in the first or second round (1-seed Kansas in 2023, 1-seed Baylor in 2022, 4-seed Virginia in 2021, 6-seed Villanova in 2019, 2-seed North Carolina in 2018, and 1-seed Villanova in 2017).

A team seeded 4 or worse has made the Final Four in each of the last thirteen seasons. In last year’s turbulent tournament, 4-seed Connecticut was the best seed to make the Final Four.

The Duquesne University Dukes (11-seed, 23-11) out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania enter the tournament for the first time in 47 years. This is the longest absence of any team in the field.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-seed, 23-10) have joined the tournament field for the first time since 2014 and eighth time overall. They are the only school from a power conference to have never won a tournament game.

Tournament Update Schedule

Today, Thursday, March 14, 2024 at 12:50 EDT, we released the first ‘over-the-air’ database update to Bracket Master.  Download this by going to the app’s Settings Page and clicking on the ‘Check Now for Update’ button.  This updates the projected tournament bracket and includes team statistics for games through Wednesday.  As of this morning the following automatic qualifiers are now in the big dance: Stetson, Montana State, Longwood, College of Charleston, Oakland Michigan, Drake, Wagner, Morehead State, Colgate, Samford, McNeese State, and South Dakota State, James Madison, and Saint Mary’s.

Bracket Master will get another data update after the tournament selection show on Sunday night, followed by a full app update on Monday morning.

The Monday update will include a new feature: the ability to tag your favorite teams and have them appear at the top of the Teams front page listing.  Monday will also include the final regular season statistics and assorted functionality improvements.

As the tournament progresses, we plan to put out data updates the morning after the completion of each round.

Enjoy the tournament, everyone!  It should be a wild one.

Leap Day Major Update

Bracket Master is being updated today with its first functionality additions of the year. This release has been in the works since November and primarily comprises ‘under-the-hood’ improvements, but there are several new features included.

The app now includes several new well-regarded team rating metrics. Also, our exclusive Scrutinous Score has been refined and given more visibility in the app. We believe the enhanced Scrutinous Score and Scrutinous Game Odds have significantly improved our (already very successful) tournament game picks and simulation.

A Compare Teams function has been added to the top-level menu. This allows you to view side-by-side statistics of any two teams from any season. This feature was previously available through the Picks Page to contrast teams in a scheduled matchup, but this new option gives much more flexibility.

A Settings page has been added to the top-level menu. This allows you to set a Dark Theme or Light Theme display. Additionally, the ability to update the app’s data is provided. Clicking on the ‘Check for Data Update’ button will query the internet for a data file refresh. This is a database file provided by Scrutinous, so an update won’t always be available, but this function should allow us to deliver more frequent data refreshes to you. When an update is available via your app store, you likely will not be able to update using this option.

All of the team and conference logos have been refreshed and hopefully improved.  Some of the images don’t look great while using Dark Mode, so we’ll try to revise them over time.

This Bracket Master version 1.4.1 update is essentially a full re-write of the app. The new code base should improve performance, polish the app’s appearance, better support the delivery of new features, and sustain the app over the long term. Stay tuned for more big enhancements coming this year.

If you encounter a bug, please describe it on our Report a Bug forum. We welcome suggestions for new functionality on our Request a Feature forum.

The Cinderella Score: PTP

Bracket Master’s latest new feature is the Performance Page.  This page allows you to examine the tournament performance of Teams and Conferences compared to expectations.  The exclusive PTP© score presented here evaluates tournament advancement relative to the designated seed number.  PTP© is an initialism of Performance to Par.

PTP defines a seed’s expected performance par by assuming that the higher seed should always win, i.e., game results are determined by ‘chalk’.  If one works through a bracket picking the higher seed in every game, the following results unfold:

  • 1 seeds are meant to reach the Final Four
  • 2 seeds are presumed to reach the Elite Eight
  • 3s & 4s should make the Sweet Sixteen
  • 4s through 8s should win one game into the Round of 32
  • 9s through 16 aren’t expected to win a game.

PTP assigns a score based on these expectations.  For each game a team advances past their seed number’s expected round the team earns one point; each round the team fall short they lose one point.  For example, in 2022 the championship Kansas team (#1 seed) earned two points for winning two games beyond reaching the Final Four.  Saint Peter’s (#15 seed) earned a +3 for winning three games; their first round opponent, Kentucky (#2 seed), gets a -3 for not making their forecasted Elite Eight.

Accumulating a large positive score is challenging for high-major teams that consistently receive top seed bids because of how hard it is to advance deep in the tournament.  To help account for this, we display the Average Seed of each team alongside their PTP.  A lower (better) Avg Seed means the team was anticipated to win multiple games.  A positive PTP score over time with a low Average Seed is particularly impressive.

The challenge for highly seeded teams is contrasted by mid-major Cinderellas such as the Loyola Ramblers.  Their 2018 run as an eleven seed banked themselves +4 PTP.

We feel that the PTP listing of Conferences is particularly useful.  It lessens the bias of small sample sizes to illuminate the leagues that produce title contenders and dark horses, and those that have perhaps become over-rated for a span.

The PTP score helps to remind of the biggest shocks in tournament history, such as DePaul’s collapses as a #1 seed from 1980 to 1984, and Butler’s run to the finals in 2010 and 2011.  The DePaul years are described in the following article: The Bonus: March 14, 1981: When the NCAA tournament became Madness – Sports Illustrated.  Butler is said to be the smallest university to play in the championship game since the 1985 64-team field.  Their 2010 tournament is detailed here: Butler’s incredible 2010 NCAA run, remembered by Coach K, Tom Izzo, Frank Martin and Jim Boeheim |

The Performance Page featuring the PTP score is part of the BracketMaster 1.3.6 release of February 27, 2023.

