March Madness Bracket Tips
March Madness is here. This is the bracket advice to help you think about not just your champions, but your Final Four, your Elite 8, Sweet 16, and first round upsets! The more you understand history, the better chance you have of selecting the most likely scenarios. Knowledge is power. Power up!
Champions: The Unlikely Choices
– Since tournament expansion in 1985 the national champions by seed: #1 (19), #2 (5), #3 (4), #4 (1), #6 (1), #7 (1), #8 (1)
– Only 3 of the 78 NCAA champions never won 6 in a row during the regular season: 1981 Indiana, 1983 NC State, and 1997 Arizona. The Hoosiers never won 6, as they only needed 5 wins in the tournament that year prior to expansion.
– Only 4 of the 78 champions won the title after having missed the tournament in the year previous: 1986 Louisville, 2003 Syracuse, 2011 Connecticut, and 2014 Connecticut. The 2013 Huskies were on academic probation.
– Only 3 of the 78 champions lost games by more than 25 during the season: 1965 UCLA, 1993 North Carolina, and 2014 Connecticut. Villanova actually avenged a 23-point loss to Oklahoma in the Final Four last year, just missing the cut.
– In 78 years, only one team, 2011 Connecticut, did not have a winning record in conference, finishing 9-9 in the Big East.
– Only 1 champion, 1997 Arizona, had a losing road record, finishing 5-8 that season away from Tucson.
Never has a national champion: Teams this year that qualify
Had a losing record in conference: Kansas State, but several others are at .500 (as you read above, only one team has finished .500 and won the title)
Lost in their opening game of their conference tournament: Kansas, Baylor, Louisville, Florida, Purdue, Butler, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Providence, and USC
That was never ranked during the year at any point: Vanderbilt, Dayton, Arkansas, Seton Hall, VCU, Oklahoma State, Providece, Wake Forest, and Marquette everyone seeded 12 and lower (minus Middle Tennessee which was ranked for a week)
Lost 5 games in a row during the season: Oklahoma State (6), Xavier (6), and Minnesota (5)
Coaches with Final Four experience have won 15 of the last 17 championships. Jay Wright and Nova were upset several times previous, but did have one Final Four appearance keeping this stat strong. In fact, all the Final Four coaches last year had previous Final Four experience.
Since 1985 First round breakdown:
#1 128-0 (FGCU trailed UNC by 1 at half last year, but lost by 16)
#2 120-8 (Michigan State went down last year)
#3 107-21 (West Virginia lost a season ago)
#4 102-26 (Cal got knocked off last season)
#5 82-46 (Purdue and Baylor both got beat)
#6 82-46 (Texas, Seton Hall, and Arizona all were upset)
#7 78-50 (Oregon State and Dayton were knocked off)
#8 64-64 (9-seeds UConn, Providence, and Butler evened up the grand total again)
Need to know info:
There is an average of 8 upsets (lower seeds over higher seeds) in the first round. Last year’s 13 upsets matched 2001 for the most ever in the first round. It’s why I called it the most exciting first weekend in March Madness history!
It’s usually a good idea to move the #1 seeds to to at least the Sweet 16, but it’s worth noting 5 have gone down in the last 7 years, so if you really feel strongly about one losing, then go for it. Only 8/28 #1 seeds have gone to the Final Four in the last 7 years, and with there being some debate over the worthiness of at least a couple of the top seeds this year, don’t be afraid to only pick one or two advancing to Phoenix.
Only once in the past 20 years have all the #2 seeds advanced past the first weekend.
A #11 seed has beaten a #6 seed 12 consecutive years, and there have been 13 11-seeds that have won games over the last 7. So pick at least one, if not two upsets.
Strangely enough, the 6-seeds not only have had it rough early, but that spot on the line hasn’t produced a Final Four team since…The Fab Five in 1992!
A #4 seed has lost to #13 seed 7 of the last 9 years. Hawaii defeated Cal a season ago.
Everyone loves picking the #12 over the #5, and with good reason. Only once in the past 16 March Madness tournaments have the No. 5 seeds shut out the 12 seeds, and that was back in 2007. Most years, at least a pair of 12 seeds upset their neighbors at No. 5 in the bracket. In the past four seasons, five No. 12 seeds won outright to continue this hazardous pairing which busts many brackets.
Since the 1985 expansion only once, in 2014, did all four #4 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16! A pair did a year ago. Picking just two 4-seeds makes the most sense from a historical perspective.
Don’t go 1-2-3-4 in any region. Believe it or not, that’s only happened FIVE times since 1985. The math on that? 32 years, 4 chances each year, 128 total. Just 5 times. That better? It took a miracle comeback or collapse, but it happened last year in the West region with Texas A&M surviving 11-seed Northern Iowa in OT. The last time 1-2-3-4 happened previous was in 2007.
Since 1985, 17 double digit seeds have reached the Elite 8: #10 (8), #11 (6), #12 (1), #14 (2). Syracuse pulled it off last year as a 10-seed.
17 of the last 22 years at least one mid-major advanced to the Elite 8. The Zags pulled it off last in 2015, and were the only mid-major in the sweet 16 last year, losing to Syracuse.
All but a trio of Final Four teams in the last 8 years has had at least an 8 game winning streak during the season. All three were recent. Kentucky in 2014. Michigan State in 2015. And Syracuse last season. All lower seeds.
In fact, don’t dismiss the lower seeds. 7 teams seeded 7 or lower have advanced to the Final Four in the last 6 years. (2016- Syracuse , 2015- Michigan State , 2014- UConn , 2014- Kentucky , 2013- Wichita State , 2011- VCU , 2011- Butler )
Of the last 36 Final Four teams…
* 13 of 36 (36%) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 5 for defensive efficiency
* 25 of 36 (69%) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 20 for defensive efficiency
* 29 of 36 (81%) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 30 for defensive efficiency
Last year: Villanova- 5, Syracuse-17, Oklahoma- 18, North Carolina- 21
What about 2017???
Top 5? Virginia, Gonzaga, South Carolina, Florida, West Virginia
6-20? Louisville, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Villanova, Baylor, Purdue, Minnesota, Wichita State, Miami
21-30? Oregon, FSU, North Carolina, St. Mary’s, K-State, Arizona, SMU, Kansas
13 of the last 14 champions (UConn in 2014 [O-39, D-10] is the lone exception) have finished in the top 20 of KenPom’s offensive and defensive stats.
Villanova was 3rd offensively and 5th defensively last year.
This year’s qualifiers is a smaller than usual list:
Gonzaga (O-10, D-2), Kentucky (O-14, D-9), Villanova (O-2, D-12), Wichita State (O-12, D-19)
Because this stat factors in the NCAA tournament to the end of the year final stats, it’s worth noting these teams are very close to qualifying and could with a strong run to the title: Florida, Baylor, West Virginia, Louisville, Purdue, Oregon, FSU, North Carolina, St. Mary’s, Arizona, SMU