Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tourney tidbits

Some possible help for your brackets.

First, Curious factoids: (i) only four NCAA Tournaments since 1985 have not had an ACC team in the Final Four, until last year each time Syracuse had won its regional (1987, 1996, 2003, 2006); (ii) Duke has not failed to reach the Sweet 16 since 1997 -- that's now ten straight years that the Dookies have survived the first weekend, if Duke survives the first weekend, remember that it has lost six times in the Sweet 16 under Coach K but only once in the Regional Finals and each team that beat Duke in the Sweet 16 went on to the Final Four; (iii) three #1 seeds have reached the Final Four only three times since the seeding system started in 1979 (1993, 1997, 1999), by contrast three (or more) non-#1 seeds have reached the Final Four in four of the past seven years (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006) and seven times since the first 3-#1 Final Four in 1993 (1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006), by far the most common occurrence is a pair of #1 seeds making the Final Four, like 2005, and the rarest is zero #1 seeds -- that has happened only in 1980 and 2006; (iv) only four No. 15 seeds have ever beaten a #2, no #1 seed has ever lost a first round game and only Arizona and South Carolina have lost first round games as a #2 and #3 seed in consecutive years; (v) the last Ivy League team to win a first-round game was Princeton in 1998 but it was a #5 seed, the last lower-seeded Ivy to win a first-round game was Princeton in 1996 -- it then lost badly in the second round; this year's Ivy winner is 14th-seeded Penn; (vi) no team has ever lost in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament and won the NCAA -- Texas was a rarity by reaching the Final Four in 2003; the most notable chokers in their conference quarters this year are Texas A&M and UCLA.

Second, when all else fails pick the team with the best player on the floor to win. Look at the recent past champions: 2005 UNC had May, 2004 UConn had Okafor, 2003 Syracuse had Anthony, 2002 Maryland had Dixon, 2000 Mich. State had MoPete. Duke's 2001 champ doesn't count because it had 3 players better than most other team's best player (Battier, Dunleavy, J. Williams) but nearly all the other squads that won in the '00s all had one player who was so far above any of the competitors that they had no answer for him.

And finally, one other tip. If you have two teams that seem even, go with the bangers over the jumpers. The game has changed since 1986, when a high-flying Louisville could just outjump a stronger UNC team. Instead, interior power is a key ingredient. It kept Kansas in the 2003 title game; it helped UConn win in '04, it was THE difference in UNC's win in '05 and a major factor last year when Florida rolled through the Final Four, and it made the difference in Maryland's Final Four win over Kansas in 2002 (which effectively was the national title game). Sure, the human pogo sticks can do some work, but the increased athletic talents of players now means that a 215 pound jumping jack will be going up against a 275 pound jumping jack and I know who's likely to win that battle.

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