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Best Final Four Fields (1980-2010)

Posted by Neil Paine on March 30, 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:

Year Teams avgSRS AvgATW%
1980 LOU, UCLA, IOWA, PUR 16.58 0.643
1981 IND, UNC, LSU, VIRG 19.04 0.626
1982 GTWN, UNC, HOU, LOU 16.78 0.651
1983 HOU, NCST, GEOR, LOU 18.11 0.599
1984 GTWN, HOU, KEN, VIRG 16.96 0.634
1985 GTWN, VILL, MEM, STJO 16.48 0.646
1986 DUKE, LOU, KAN, LSU 20.22 0.660
1987 IND, SYRA, PROV, UNLV 19.27 0.662
1988 KAN, OKLA, ARIZ, DUKE 24.37 0.668
1989 MICH, SETH, DUKE, ILL 24.54 0.628
1990 DUKE, UNLV, ARKA, GEOT 20.91 0.648
1991 DUKE, KAN, UNC, UNLV 26.93 0.718
1992 DUKE, MICH, CIN, IND 23.82 0.635
1993 MICH, UNC, KAN, KEN 25.07 0.697
1994 ARKA, DUKE, ARIZ, FLA 20.73 0.632
1995 ARKA, UCLA, OKST, UNC 21.44 0.665
1996 KEN, SYRA, MIST, UMAS 22.18 0.631
1997 ARIZ, KEN, MINN, UNC 24.24 0.677
1998 KEN, UTAH, STAN, UNC 21.42 0.680
1999 CONN, DUKE, MICS, OSU 25.30 0.633
2000 FLA, MICS, UNC, WISC 20.54 0.606
2001 ARIZ, DUKE, MARY, MICS 27.07 0.632
2002 IND, MARY, KAN, OKLA 22.04 0.639
2003 KAN, SYRA, MARQ, TEX 19.80 0.662
2004 CONN, GEOT, DUKE, OKST 22.44 0.615
2005 ILL, UNC, LOU, MICS 23.89 0.660
2006 FLA, UCLA, GEOM, LSU 16.80 0.587
2007 FLA, OSU, GTWN, UCLA 21.45 0.613
2008 KAN, MEM, UCLA, UNC 24.13 0.703
2009 MICS, UNC, CONN, VILL 20.83 0.653
2010 DUKE, WVIR, MICS, BUTL 19.37 0.622

The “AvgSRS” column is the average of the season Simple Ratings for the teams in the Final Four, which indicates the performance of the teams (adjusted for SOS) all season long; this is a good proxy for whether the best/most talented teams were the ones who made it out of their regions in one piece. Also listed is “AvgATW%”, which stands for the average all-time winning percentage of the 4 schools that advanced furthest in the tournament; this is a good proxy for the prestige levels of the Final Four teams.

So how did this year’s group fare? The average Final Four had an SRS score of 21.38, meaning the 2010 score of 19.37 is below-average, but the good news is that some of the “worst” Final Fours by this metric (FF’s that didn’t feature the 4 best teams in the land) have produced some of the tourney’s most indelible memories — Michael Jordan and Keith Smart’s clutch shots, the unbelievable finish to the NC State-Houston title game in 1983, and Villanova’s amazing upset of Georgetown in ’85, among others.

Also, the 2010 Final Four doesn’t feature the most prestigious group of teams ever by all-time program winning %, which isn’t the greatest news for CBS… But on the other hand, there’s probably going to be more than a little rooting interest across America for a team that literally plays its home games in the gym from Hoosiers, don’t you think?

Finally, here’s a more detailed breakdown of every Final Four team since 1980:

