The NCAA Tournament is finally just around the corner. As I write this we are in a torturous time. Conference tournaments are underway, so there is good basketball being played, but it all just seems like a tease when all we want is the main event. It's like an appetizer course that never ends. All I want is my entree! Until that time comes, though, here are some NCAA Tournament facts to stoke your hunger for the year's greatest sporting event:
Ever had the thought that you should just fill out every combination in a bracket? You would hit the jackpot no matter what happened. What's the downside? Well, time really. With a 68-team field there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 different unique brackets. You could rule out a few because you are not likely to bother having a No. 16 make a deep run, but you are still going to be at it for a while. You only have a few days between when the bracket is set and things tip off, so you might need some help to get it all done. And if you have to pay for each bracket and you have to pay up front it could really get expensive. Better get started, though - if you fill out one bracket per second it will take you about 4.7 million years to get them all done. The ridiculous number of possible brackets is why you see such big jackpots offered for a perfect bracket - there's not a whole lot of risk involved for the people offering the prize, or it doesn't cost much at all to insure such a prize.
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It should really come as no surprise that Villanova won the tournament. The main color in their uniforms is blue, and that means that 14 of the last 15 national champions has had blue as a key color. Louisville is the only one that didn't. It was inevitable last year no matter what - North Carolina was the other finalist. Blue was obviously the key to Final Four success - Syracuse and Oklahoma lost in that round. So, when all else fails, look to uniform color as a tiebreaker when filling out your bracket.
Villanova cut down the nets last year as a No. 2 seed. Remarkably, that marks the 13th time in the last 15 editions of the tournament that the top overall seed in the tournament has not won. In fact, it was Villanova that knocked out first overall seed Kansas in the Elite Eight. The lack of recent dominance by the supposed best team in the country is further proof - like we needed it - that winning the NCAA Tournament is incredibly hard. It didn't used to be this way - the top overall seed has won the tournament 23 times. Many of those came in a smaller field, though - UCLA alone did it multiple times during the John Wooden era.
Last year just one No. 1 seed - North Carolina - made it as far as the Final Four. That's well down from three the year before, and it's among the fewest ever. Just twice in the 32 years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams has there been a Final Four without a single No. 1 squad. In earlier editions of the tournament with smaller fields it happened only once - in 1980. On the flip side, 2008 was the only year in the 64 (or more) team era in which each of the last four teams was a No. 1 seed. You don't have to feel too sorry for No. 1 seeds despite how often at least one loses earlier than they should, though - a No. 1 seed has won 19 of 32 full-field tournament.
Sooner or later we are going to see one of those No. 1 seeds lose much, much earlier than they are supposed to . A total of 128 times we have seen a No. 16 team taken on a No. 1, and 128 times the Goliath has stomped on David. It has only rarely been close. The closest we came to the ultimate upset was in 1989 when two different top seeds escaped with one-point victories. Three other times we have seen gaps of five or fewer points. Last year the closest we got was Florida Gulf Coast coming within a decidedly not nerve-wracking 16 points of eventual finalist North Carolina.
Not only will the first No. 1 team to lose have to live with that distinction forever, but they will also very likely be the biggest favorite ever to lose outright in the tournament. Currently, the team that holds that dubious distinction is Missouri. In 2012 the Tigers were convinced they deserved a No. 1 seed. When they were given a No. 2 instead they pouted so badly that they lost to Norfolk State as 21.5-point favorites.
The Final Four this year takes place in Glendale, Arizona, in the home of the Arizona Cardinals - University of Phoenix Stadium. It is not only the first time it has been played there, but it's the first time that a western state has hosted the Final Four since Seattle hosted way back in 1995. The scope of the tournament has expanded quite significantly since then.
Two years ago Kentucky made their 17th Final Four appearance - the second most all time. North Carolina obviously didn't like having their lead threatened because last year they made their 19th appearance. Duke and UCLA are next with 16 appearances each, and both have at least some chance of appearing again - as do Kentucky and North Carolina, for that matter. Kansas has made it that far 14 times and will be looking to add to that - though they will have to play better than they did losing stunningly to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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