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The Unlikeliest Final Four

28th March 2011

Just how unlikely is this year’s Final Four of Kentucky, UConn, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler?

Well, going by one measure, the odds of it happening were¬†0.00003% — only two entries (out 5.9 million) correctly picked the four teams in ESPN.com’s Bracket Challenge. But I decided to see how this year’s improbable group matched up against other inexplicable Final Fours since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Here were the Final Fours with the highest average seed # since then:

Year Team A Seed Team B Seed Team C Seed Team D Seed Avg #1s
2011 KEN 4 CONN 3 VCU 11 BUTL 8 6.50 0
2000 UNC 8 FLA 5 WISC 8 MICS 1 5.50 1
2006 GEOM 11 FLA 3 LSU 4 UCLA 2 5.00 0
1986 KAN 1 DUKE 1 LSU 11 LOU 2 3.75 2
1992 IND 2 DUKE 1 MICH 6 CIN 4 3.25 1
2010 MICS 5 BUTL 5 WVIR 2 DUKE 1 3.25 1
1985 STJO 1 GTWN 1 VILL 8 MEM 2 3.00 2
1990 ARKA 4 DUKE 3 GEOT 4 UNLV 1 3.00 1
1996 MIST 5 SYRA 4 UMAS 1 KEN 1 2.75 2
2005 LOU 4 ILL 1 MICS 5 UNC 1 2.75 2

Aside from 2011, two other years stand out at the top of the list: 2000, when two 8-seeds crashed the Final Four, and 2006, when no #1 seeds made it (but George Mason did). In terms of pre-tournament likelihood, how do those years stack up to 2011?

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 8 Comments »

Which Coaches’ Teams Underperform Their Seeds?

21st March 2011

Watching Texas and Pitt destroy my bracket for what seems like the fifth or sixth time in the last 10 years, I was compelled to ask: is it just perception, or do Rick Barnes’ and Jamie Dixon’s teams always significantly underachieve in the NCAA Tournament?

Luckily, I can answer that question two ways. The first is to look at every NCAA Tourney game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and measure the probability of any team winning any game based on the seeds of the two teams involved. The logistic regression formula, based on 1,686 games (including Sunday’s results), is this:

Expected W% ~ =1 / (1 + EXP(0.1738176 * Seed Diff))

Where Seed Diff is simply the team’s seed # minus the opponent’s seed #. For instance, when a 4-seed plays a 5-seed, as Texas did Sunday, their seed difference is (4 – 5) = -1, which yields an expected win % of 54.3%. And when a 1-seed (like Pitt) plays an 8-seed (like Butler), the seed difference is -7, giving an expected W% of 77.1%.

Anyway, add all up of these expected wins for every coach’s NCAA career, compare to his actual wins, and you can see which coaches have disappointed the most over their post-1985 careers:

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 22 Comments »

2011 NCAA Tournament Game Previews

15th March 2011

To get you prepared for the matchups in this year’s NCAA Tournament, we now have printable game previews at SR/College Basketball:

Game Previews | College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com

Each preview contains key information about both teams, including SRS ratings; offensive and defensive ratings; and player statistics from the 2010-11 season. Check them out, and increase your knowledge when watching the games this month!

Posted in Announcements, NCAA Tournament | 3 Comments »

Duke 2010 — “Easy” Road?

6th April 2010

Prior to the 2010 tournament, many media pundits felt that Duke had the easiest bracket of any #1 seed, despite Kansas actually being the top overall seed in the field. If no upsets happened, Duke would have to go through AP #9 Villanova to reach the Final Four; by comparison, Kansas would have to go through #5 Ohio State, Syracuse would have to go through #7 K-State, and Kentucky would have to go through #6 West Virginia.

As the tournament progressed, the only upset that happened along Duke’s path was #3 Baylor reaching the Regional Final instead of Villanova, who had been picked off by Saint Mary’s (CA). This meant that instead of #9 ‘Nova, Duke actually only had to go through the 19th-ranked Bears to reach Indy. Once they reached the Final Four, they found #6 West Virginia waiting for them, and in the Championship Game the Blue Devils had to beat #11 Butler, whom they only topped by 2 when a pair of shots by Gordon Hayward each missed by mere inches. So you can see why some are reacting to Duke’s crown today with criticism that they faced one of the easiest roads to a championship in NCAA history. But is this true? Was Duke’s path to glory really devoid of potholes along the way? And if so, how does 2010 Duke compare to other past champions who had more grueling roads?

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 1 Comment »

How Often Does the Nation’s Best Team Win the National Championship?

30th March 2010

In a variation on a running theme (one that’s especially pertinent given the early departures of Syracuse, Kansas, & Kentucky from this year’s tourney), I wanted to know how often the “best” (i.e., most talented, most dominant over the entire season, etc.) team wins the NCAA Tournament. We know that the NFL’s best team wins the Super Bowl about 24% of the time, that the best team in baseball wins the World Series about 29% of the team (or at least, they did back in the 1980s when Bill James studied the issue), and that the NBA’s best team wins the Finals almost half of the time… So what’s your guess for college basketball?

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Posted in NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 14 Comments »

Best Final Four Fields (1980-2010)

30th March 2010

With Baylor and Tennessee in contention for a pair of Final Four slots on Sunday, we had the possibility of a Butler-West Virginia-Baylor-Tennessee group emerging from the regional finals, which would have been perhaps the least storied Final Four in recent history. Alas, Michigan State and Duke, two of the more successful schools of all time, crashed the Final Four party — but they also left us with an eclectic 4-team group that will provide ample storylines over the coming week. How does this year’s crop compare to past Final Fours in terms of the talent of the teams involved? Let’s take a look:

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 1 Comment »

The Real Field of 64?

16th March 2010

As much fun as the next few weeks will be, I think we can all acknowledge that the NCAA Tournament field does not represent the 64 best D-I basketball teams in the country (nor does it represent the 64 most “accomplished” teams in the land, however you want to define that). Automatic bids to teams from small conferences give the tourney a feeling of equality and tiny schools a chance to shine on a big stage, but the most talented team in the NIT field would still be favored by a wide margin against many of the NCAA Tourney’s lower seeds. I’m not complaining about this reality, mind you, and I certainly don’t begrudge the NCAA for giving an opportunity to small-conference and mid-major teams. But do you ever wonder what the NCAA field would look like if it did only include the 64 “best” or “most accomplished” teams in the nation?

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Posted in NCAA Tournament | 3 Comments »

BBR March Madness Pool 2010

15th March 2010

For the first NCAA Tourney of SR/CBB’s existence, we’re going to run our official blog bracket pool over at BBR. Details are here.

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2010 NCAA Tournament First Impressions

15th March 2010

Some random thoughts on the 2010 bracket…

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