Year Team Conf Region Seed Round_Max SRS AllTimeW%
1980 LOU MECA Midwest 2 National Final 15.58 0.656
1980 UCLA PC10 West 8 National Final 15.66 0.694
1980 IOWA BG10 East 5 National Semifinal 17.56 0.590
1980 PUR BG10 Mideast 6 National Semifinal 17.54 0.631
1981 IND BG10 Mideast 3 National Final 21.18 0.640
1981 UNC ACC West 2 National Final 18.30 0.736
1981 LSU SEC Midwest 1 National Semifinal 18.09 0.570
1981 VIRG ACC East 1 National Semifinal 18.59 0.560
1982 GTWN BIGE West 1 National Final 19.31 0.616
1982 UNC ACC East 1 National Final 20.17 0.736
1982 HOU SWC Midwest 6 National Semifinal 12.94 0.598
1982 LOU MECA Mideast 3 National Semifinal 14.71 0.656
1983 HOU SWC Midwest 1 National Final 22.46 0.598
1983 NCST ACC West 6 National Final 15.22 0.623
1983 GEOR SEC East 4 National Semifinal 16.19 0.518
1983 LOU MECA Mideast 1 National Semifinal 18.57 0.656
1984 GTWN BIGE West 1 National Final 18.75 0.616
1984 HOU SWC Midwest 2 National Final 14.37 0.598
1984 KEN SEC Mideast 1 National Semifinal 20.26 0.760
1984 VIRG ACC East 7 National Semifinal 14.43 0.560
1985 GTWN BIGE East 1 National Final 20.89 0.616
1985 VILL BIGE Southeast 8 National Final 12.03 0.641
1985 MEM MECA Midwest 2 National Semifinal 14.92 0.668
1985 STJO BIGE West 1 National Semifinal 18.09 0.659
1986 DUKE ACC East 1 National Final 22.08 0.699
1986 LOU MECA West 2 National Final 20.66 0.656
1986 KAN BIG8 Midwest 1 National Semifinal 23.19 0.716
1986 LSU SEC Southeast 11 National Semifinal 14.94 0.570
1987 IND BG10 Midwest 1 National Final 20.69 0.640
1987 SYRA BIGE East 2 National Final 17.97 0.687
1987 PROV BIGE Southeast 6 National Semifinal 15.31 0.602
1987 UNLV BIGW West 1 National Semifinal 23.12 0.720
1988 KAN BIG8 Midwest 6 National Final 15.71 0.716
1988 OKLA BIG8 Southeast 1 National Final 29.48 0.612
1988 ARIZ PC10 West 1 National Semifinal 28.95 0.645
1988 DUKE ACC East 2 National Semifinal 23.33 0.699
1989 MICH BG10 Southeast 3 National Final 27.64 0.575
1989 SETH BIGE West 3 National Final 20.91 0.584
1989 DUKE ACC East 2 National Semifinal 24.94 0.699
1989 ILL BG10 Midwest 1 National Semifinal 24.68 0.653
1990 DUKE ACC East 3 National Final 21.34 0.699
1990 UNLV BIGW West 1 National Final 24.45 0.720
1990 ARKA SWC Midwest 4 National Semifinal 19.87 0.641
1990 GEOT ACC Southeast 4 National Semifinal 17.99 0.533
1991 DUKE ACC Midwest 2 National Final 24.90 0.699
1991 KAN BIG8 Southeast 3 National Final 24.79 0.716
1991 UNC ACC East 1 National Semifinal 26.91 0.736
1991 UNLV BIGW West 1 National Semifinal 31.11 0.720
1992 DUKE ACC East 1 National Final 24.80 0.699
1992 MICH BG10 Southeast 6 National Final 18.76 0.575
1992 CIN GMID Midwest 4 National Semifinal 21.67 0.628
1992 IND BG10 West 2 National Semifinal 30.06 0.640
1993 MICH BG10 West 1 National Final 22.03 0.575
1993 UNC ACC East 1 National Final 29.04 0.736
1993 KAN BIG8 Midwest 2 National Semifinal 22.30 0.716
1993 KEN SEC Southeast 1 National Semifinal 26.91 0.760
1994 ARKA SEC Midwest 1 National Final 23.88 0.641
1994 DUKE ACC Southeast 2 National Final 19.20 0.699
1994 ARIZ PC10 West 2 National Semifinal 23.71 0.645
1994 FLA SEC East 3 National Semifinal 16.11 0.544
1995 ARKA SEC Midwest 2 National Final 16.85 0.641
1995 UCLA PC10 West 1 National Final 23.74 0.694
