Congratulations to the University of Virginia Cavaliers for winning their first men’s basketball national championship. This is the 15th championship for an Atlantic Coast Conference school which ties the total of the Pac-12.
Virginia (35-3) needed to survive a host of pressure-packed tests. The Cavaliers won its six tournament games by an average of 7.5 points. This is the third-smallest margin of victory for the champion since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The slim margin trails only 1985 Villanova and 1997 Arizona. Three of Virginia’s six games came down to the final possession of regulation, and they trailed in the second half of five games.
ESPN has published a ranking of every NCAA tournament champion, from 1939 to 2019. I don’t believe the ranking is valuable, but the article does provide a one paragraph overview of each of the 81 champions. The 2019 Cavaliers are slotted in at number 34.
Six teams won a tournament game for the first time in 2019: Belmont, California-Irvine, Central Florida, Liberty, Farleigh Dickinson, and Wofford.
Number 9 seeds went 4-0 against #8s in first round games, with an average margin of victory by 16 points. A sweep by #9s has happened in four other tournaments: 2001, 1999, 1994, 1989.
Number 12 seeds went 3-1 against #5s in first round games, including wins by Murray State, Liberty, and Oregon. New Mexico State just missed making it a clean sweep in losing by one point to Auburn. Historically, Number 12 seeds have won only 32% (50-106) of these matchups.
Number 10 seeds went 3-1 against #7s in first round games, including wins by Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota. Historically, Number 10 seeds have won only 39% (62-98) of these matchups.
The Cal-Irvine Anteaters were the lowest seed (13) to advance to the second round.
Gonzaga had the largest margin of victory in the first round with their 38 point win over Farleigh Dickinson.
The 81st NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket is now official.
Three number 1 seeds were awarded to ACC teams (Virginia, Duke, North Carolina) which ties a record for one conference. In 2009, the Big East earned three number 1s: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville. Four Big East teams reached the Elite Eight that year.
This season marks North Carolina’s 50th NCAA Tournament berth. They trail only Kentucky (59) for the most appearances.
Two teams make their tournament debuts this season: the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs and the Abilene Christian Wildcats. Gardner-Webb (23-11) of Boiling Springs, NC won the Big South Conference Tournament. Abilene Christian (27-6) of Abilene, TX won the Southland Conference Tournament.
The first round game I am most looking forward to is Murray State versus Marquette. The matchup features the nation’s #3 scorer, Markus Howard (Marquette), and the #9 scorer, Ja Morant (Murray State).
The 2019 season has seen two players reach an elite NCAA milestone by scoring 3,000 points in a career. Chris Clemons of Campbell University and Mike Daum of South Dakota State join just eight others to have accomplished the lofty feat. BracketMaster projects South Dakota State (23-7/13-2) to receive the automatic bid for the Summit League into the NCAA Tournament, seeded as #13. Campbell (17-11/10-4) is currently projected to miss the field as they sit in 2nd place in the Big South Conference, one game behind Radford, who we have earning the berth with a #13 seed.
It looks unlikely that either the Big South (Conference SRS at 21st of 32) or the Summit League (SRS 25th of 32) will receive a tournament bid outside of their automatic berths, so for the Camels and Jackrabbits it’s going to come down to their respective conference championship tournaments.
South Dakota State has made the NCAA Tournament the last three years, but has never won a tourney game. Campbell has only made the NCAAs once, in 1992. We’d love to see these two electrifying scorers, Daum and Clemons, in the field of 68 on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Both of these Super Scorers missed the tournament for their senior season, despite winning their conference’s regular season title. South Dakota State lost in the Summit Conference Tournament quarterfinals to Western Illinois. Campbell lost the Big South Conference Tournament final to Gardner-Webb. The Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs will make their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Campbell and South Dakota State will have their seasons continue in the NIT.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of March Madness is the improbable upset. Here are a few examples for you to investigate from within BracketMaster.
- The 1953 Lebanon Valley College Flying Dutchman reached the Sweet Sixteen. They are the smallest school by enrollment (425 students) to ever advance that far. LVC currently competes in Division III and were the 1994 Division III Men’s Basketball Champions.
- Williams College is another very small school (current enrollment: 2,100) that appeared in the NCAA Tournament just one time. The 1955 Ephs lost in the first round, but have since established themselves as a fine athletics program, winning the 2003 Division III Men’s Basketball Championship.
- A #11 Seed is the lowest seed to ever reach the Final Four, and it has happened four times:
- Still fresh in our memory, last year’s Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers advanced out of a busted-bracket South Region to earn their trip to San Antonio.
- The 2011 Virginia Commonwealth Rams upset #1 seed Kansas to reach the Final Four in Houston.
- The 2006 George Mason Patriots downed #1 Connecticut to emerge from the East Region.
- The 1986 LSU Tigers are the only #11 seed to have beaten their region’s #1, #2, and #3 seeds in the same tournament.