Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Issue # 25.2 "25 Years: The Teams"
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EL SEGUNDO, CA (smt)- In the final AP pool, teams 2 through 7 are not your usual suspects with only Florida St (ACC), Baylor (Big 12), and Creighton (Big East) coming from the Power 5 conferences. Gonzaga (WCC), Dayton (Atlantic 10), and San Diego St (Mountain West) would have provided some much needed parity. But alas, none of those teams will count. So without a tournament, here is another 25 Year retrospective, this time focusing on the teams who have made the tournament (the proper 64 that is).
So when the NCAA tried to mess up brackets by adding a 65th team (Opening Round 64v65) in 2001 due to the new Mountain West Conference taking away an at-large bid or when they added three more at-large teams to create the First Four (well, the First Round until 2016) in 2011, we ignored them. The proper 64 bracket that starts Thursday at 9:15 am is what matters in this pool. If you pick your bracket early you'll just select "Team A/Team B" to advance and as always, you can change your picks up until the deadline.
Duke has been the top seed (#1 overall) 6 times including four in a row from '99-'02 with Kentucky (4) and Kansas (3) right behind as shown in the table on the left. From '95-'03 the top seed was determined by the final AP pool before the tournament and from '04-present the top seed is announced as part the NCAA's ranked seeds listing. UMass ('96) is probably the oddest top seed and local favorite UCLA was only the top seed in our first pool in '95. Five top seeds went on to win the tournament ('95 UCLA, '01 Duke, '07 Florida, '12 Kentucky, '13 Louisville). Only twice did the top 2 seeds make the final ('99 Duke v UConn, '05 Illinois v UNC) and twice did none of the top 4 seeds make the Final Four ('06, '11). UConn, however, has won the most titles (4) with Duke, UNC, and Kentucky winning 3 each in the past 25 years. A #1 seed has won the title 17 times with UConn (#7E) the worst seed to win the title.
Andy F has picked the correct champion the most - 9 times (including last 3) in 22 years (40.9%) (no one else has more than 6) as shown on the right. Meanwhile Deven K (first entry) is 0-for-16 and Lawrence M (first entry) is 0-for-15. Deven K is also 0-for-11 on his second entry so he is a combined 0-for-27 (Lawrence M is 1-22 overall)! Lisa F picked the correct champ 3 of 4 years (75%) while Karen F, Sean M, Carl S (2nd entry), and Billy T are 2-for-2 (100%).
So 64 teams each year count in our tally so that means 1,600 teams have played in the 25 tournaments. Kansas is the only team that has played every year with an average seeding of 2.3 (12 #1 seeds) and one title (been picked 252 times but only 7 got it right (2.8%, the lowest of any team that has won at least 1 title (exception is no one picked Arizona in '97)). Duke (with best seed average at 2.1 (12 #1 seeds)) has played in the last 24 tournaments and is our most popular champ pick with 273 entries (of 2,353 11.6%) but only 27 have been rewarded for it (9.9%) despite 3 titles. UNC has provided the most entries with victory (85 of 228 picked 37.3%) over 22 years while Maryland has the highest percentage of correct title picks (17/26 65.4%) over 10 years. Despite 4 titles (but only won once in four tries as #1 seed), UConn has only been picked to win it all 74 times (18 correct 24.3%).
No one has dared pick Mt. St. Mary (0/327 #16/16/16/16) or Eastern Kentucky to win at least one game (0/318, #15/16/15) while 129 have hoped Michigan St would win a title but they haven't. A record 90 picked Kentucky to win it in 2015 (but lost in Semifinal) but a record 50 did get Kentucky right in 2012 (38.8% percent who got this right is best since our biased first year when 10 of 12 got UCLA right). No one got #4SE-Arizona ('97) or #2S-Kentucky ('98) right, the only two years no one picked the correct champ (we actually had champ Karen F pick #7E-UConn in '14, champ Ken B pick #3MIN(MW)-Florida in '06, and Fernando B pick #3E-Syracuse in '03 (and actually finished 5th, one spot out of the money)).
