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).