Introducing the BEST

Bracket Master’s first new feature of 2023 is the Trends Page.  This page allows you to examine the consolidated tournament achievements of Teams and Conferences over a user-specified period of time.  The exclusive BEST© score presented here intends to identify the top entities over an extended period of time by tallying tournament victories, weighted by their advancement in the championship.  BEST is an acronym for BracketMaster Elite Season Trend.  The calculation of BEST is based on the following terms:

BEST© Achievement Points

  • 16 => Won Championship
  • 12 => Lost in Finals
  • 9 => Lost in Final Four
  • 6 => Lost in Elite Eight
  • 4 => Lost in Sweet Sixteen
  • 2 => Lost in Round of 32
  • 1 => Lost in Round of 64/First Four

This scoring system seeks to reward repeated deep runs without overemphasizing championship victories.  Tournaments in years prior to the 64-plus-team field (introduced in 1985) award the same number of points for championships, final fours, etc; those years just  don’t provide points for early, partial rounds.  For example, 1984 champ Georgetown earned 16 points, and first full-round (Round of 32) loser UTEP earned 2 points for making the tournament, but not winning any games.  Similarly, the 1939 tournament with just an eight team field awards 16 points for a championship and 6 points for a first game loss.

BEST also provides an optional weighting factor in order to emphasize more recent performance over that of the distant past.  Seasons of increasing time into the past have their achievement points reduced by a shrinking percentage factor.  BEST uses a 3rd degree polynomial to calculate the weighting factor, with more recent seasons slowly reducing in percentage, seasons after 20 years more rapidly falling, and then leveling out after 50 years in the past.  In terms of specific points, the weighting equation provides a 94% multiplier at 10 years, sliding to 67% at 30 years, 50% at 50 years, and bottoms out at 35% at 80 years.  The most recent five tournaments are always weighted at 100%.  The ability to disable this factor eases comparisons between different spans of time.

BEST can be calculated for the entire history of the college basketball tournament, but it also allows one to examine interesting questions, such as: who was the top team of the 1980s, or: what has been the most successful conference of the 21st century.

Thanks go out to user “Brewer” for suggesting the framework of this rating.  You can suggest your own idea for a new feature on our forum:

The Trends Page featuring the BEST score is part of the BracketMaster App 1.3.3 release of January 17, 2023.

2022 Tournament Final

Congratulations to the University of Kansas Jayhawks for their fourth NCAA men’s basketball championship, earned in their 50th tournament appearance.  Kansas defeated the University of North Carolina Tarheels 72-69.  The Jayhawks required the biggest comeback in championship game history.  North Carolina led by 16 points with the score 38-22 shortly before halftime.  Loyola University of Chicago held the previous record, erasing a 15-point second-half deficit to the University of Cincinnati in the 1963 championship game to overcome the Bearcats 60-58 in overtime.

North Carolina lost in the championship game for the sixth time in their history.  Kansas, Duke, and Michigan have also lost six Finals, which is the highest total.

Kansas is 5-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games against North Carolina.  They avenge their loss to UNC in the 1957 Final.

Kansas is 8-0 in tournament games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents since 2008.  Kansas defeated three Big East teams (Creighton, Providence, Villanova) and two ACC teams (Miami, UNC) on the way to the title.

The Big 12 Conference has won two straight championships.  This is the first conference to repeat since the ACC in 2009-2010, when North Carolina and Duke raised consecutive trophies.

Number 1 seeds have won the last five tournaments.  A five-straight-year streak by 1 seeds also occurred from 1992 to 1996.

North Carolina’s loss as an 8 seed lowers the record of 8 seeds in the Final round to 1-4.  Only the 1985 Villanova squad has won the championship as a number eight.

Villanova lost to the eventual champion for the seventh time since 2005, which was the year of the first tournament berth for coach Jay Wright.  The full list of losses:

  • 2005: North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006: Florida in the Elite Eight
  • 2008: Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen
  • 2009: North Carolina in the Final Four
  • 2014: Connecticut in the Round of 32
  • 2021: Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen
  • 2022: Kansas in the Final Four

Picking a bracket “by chalk” — selecting the better seed in every game — achieved the highest bracket score from among our basket of team rating methodologies.  It was the first time chalk has done this, in all the tournaments for which we have calculated the score (all since 1998).  The Bart Tovik T-Rank finished second and our Scrutinous Score tied with Jeff Sagarin for third.  Lots of early upsets resulted in the worst year of bracket picking by the major rating metrics since 2011.  You can find this data on Bracket Master’s Picks Page by tapping the (i) button next to the ‘Scoring System’ option selector.

In the Sweet Sixteen, only six teams scored 70 or more points.  On average, 66.6 points per game were scored in the Sweet Sixteen, the lowest scoring output since 2015.

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).

Correlation between Tournament Champions and 1st Round Draft Picks

There’s an interesting article on CBS Sports NCAA BB that poses the question: How important is having a player picked in the first round of the NBA Draft to NCAA Tournament Champions?

Their study reveals that of the 45 men’s college basketball national champions since 1976, 44 featured at least one first-round pick in a future NBA Draft.  The 1987 Indiana Hoosiers (30-4), led by second-round selection Steve Alford, are the only team without a first-rounder.

The article does acknowledge the chicken-and-egg situation of whether NBA teams are attracted to players due to their emerging from a winning program.  Scrutinizing the list of first-round-picked NCAA champions provided by CBS, one can detect a few players whose draft stock was perhaps overly-inflated due to their March Madness run.