Excluding the first six years ('95-'00) where we saw 175 different teams make the tournament, '03 saw 11 new teams and '01 saw 10. We squeaked by with just one in '11 (Northern Colorado) and two last year (Abilene Christian and Gardner-Webb). We were pretty much guaranteed Rutgers (last appearance '91) making it this year with a few potential teams still alive in their conference tourneys before they were cancelled. Ten teams made their debut in our pool by winning their Opening Round/First Four game. Alabama A&M ('05) and North Florida ('15) lost their Opening Round or First Four game so they aren't part of the 281 teams in our pool. Lehigh ('10), Little Rock ('16), and Middle Tennessee ('16) were in that same boat but did manage to make the proper 64 later. Northern Kentucky ('17) is the only team to make our pool in their first year of Division I eligibility. Northwestern finally made the tourney in '17 since NCAA's inception in 1939.
Loyola-Chicago has the best win average (4.0) but only appeared once (making the Final Four in '18). But of those with multiple appearances, Kentucky leads with 2.96 wins followed closely by UConn (2.94) and UNC (2.86). Even our favorite Zags have just won 1.55 games per tourney appearance. New Mexico St has not won a game in 10 appearances while Penn and Iona haven't won a game in 9.
UNC (22 yrs) has reached the Final Four the most times (9) while Kentucky (23 yrs) has the most final appearances with 5 as shown in the table on the right. Michigan St has reached the Final Four 8 times (23 yrs) but only made the final twice. Kentucky and Duke (24 yrs) have made the Sweet 16 17 times. Kentucky has the most wins 68 (20 losses) while Kansas (25 yrs) has the most losses with 24. UConn has the best winning percentage 0.797 (47-12, 16 yrs) if you ignore Loyola-Chicago's single season (0.800, 4-1). Sixteen teams have not lost in the first round with Auburn doing it in all 5 appearances (Avg seed of 5.4).
We do have a limitation on character length for the team names of 11 and my abbreviations are a max four letters (dashes "-" are okay) so we have to get creative sometimes. 2-letter postal abbreviations are used often. For a while Kentucky was KENT until Kent (now Kent St) came along and altered the Wildcats to KEN (which means future hopeful Kennesaw St is KENN). Jackson St gets JACK while JACKSONVILLE has to be JACV. S DAKOTA ST gets SD-ST while SN DIEGO ST gets SDSU. USC belongs to SO CALIF instead of S CAROLINA. A few I will defer to their abbreviation such as UCLA, BYU, TCU, IUPUI, LSU, UTEP, UNLV, and SMU but for the most part I try to put the whole name in those 11 characters (e.g., N CAROLINA for UNC, TEX SAN ANT for UTSA, E TENN ST for ETSU, F DICKINSON for FDU, VA COMMONW for VCU, ALA BIRM for UAB). Some include the U (University) such as U CONN, BOSTON U, SOUTHERN U, and U MASS and THE CITADEL gets to keep the "The".
U. of California schools get to keep their UC moniker (UCD, UCI, UCLA, UCSB, UCI and hopefuls UCSD and UCR) except for Cal, of course. Cal State schools either see "CS" as in CS Long Beach (old), CS Northridge, CS Bakersfield, and CS Fullerton or "State" as in Long Beach St (new), San Jose St, San Diego St, and hopeful Sacramento St. "Cal Poly" refers to San Luis Obispo even though my alma mater Cal Poly Pomona exists (just not a Division I school). U. of North Carolina schools are complicated with UNC, UNCG, UNCC, UNCW, and UNCA keeping "UNC" while others use "NC" such as NC-Central, NC A&T, and NC State. U. of Texas schools see Texas (Austin), Tex-El Paso (UTEP), Tex-San Antonio (UTSA), Tex-Arlington (UTA), and hopeful Tex-Grand River Valley (UTGRV). Florida has many suffixes with State, Atlantic, Gulf Coast, International, and A&M.
At least 12 universities have somewhat formally changed their name including Detroit Mercy to Detroit ('09) back to Detroit Mercy ('17) as shown in the table on the left. While Wisconsin-Green Bay changed to just Green Bay, Milwaukee is still officially Wisconsin-Milwaukee even though their logo says Milwaukee. Cal State Long Beach changed to Long Beach St ('15) but even weirder changed their nickname from 49ers to Beach, so they are the Long Beach St Beach. Seriously. Hawaii added "Rainbow" to Warriors while LSU dropped "Fighting" (just Tigers), Syracuse the "Men" in Orangemen, and UCF dropped "Golden" (just Knights). I've kept a few quirks such as NOVA for Villanova and "OLE MISS" for Mississippi.