1995 OKST BIG8 East 4 National Semifinal 21.72 0.590
1995 UNC ACC Southeast 2 National Semifinal 23.45 0.736
1996 KEN SEC Midwest 1 National Final 32.14 0.760
1996 SYRA BIGE West 4 National Final 18.99 0.687
1996 MIST SEC Southeast 5 National Semifinal 16.20 0.546
1996 UMAS A10 East 1 National Semifinal 21.38 0.528
1997 ARIZ PC10 Southeast 4 National Final 21.60 0.645
1997 KEN SEC West 1 National Final 29.23 0.760
1997 MINN BG10 Midwest 1 National Semifinal 23.35 0.568
1997 UNC ACC East 1 National Semifinal 22.80 0.736
1998 KEN SEC South 2 National Final 22.95 0.760
1998 UTAH WAC West 3 National Final 17.06 0.654
1998 STAN PC10 Midwest 3 National Semifinal 19.00 0.570
1998 UNC ACC East 1 National Semifinal 26.67 0.736
1999 CONN BIGE West 1 National Final 24.74 0.640
1999 DUKE ACC East 1 National Final 34.80 0.699
1999 MICS BG10 Midwest 1 National Semifinal 22.62 0.596
1999 OSU BG10 South 4 National Semifinal 19.02 0.597
2000 FLA SEC East 5 National Final 23.47 0.544
2000 MICS BG10 Midwest 1 National Final 25.04 0.596
2000 UNC ACC South 8 National Semifinal 17.00 0.736
2000 WISC BG10 West 8 National Semifinal 16.66 0.546
2001 ARIZ PC10 Midwest 2 National Final 26.89 0.645
2001 DUKE ACC East 1 National Final 32.27 0.699
2001 MARY ACC West 3 National Semifinal 23.92 0.587
2001 MICS BG10 South 1 National Semifinal 25.19 0.596
2002 IND BG10 South 5 National Final 19.20 0.640
2002 MARY ACC East 1 National Final 23.55 0.587
2002 KAN BG12 Midwest 1 National Semifinal 24.38 0.716
2002 OKLA BG12 West 2 National Semifinal 21.03 0.612
2003 KAN BG12 West 2 National Final 24.99 0.716
2003 SYRA BIGE East 3 National Final 19.02 0.687
2003 MARQ CUSA Midwest 3 National Semifinal 16.27 0.619
2003 TEX BG12 South 1 National Semifinal 18.90 0.628
2004 CONN BIGE Phoenix 2 National Final 22.62 0.640
2004 GEOT ACC Saint Louis 3 National Final 20.65 0.533
2004 DUKE ACC Atlanta 1 National Semifinal 25.67 0.699
2004 OKST BG12 East Rutherford 2 National Semifinal 20.84 0.590
2005 ILL BG10 Chicago 1 National Final 24.11 0.653
2005 UNC ACC Syracuse 1 National Final 28.43 0.736
2005 LOU CUSA Albuquerque 4 National Semifinal 22.56 0.656
2005 MICS BG10 Austin 5 National Semifinal 20.48 0.596
2006 FLA SEC Minneapolis 3 National Final 20.21 0.544
2006 UCLA PC10 Oakland 2 National Final 17.34 0.694
2006 GEOM CAA Washington 11 National Semifinal 12.11 0.539
2006 LSU SEC Atlanta 4 National Semifinal 17.54 0.570
2007 FLA SEC Midwest 1 National Final 23.74 0.544
2007 OSU BG10 South 1 National Final 21.53 0.597
2007 GTWN BIGE East 2 National Semifinal 19.60 0.616
2007 UCLA PC10 West 2 National Semifinal 20.94 0.694
2008 KAN BG12 Midwest 1 National Final 26.89 0.716
2008 MEM CUSA South 1 National Final 23.74 0.668
2008 UCLA PC10 West 1 National Semifinal 21.70 0.694
2008 UNC ACC East 1 National Semifinal 24.17 0.736
2009 MICS BG10 Midwest 2 National Final 18.22 0.596
2009 UNC ACC South 1 National Final 25.48 0.736
2009 CONN BIGE West 1 National Semifinal 22.18 0.640
2009 VILL BIGE East 3 National Semifinal 17.45 0.641
2010 DUKE ACC South 1 National Semifinal 25.95 0.699
2010 WVIR BIGE East 2 National Semifinal 20.31 0.618
2010 MICS BG10 Midwest 5 National Semifinal 16.55 0.596
2010 BUTL HRZN West 5 National Semifinal 14.68 0.576

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