Lessons From Last Year's Elite Eight
by Trevor Whenham - 03/12/2008
You know all the clichés - history repeats itself, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and all the rest. When it comes to March Madness those clichés create a problem - they are true, but only partly. You need to be very aware of what has happened in the past so that you can avoid costly mistakes. But if you assume that what happened in the past will definitely happen again then you are going to go broke. With that in mind, I offer this article with a warning - learn from it, but don't assume that this year will be the same.
What I wanted to do was take a look at the teams that made the Elite Eight last year. More specifically, I wanted to look at how those teams finished off the regular season and how they fared in their conference tournaments. By looking at each individually I was curious to see if any similarities or trends emerged. That could help us when we are filling out our March Madness brackets later in the week. As it turns out, several did. Here's a look:
North Carolina (No. 1 seed, lost to Georgetown in Elite Eight) - The Tar Heels did not finish their season off with a bang. They lost three of their last six regular season games, and only covered once during that dismal stretch. They salvaged some pride at the end of the regular season by beating Duke handily and covering the spread. That win catapulted them back into form, and led them to a win in the ACC Tournament. They covered the first two games, and though they didn't cover in the final against N.C. State they still won by nine.
Georgetown (No. 2 seed, lost to Ohio State in Final Four) - The Hoyas mostly finished strong, winning four of their last five, and going 3-1-1 ATS over that stretch. They won and covered their last game. The one loss over that stretch was a bit of a concern at the time, though - they were blown out by 14 at Syracuse by a team that was desperate to secure a tournament bid. They won the Big East Tournament, covering two of three games, and capping it with a huge 23-point win over Pitt in the final.
Ohio State (No. 1 seed, lost to Florida in the championship game) - Greg Oden and company finished strong, winning all five of their final games. They didn't quite measure up to the lofty public expectation over that stretch, though, as they only covered two of the five. One of those covers was in their final game. They won the Big Ten conference championship and covered all three games. The final was a convincing 17-point win over Wisconsin.
Memphis (No. 2 seed, lost to Ohio State in Elite Eight) - Like Ohio State, Memphis won their last five games, but only managed to cover two of them. Unlike Ohio State, the Tigers didn't manage to cover their last game. The Tigers won the Conference USA title with a 12-point win over Houston in the final. They covered only one of three conference tournament games.
Florida (No. 1 seed, won it all by beating Ohio State in the final) - Florida managed to defend their title, but it didn't look like they were going to at the end of the year. They lost three of their final five games. The only one of those games they managed to cover was the last one, a big win over Kentucky. They turned it around nicely in the SEC Tournament, though, covering all three games they played, and blowing out Arkansas by 21 in the final.
Oregon (No. 3 seed, lost to Florida in the Elite Eight) - The Ducks are a prime example of a team that got hot at the right time. Going into their third to last game of the season they were riding a three-game losing streak in which they hadn't covered once. Turning the tables, they won their last three, and they covered each of them. They continued the momentum in the Pac-10 Tournament, covering three games, and winning the final by 24 over USC.
Kansas (No. 1 seed, lost to UCLA in Elite Eight) - The Jayhawks won their last five regular season games, but public expectations were to much as they couldn't cover their last two. They continued their winning ways in the Big 12 Tournament, though they needed overtime to get past Texas in the final. They covered one of three conference tournament games.
UCLA (No. 2 seed, lost to Florida in the Final Four) - The Bruins seemed as if they were showing exactly how a team should not head into the tournament. Though they won four of their last five and were a decent 3-2 ATS, their last game was an embarrassing 10-point loss to Washington. If that was embarrassing then the lost to Cal in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament when they were favored by 15 was absolutely humiliating.
1. Last year couldn't have been more chalky - four No. 1 seeds, three No. 2s, and a No. 3 in the Elite Eight. Though that was more extreme than normal, the George Mason-type breakthrough is more of the exception than the norm - the Patriots are the only team below a No. 8 seed to make the Elite Eight in the last five years.
2. Seven of the eight Elite Eight members won their conference tournament. With the exception of Kansas, all of them did it in grand style, winning the final game convincingly. In other words, it turns out momentum does matter.
3. Seven of the eight teams won their final game of the season. They weren't as successful against the spread, going 4-4 ATS in those games.
4. As a group they had a strong run in the conference tournaments from a betting perspective, ending up at 15-9 ATS.