There are 76 NCAA Division I teams who have not made our pool yet including the 2 aforementioned who lost their Opening Round/First Four game. 42 played this year and have never made the pool with four more coming (Dixie St, Talerton St, UCSD, and Bellarmine). Five were ineligible for postseason: North Alabama ('23), Merrimack ('24) and Cal Baptist ('23) due to transition to Division I, Detroit Mercy (academic probation), and Georgia Tech (banned). 28 other teams have not made the tournament since before 1995, our first year of the pool. Will & Mary, St. Francis (NY), Army, and The Citadel played in 1939 (first year of tournament) and still haven't qualified. The last one of this group to make it was Northwestern in '17.
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Tids & Bits - Every Opening Round and First Four game has been played in Dayton and will be so until at least 2022... Florida A&M ('04 and '07) and Winthrop (first '01 and last '10) were the only teams to appear in Opening Round more than once... Northwestern St technically became the first 16 seed to win an NCAA tournament game by beating 16-Winthrop... the Opening Round/Play-In game was televised by The Nashville Network (TNN) in 2001 and ESPN the other 9 years... we ignored when the NCAA tried to claim the First Four as the 1st Round and the Thursday/Friday games the 2nd Round... HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) from the MEAC and SWAC typically play in the 16v16 games... 9 conferences played in the Opening Round... at least one First Four winner has won the next round from 2011-2018 with VCU making the Final Four in 2011... North Carolina Central has lost 3 straight First Four games (2017-19)... the 2011 TV contract with CBS Sports/Turner Sports was going to expire in 2024, which could mean talking about expanding the bracket again, but it was extended in 2016 eight years to 2032 so hopefully it'll stay at 68 teams... BYU won't play on Sundays so the committee makes an effort to have them play Tue/Thu/Sat but no guarantees in the Regional Finals (so could be Fri/Sun)... NCAA has a guide to March Madness... 13 times none of the top 2 seeds made the Final... UNC, Florida, and Louisville have each been the top seed twice... Bing F (4/9 44.4%) and Paul T (6/15 40%) are the only other players >=40% in picking champs (minimum 3 times)... Villanova and Florida have won the title twice each... Pac-10 won 2 of the first 3 years ('95 UCLA and '97 Arizona) but none since... Butler, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan have lost in the final twice each... Six times two #1 seeds met in the final... #8SE-Butler and #8MW-Kentucky are the worst seeds to play in the final and both lost... UNC has been a #1 seed 10 times and Kentucky has been a #1 seed 8 times... Mt. St. Mary has been a #16 seed all four years... Gonzaga and Xavier have the widest variance of seeding with the former being a #1 seed three times ('13, '17, '19) and a #14 seed once ('95) and the latter #1 ('18) and #14 ('96)... for a top team, Gonzaga has also been a double-digit seed 7 times... Oklahoma is second-widest being a #1 ('03) and #13 seed ('99)... despite a decent average seeding of 6.0 over 7 years (#3, twice #4), none of the 703 entries picked LSU to win it all... we do not take into account any vacated wins due to sanctions for our statistical purposes... there are some name changes that have happened but the team hasn't qualified under the new name yet (e.g., SW Louisiana -> Louisiana-Lafayette)... there have been quite a few nickname changes, mainly to eliminate Native American nicknames... there are 8 Wildcat teams that have played in the past 25 years (Northwestern, Abilene-Christian, Davidson, Kansas St, Arizona, Villanova, Weber St, and Kentucky)... 13 teams are averaging 2 wins or better overall including UCLA (2.11)... Cincy, despite an average seed of 5.3 (including 8 times seeded 1-4) has only reached the Sweet 16 3 times in 20 tries... it doesn't feel like it but UCLA has made the Sweet 16 twelve times in 18 yrs... Washington St (Avg seed 3.5) and Middle Tennessee (Avg seed 13.5!) have both made at last the 2nd round in both appearances... there have been at least six teams who are now defunct (played 1995 or later) (Northeastern Ill, Morris Brown, Birmingham-Southern, Winston-Salem, Centenary, and Savannah St (who left this year))... in '17, all 5 new teams were their first-ever tournament bid (as well as both in '19)... McNeese St. and Nichols St. sometimes drop the "St."... with more tests available, USA is up to 53,740 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 706 deaths... Stay safe!
I have picked Kentucky to win it all 4 times (correct once) and 9-for-42 in picking champs (2 entries)...