Sweet 16 Seed Statistics for NCAA Tournament
by Trevor Whenham - 3/26/2014
As we await the start of the second week of the NCAA Tournament, here are some March Madness Sweet 16 seed statistics to help you get a sense of what to expect the rest of the way this year - at least from a historical basis:
The No. 1s
We have only had four No. 1 seeds make it to the Final Four once, and with Wichita State out already that obviously isn't going to happen this time around, either. What could happen, though, is something that has happened three times before, and twice in the 64-team era - a Final Four without a single No. 1. In an interesting twist, each of the three times it has happened, two teams that are still alive this year were among the finalists, and one currently-surviving team was the winner - Louisville won in 1980, with UCLA also there, Florida won with UCLA there again in 2006, and in 2011 UConn won and Kentucky was in the Final Four.
All of the non-No. 1 seeds in the South and East regions have a chance to match a feat that only Arizona in 1997 has pulled off - beating three No. 1 seeds en route to the title. It's obviously a very tough thing to do, and so much has to work out just right for it to happen, but the squad that has the best chance of pulling it off this year is Michigan State. They get their first shot in the Sweet 16 against Virginia, then they would face Florida in the Final Four and Arizona in the final.
If Arizona does make it to the final then we would have the chance to see two No. 1 seeds meet in the final for the seventh time overall and the sixth since the field expanded to 64 teams. It hasn't happened since 2008, though it happened three times in four years ending with that year. Current survivors Florida (2006) and UConn (1999) have won these battles of top teams, and Michigan (1993) lost one. North Carolina has won three of the six power matchups.
Florida has the chance to be the seventh team in the full-field era to enter the tournament as the top-ranked team in the AP poll and go on to win the title. The Gators did it in 2007 as well, and Kentucky in 2012 was the most recent to do it.
The rest of the field
The lowest seed ever to win a Sweet 16 game was No. 12 Missouri, who beat UCLA in 2002. That's a record that will stand for another year. Dayton and Tennessee both have a shot at joining the other five No. 11 seeds that have advanced to the Elite Eight in the past. VCU was the last to do it in 2011, and like them Dayton will have to they beat a No. 10 in doing so. Before that it was George Mason, who beat Wichita State in 2006, in our first real introduction in the modern era to the Shockers.
Both VCU and George Mason weren't done winning after the Sweet 16. Along with LSU in 1986, they are the only three teams to make the Final Four as No. 11 seeds, though none of the three went any further.
No. 1 seeds have fallen behind expectations this year. Since 1985 there have been 116 No. 1 seeds, and 101 have made it at least to the Sweet 16. That is 3.48 per year, so the three this year is below expectations. The two No. 2 seeds still alive is below the 2.59 per year that we have come to expect as well. The No. 4 line seemed particularly strong this year, and it has proven to be since it is the only seed with all four teams still alive. 1.76 No. 4 teams per year have advanced, so this is far above expectations. The No. 8, 10 and 11 seeds are also above expectations this year.
When we move on to the Elite Eight we have seen over the last 29 years, an average of 2.76 No. 1 seeds, 1.86 No. 2 squads, and 1.03 from the three line. The No. 3s are sure to fall below expectations as only Iowa State survives, but the other two are possible, though there is no room for error for either seed.
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