(AP) — Welcome back to BracketRacket, your one-stop shop for all your NCAA tournament needs.
Today, we take stock of the appallingly low number of perfect Final Four picks, look back at how other underdogs have done in the national semifinals, and get John Beilein’s thoughts on postgame transportation.
But first, a statistical basis for declaring that this is indeed the most unpredictable NCAA tournament in recent memory:
We’ve reached that point, according to a formula devised by Pete Tiernan over at BracketScience.com. Tiernan’s formula – he calls it the “Madometer” – measures the unpredictability of each NCAA tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams.
On a scale of 0 to 100 – with 0 meaning the higher seed wins every game and 100 meaning the opposite – the 2013 tournament checks in at 21.8 so far. Tiernan says even if top overall seed Louisville wins it all, this year’s tournament will break the previous Madometer record of 19.8, set in 2011. (That, you may recall, was the year Virginia Commonwealth and Butler made the Final Four, and a nine-loss Connecticut team won the title.)
The most predictable tournament might not necessarily ring a bell. It was 2007, which measured a paltry 4.1 on Tiernan’s scale. That was the second of Florida’s back-to-back titles. The top-seeded Gators beat top-seeded Ohio State in the title game. The other Final Four teams were No. 2 seeds, and three of the quarterfinals involved the top two seeds in those regions.
Forget filling out a perfect bracket. Even predicting the whole Final Four was almost impossible this year.
ESPN reports that 47 perfect out of 8.15 million brackets in its Tournament Challenge game made the right picks. That works out to about 1 in 173,000 brackets.
Now, for some perspective. In his 2003 book “Life: The Odds,” Gregory Baer estimated that the odds of a random American man someday dating a supermodel were about 88,000 to 1.
No word on whether “I picked Wichita State” would help or hurt that American man’s chances.
It takes over 10 hours to drive from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Atlanta – per Google Maps. Luckily for Wolverines coach John Beilein, those days are over.
Beilein, who began his career coaching teams in upstate New York at Erie Community College, Nazareth and LeMoyne, was asked Monday about those long bus rides to and from games.
“You upgraded us to bus trips. There wasn’t a lot of bus trips,” he said. “It was more van trips. … I often refer to the times we’d be up playing St. Lawrence or Potsdam or something, playing St. Rose or St. Michael’s, being white-outs, snowstorms, listening to the Syracuse-Georgetown game. Here we’re trying to make it home alive sometimes.”
Now Beilein’s Wolverines are set to play Syracuse – at the Final Four in Atlanta.
Of course, Orange coach Jim Boeheim didn’t want to hear about all of the obstacles Beilein dealt with early in his career.
“I’m not sure he’s had any adversity,” Boeheim said. “He’s been successful wherever he’s been.”
We’ve reached the point in the tournament where we can acknowledge the anniversary of title games past. So congrats to Georgetown (1984), UNLV (1990), Duke (2001), Florida (2007) and Kentucky (2012), who all won national championships on April 2.
UNLV’s title came in a 103-73 rout of Duke, and none of the other title games on April 2 were decided by fewer than eight points. The most memorable April 2 game may have been a semifinal between Houston and Louisville in 1983. The Cougars, a.k.a. Phi Slamma Jamma, beat the Cardinals 94-81 in what looked like it might be a de facto national title game – but N.C. State stunned Houston in the final, leading to those lasting images of beloved Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano desperately searching for someone to hug.
Former Notre Dame great Kelly Tripucka heard someone talking about how the Indianapolis Colts almost beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC championship game, but Aaron Bailey couldn’t come down with Jim Harbaugh’s last-ditch heave.
Tripucka had a would’ve-could’ve-should’ve story of his own from the NCAA tournament.
“If we beat Michigan State in the 1979 regional finals, there would’ve never been Magic and Bird in college,” Tripucka said.
The Spartans, though, beat the Irish 80-68 and went on to win that transcendent title game featuring future NBA superstars Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird.
The previous year, in Tripucka’s first of four NCAA tournaments, he helped Notre Dame advance to the Final Four before losing – twice.
“It was a tough weekend for us,” recalled Tripucka, an analyst for Dial Global Sports. “We lost by four to Duke, then had to play in the Final Four consolation game. And, we lost to Arkansas at the buzzer.”
We’ll provide the numbers. Now let the spin begin. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 13 wins so far in the NCAA tournament. The Big East is second with 11.
So is it better to have four teams in the round of 16 but only one in the Final Four like the Big Ten – or would you rather be the Big East, with two teams in the Final Four but five one-and-dones?
Or maybe the real winner is the Missouri Valley conference, which sent only two teams but still has a shot at an improbable national championship.
The folks at STATS offer the following:
Wichita State is just the fifth team seeded ninth or lower – seeding began in 1979 – to reach the Final Four. While those low seeds are 0-4 in national semifinals, No. 8 seeds have fared quite a bit better, with a combined record of 3-2. The three eighth-seeded teams, who share the distinction as the lowest seeds to reach the title game, were UCLA in 1980, Villanova in 1985 and Butler two years ago. Villanova is the one team from that group to win the national championship, pulling off its upset of Georgetown 28 years ago on April Fool’s Day.
Can Wichita State supplant that group as the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament? Well, the only other No. 9 seed to reach the Final Four was Penn in 1979, and the Quakers lost to Michigan State 101-67. Penn still shares the Final Four record for largest margin of defeat with Oregon State, which lost to Cincinnati 80-46 in 1963.
“I said to him, `You want me to bring it back or stay with you?’ He said, `It’s staying with me.’ I said, `All right, just make sure you don’t lose it.'” – Louisville coach Rick Pitino, discussing injured guard Kevin Ware’s desire to keep the team’s regional championship trophy. Pitino visited Ware again Monday, the day after he broke his leg in a gruesome injury against Duke.