Open Mouth, Insert Football: Breaking down the bracket

Ben Morrow
Staff Writer

I have an evil alter ego. He’s a mean, maniacal Swede.

His name is Sven.

Sven’s got jokes. Sven plays pranks. Sven likes to make Ben look like an idiot, as if I couldn’t do that myself.

Sven hijacked last week’s column. Frankly, I was disappointed but not surprised. The piece was supposed to be an objective look at Murray State’s seeding in this week’s tournament titled “The Montana State Rule.” Instead, Sven renamed it “Tourney Time” and turned it into a series of wild and witless prognostications.

Bad Sven. Bad.

After all, who in their right mind would legitimately try to pick the NCAA Tournament winners before the brackets come out?

Sven would, that’s who. The problem is Sven thought it would be funny to do it under my name.

(Sigh.)

We’re going to try this again. This time we’ll take a somewhat logical approach to filling out our brackets properly. Yes, the tournament madness has already begun, but that’s the nature of a weekly column. Gotta work around the deadlines.

With all that said, and with Sven properly locked away in the empty dungeon of my subconscious, let’s look at how tournament teams typically fare in order to make our predictions.

 

A recent history

The following is a breakdown of how seeded teams have fared since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. (Play-in games count as teams contending for a #16 seed.)

? The No. 1 seed is 108–0 against the No. 16 seed (100 percent).

? The No. 2 seed is 104–4 against the No. 15 seed (96.30 percent).

? The No. 3 seed is 92–16 against the No. 14 seed (85.19 percent).

? The No. 4 seed is 85–23 against the No. 13 seed (78.70 percent).

? The No. 5 seed is 72–36 against the No. 12 seed (66.67 percent).

? The No. 6 seed is 72–36 against the No. 11 seed (66.67 percent).

? The No. 7 seed is 65–43 against the No. 10 seed (60.19 percent).

? The No. 8 seed is 51–57 against the No. 9 seed (47.22 perecent).

? This means that No. 11, No. 12 and sometimes No. 13 seeds are often good upset picks, No. 9 beats No. 8 more times than not, and No. 16 teams never beat the No. 1. (This will change at some point, but it holds true for now.)

 

Last year’s tournament – Cinderella’s year.

? The 2011 tournament was a statistical anomaly. It was the only time that neither a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed made it to the Final Four, and only the third time that no No. 1 seeds made it to the final weekend.

? Butler became the only team to make consecutive Final Fours without being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in either tournament.

? Last year’s Final Four matchup between No. 8 seed Butler and No. 11 seed VCU was the lowest seeding combination of any Final Four game. Last year was great, but it might not be the best model to use when predicting this year’s field.

 

Top teams not always the best teams

? Since 2001, only two teams entered the tournament ranked No.1 in the polls and went on to win it all: Duke in 2001 and North Carolina in 2009. Both teams were so dominant they won each tournament game by 10 points or more. Only teams who are head and shoulders above the rest of the field usually go into the tournament No. 1 and come out safely the other side.

? The 2008 tournament was the only year to see all four No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four.

? In 1997, Arizona became the only team to beat three No. 1 seeds on its way to a national championship.

? Only six tournaments have seen two No. 1 seeds in the championship game, although it has happened three times since 2005.

? Since 2002, two No. 11 seeds (George Mason, 2006 and VCU, 2011) have reached the Final Four and one No. 12 seed (Missouri, 2002) has reached the Elite Eight.

 

Attributes of a champion

Championship teams consistently possess several key components. They have a poised coach who is superb with X’s and O’s. They have at least one go-to star. They come into the tournament hot, even if they don’t always win their conference tournaments. And they match up well in the brackets. Teams often make the Final Four missing one or two of these factors. They rarely win it all without all of them.

 

Shoutout

To the Bluegrass State. Kentucky, Louisville, Murray State and Western Kentucky all get to dance this year. We’re doing our part!

 

Predictions

While upsets may abound in the first weekend, the field should eventually shake out with a surprising amount of chalk. I’m crossing my fingers and saying our Racers pull out an extremely tough battle against Marquette to get to their first Sweet Sixteen before going down to a similarly-styled but immensely talented Missouri squad. I will be disappointed if this week’s issue finds the Racers fallen to the Rams squad.

Final Four: UNC, Florida State, UK and Murray State.

Champions: North Carolina beats UK in a nailbiter.