NCAA Tournament Facts 2019
What's so great about the NCAA Tournament? The obvious answer is everything. One of the great things, though, is the beauty of the bracket and the amazing number of cool facts and trends that emerge over the years from it. It's just perfection. To help you get ready for this year's bracket, and the glorious tournament that follows, here are some NCAA Tournament facts to keep you sharp.
A perfect bracket: I've got bad news for you - you aren't going to pick a perfect bracket. It doesn't matter if someone is giving away a million dollars for a correct one - or even a billion dollars. They are still making a safe bet. In a 68-team tournament, there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 different unique brackets. Obviously, only one of those will be perfect. And it isn't going to be yours. Here's some perspective. If you filled out a bracket every second, and never took any breaks, you would have every combination taken care of in just 4.7 million years. So, you'd better get started - the tournament is about to start.
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Look for the blue team: You really don't need to get fancy when picking your bracket. Just take the team that wears blue. In winning last year, Villanova became the 16th team in 17 years that had blue on their uniforms when they cut down the nets. And really, it's technically even more dominant than that. The only team in that stretch that didn't have blue was Louisville, and they have since had to forfeit that 2013 title - presumably because they weren't wearing the right color. So, when you are looking at the bracket this year, be very hesitant of Tennessee, Michigan State and the other teams flying in the face of a clear, and clearly dominant, color trend. Don't make the mistake of believing that the amount of blue matters, though. Last year Michigan was wearing their all blues in the title game when they got rolled over by Villanova, who was sporting their whites with blue trim.
Teams want to be first overall at the end, not the beginning: When Virginia fell victim to one of the most stunning upsets in the history of sports at the hands of UMBC last year, it was extra shocking because they were the top seed in the entire tournament. But though the timing of the upset was shocking, that Virginia didn't win the tournament shouldn't have surprised us. Last year was the 21st time in the last 23 years that the top overall seed failed to win it all. The only exceptions in that time were Louisville in 2013 and their hated rivals from Kentucky the year prior. It used to be a much easier thing to do back in the days when the field was smaller and talent wasn't well distributed - John Wooden alone has multiple wins as the top seed. But these days being tops doesn't provide a major boost.
Top overall isn't good, but being a No. 1 still is: Last year we had two No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four, including eventual champs Villanova. It was the 32nd time in 34 years of full fields that we have seen at least one top seed advance. And last year was the 21st time in 34 years that a top seed has won it all. But the one thing that really isn't common is for all four top seeds to make the final weekend - that has only happened in 2009.
David vs. Goliath: Amazingly, UMBC was not the biggest betting underdog in history to win a tournament game when they beat Virginia last year as 20.5-point underdogs. That honor goes to No. 15 Norfolk State in 2012, who beat Missouri as 21.5-point dogs. Norfolk State won by only two, though, so UMBC gets credit for a covering their spread by much more - they won by 20.
Heading to Minnesota is great news for Duke: The Final Four will be in Minneapolis this year at the U.S. Bank Stadium, the shiny new home of the Minnesota Vikings. This is the 40th different Final Four host building and the first since 1977 that is hosting the Final Four as the first time they have hosted a tournament game. This is not, however, the first time that the final games have been in Minneapolis. That previously happened in both 1992 and 2001 in the Metrodome, which stood on the same ground as the U.S. Bank Stadium now does. In 1992, Bobby Hurley and Duke crushed Michigan to win their second straight title. And Duke won again in 2001, when Jason Williams and Shane Battier and company beat Lute Olson's Arizona squad in the championship.
Frequent guests: Kansas made their 15th Final Four last year. That doesn't move them up the all-time rankings, but it closes the gap. North Carolina still rules with 20 appearances, followed by Kentucky with 17, and Duke and UCLA with 16 each.
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