Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sad ending to a strange tournament

What was one of the oddest and most frustrating NCAA tournaments in recent memory—especially for sports media prophets accustomed to being “right” making the easy predictable predictions—ended last night in the WORST National Championship Game EVER PLAYED. How does a team win when shooting 34 percent? When the other team shoots 18 percent. Butler made only three two-point shots the entire game, and there were nearly as many rebounds (91) as points (94). A "classic" defensive struggle? How about a "classic" playground pick-up game? Still, I don’t agree with the pundits who said the wrong teams made it to the Final Four; if Duke, Ohio State and Kansas were not up to beat inferior opponents, then they got what they deserved. This tournament was about failure; eventual champion Connecticut’s failures happened to be less than their opponents. One interesting note in Connecticut’s defense, however, is that they never lost to a non-conference opponent; all their loses were against their Big East foes.

Since this was such a bizarre tournament where no number one seeds made it to the Final Four—the third time that has happened since seeding began in 1979—it might be interesting to dig-up some other tournament fun facts. In 33 years, 2008 was the only year that all four number one seeds made the Final Four. Only three times did three number one seeds make it. Eighteen times did a number one seed win the championship; six times did a number two seed, and five times a number three seed. The lowest seed to win was Villanova as an 8th seed. Kansas had the most losses by a finals winner with 11. Only two teams seeded as low as 14 made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Only 4 teams seeded as low as 13 made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Three teams seeded as low as 11th made it to the Final Four, but no team seeded 10th made it past the Elite Eight. No team lower than 8th seed made it to the title game.

Although no number one lost in the first round, since the field of 64 was established 14 have lost in the second, and 18 lost in the regional semis (two this year). Teams seeded sixth or higher have overall winning records in the tournament, while all those seventh or lower have losing records. Although ninth seeds have won more games against eighth seeds, 8th seeds have better records playing after winning the first round. This year, number one seeds had their worst won-loss record in the tournament, 8-4. In 2008, the only year that saw all four number one seeds in the final four, their overall record was 19-3.

No team in the seeding era has finished a season unbeaten. UNLV in 1991 was the last team to make it as far as the Final Four with an unbeaten record.

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