2019 NCAA Tournament Brackets Advice: Final Four Teams Repeating
Heading into the 2019 NCAA Tournament, there are only four teams that have the ability to say that they have the most recent knowledge possible of what it is like to be in the Final Four - last year's finalists Villanova, Michigan, Kansas and Loyola. We know that Loyola won't be repeating as a Final Four team - they blew their chance of making the NCAA field by losing in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Tournament as the No. 1 seed to eventual tournament winner Bradley. But the other three are all coming into the NCAA Tournament off of conference tournament appearances that weren't lousy and are ready for the big dance. By looking back at how many teams have made the Final Four in consecutive years, and how they have done when they got there, we might get some insights into what we can expect this year.
We will limit our study of past Final Four teams to tournaments after 1985 - the year the field first expanded to 64 games. It's worth nothing that Kentucky made three straight appearances 1996-98, Michigan State made three straight trips from 1999-2001, UCLA settled in from 2006-08, and Duke made a truly incredible run of five straight appearances from 1988 to 1992. Are we on the verge of such a run from Villanova, Michigan or Kansas?
Including those 10 combined consecutive appearances from those four teams, there have been a total of 25 occasions in which a finalist from the previous year made another run to the Final Four. With 25 teams in 34 years, we have seen teams repeat as Final Four squads in about 76 percent of possible years. The chances are a little lower than normal this year because there are only three possible repeaters, though. Michigan and Kansas have both done it before, so at some level at least they have past experience to draw on.
Here is how the 25 past situations break down:
Teams that won both appearances
This is the group that Villanova would love to join after their dominant title win last year. It's a much different situation for them this year than last year - they are a repeat conference champion, but not nearly so intimidating this time around. Just two teams since 1985 have managed to repeat. Florida did it in 2006 and 2007, and Duke did it in 1991 and 1992 to finish off that five-year run of unprecedented modern excellence.
Teams that won in their first appearance
If Villanova can't make it into the prior group, they would at least like to make it into this one. Four teams have made it back into the Final Four again a year after their win without pulling off a repeat. UNLV in 1991, Arkansas in 1995, and Kentucky in 1997 all lost the final game the year after they won it, while Michigan State lost in the semis in 2001 the year after their win.
Teams that won in their second appearance
The good news for Kansas and Michigan is that eight different teams have won the tournament the year after appearing in the Final Four without winning it. Like Michigan hopes to, three of the teams had lost in the finals the year before their win - Duke in 1991, Kentucky in 1998, and North Carolina in 2017. And the other five will be more inspiration for Kansas, as they lost in the semifinals the year before their win - Michigan State in 2000, Maryland in 2002, North Carolina in 2009, Kentucky in 2012, and Louisville the year after that.
Teams that improved in their second appearance
There is no room for Villanova to improve on last year, but Michigan and Kansas both could. Only Kansas, though, could improve on last year without winning the title. Three teams have lost in the final the year after losing in the semis - Duke in 1990, Kansas in 2003, and Wisconsin in 2015.
Teams that were worse in their second appearance
On the flip side, only Michigan can do worse this year than last year without having a win either year to show for it. Three teams have lost in the finals one year, and the semis the next year - UCLA in 2007, Michigan State in 2010, and Kentucky in 2015.
Teams with same record both appearances
If you can't win it all, then you could certainly do worse than duplicating your Final Four record in consecutive years. Five squads have done this over the years. Michigan previously lost the Championship Game in 1992 and 1993, and Butler did the same in 2010 and 2011. The three squads that have lost in consecutive semifinals are North Carolina in 1997 and 1998, Duke in 1998 and 1999, and UCLA in 2007 and 2008.
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