Category: Trivia

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.

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.

2021 Tournament Final

Congratulations to the Baylor University Bears (28-2) for their first NCAA men’s basketball championship, earned in their 13th tournament appearance.  The Gonzaga University Bulldogs (31-1) fell just short in a bid to complete an undefeated season while trying to win their first national title.  They lost their 2nd tournament final game (2017 loss to North Carolina).  The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers remain the last team to complete an undefeated season with a tourney championship.

Baylor’s championship is the 4th for the Big 12 Conference — the first for a member school other than Kansas.

For the second-straight tournament a first-time champion has won the tournament.  The last occurrence of consecutive first-time victors was 2002 (Maryland) and 2003 (Syracuse).

Scrutinous Score achieved the highest bracket score (104) compared to the other major team rating metrics — beating KenPom, Sagarin, Torvik, NCAA NET, SRS, Net Rating, and chalk.  The bracket scores for each of the team rating metrics is presented on the Bracket Master Picks Page for every tournament season since 1998.  The (i) button to the left of the ‘Scoring System’ option will display these bracket scores.

Number 1 Seeds have won the last four tournaments.  Number 1s last won four consecutive from 2007 to 2010.  A five-straight-year streak by Number 1s occurred from 1992 to 1996.  Number 1 Seeds have won 25 of the 42 (60%) tourneys that assigned official seed numbers (all tournaments after 1978).

2021 Tournament Second Week

The 2021 tournament has continued to be all about upstarts.  No team that has won a national championship in the 21st century remains standing.  UCLA is the only one of the Final Four teams to have ever won the championship.  Baylor advanced to the Final Four for the first time in 71 years (1950).  Houston last made the semi-finals in 1984.

The 2021 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 2021 aggregate seed total is 91, topping the 89 aggregate set in 1986.

Seven of the eight teams in the Elite Eight reside west of the Mississippi River.  For the first time ever, all of the Final Four teams hail from west of the Mississippi.  The last Final Four with three teams from the west was 1995.

UCLA became the second team to reach the Final Four after entering the tournament from the First Four, joining Virginia Commonwealth of 2011.  With UCLA’s regional final victory over Michigan, number 11 seeds are now 4-4 against #1 seeds.

The semi-final matchup between Baylor and Houston will be the fifth Final Four game between teams from the same state, joining: Kentucky-Louisville 2012, Ohio State-Cincinnati 1961 & 1962, and Penn State-La Salle 1954.

This is only the fourth tournament that an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) team has not reached the Elite Eight since 1980.  The only other years without an ACC team were 2003, 2006, and 2014.   ACC teams finish the tournament with a 4-7 record.  This is their fewest wins since 1979.

2021 Tournament First Week

Oral Roberts became only the 2nd #15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  Their duo of Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas have scored 113 of Oral Roberts’s 156 total tournament points (72.4%).  Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 was the previous #15 to advance to the second week.

Two teams collected their first-ever victories in the tournament: Abilene Christian and North Texas.

Lots of upsets should have been expected this year because many teams made their out-of-conference schedule load much lighter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the performance disparity of certain top conferences remains shocking.

The Big Ten conference led the field by receiving nine tournament berths, but their first week was disastrous, going 7-8 with only one survivor (#1 seed Michigan).  Big Ten top seeds that have been eliminated include a #1, two #2s, and a #4.  The Big Ten did not perform uniformly well in the 2019 tournament, going 13-8 – led by a Michigan State Final Four run, and Purdue reaching the Elite Eight.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is 10-1 with four teams remaining (Southern California, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State).  The conference was very poorly seeded in 2019 and went 4-3 with only Oregon reaching the round of sixteen.

This season’s highly touted Big 12 is 7-6 with only one survivor (Baylor).

In recent years the ACC has been a powerhouse, but with this tournament they are just 4-5 with two teams standing (Florida State, Syracuse).

2021 Tournament Bracket Announced

The 82nd NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament field has been announced!

The Big Ten conference leads the field with 9 berths, including 5 teams seeded #1 through #4.  The Big 12 also has 5 teams seeded #1-4 among their 7 total berths.

Two teams make their tournament debuts this season: the Grand Canyon University Antelopes and the University of Hartford Hawks.  Grand Canyon (14-6) out of Phoenix, AZ won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and regular season title.  Hartford (15-8) from West Hartford, CT won the America East Conference Tournament.

This season marks UCLA’s 50th NCAA Tournament berth (3rd most) and Villanova’s 40th.  Villanova passes Indiana for the 8th most tournament appearances.  Kansas extends its streak of consecutive tournament appearances to 31 years.  Duke’s consecutive streak ends at 24 seasons.

The COVID-19 pandemic still hovers over these proceedings.  Three teams (Duke, Kansas, and Virginia) withdrew from their conference tournament due to positive cases within their programs.  The possibility exists that these teams or others may be declared ineligible due to virus issues.  The NCAA has documented rules for declaring teams ineligible due to positive tests within seven days of the tournament start.  Ineligible teams will be replaced in the field prior to the tournament start, but once underway, a disqualified team will cause their opponent to automatically advance.

I believe the situations of Duke, Kansas, and Virginia demonstrate that conference tournaments should not have been held so close to the start of the national tournament.  There are no guarantees about how the virus might spread, but sending eight-plus team entourages to a single site within days of the national tournament shows that “hope” was the containment strategy for the NCAA and its conferences.

The effected teams and tournament organizers can now only hope that their programs remain eligible and that the virus was not spread to their opponents and the other teams sharing the arena and its locker rooms.  The fairness and integrity of the national tournament is at stake.  The need to cancel a game and advance a team puts the fairness of the tournament at question.  Was the ACC Conference Tournament fair?  Georgia Tech and Florida State both advanced while playing fewer grueling games because their earlier opponents bowed out.  We can only hope that the NCAAs are not tainted by similar forfeits.