Sunday, March 28, 2010
The bad seed
Admit it. When you were filling out your brackets before the Madness of March officially began, you really didn't want to hand one in that had all four No. 1 seeds headed to the Final Four. Because if you did, you'd be banking on something that has happened only ONCE since the NCAA began seeding tournament teams in 1979.
Sounds logical, doesn't it? You'd think choosing ostensibly the best four teams in the land to reach the Final Four would be the way to office pool superstar.
Fact is, we all know the only way to have a shot at ascending to that atmosphere is to be lucky enough to nail those upsets we know are coming (see Butler, Northern Iowa, Cornell and St. Mary's). It's just that nobody knows where and when the sneaker will drop. One reason is because it's simply so rare when the top four seeds in the tournament are that much better than many of the other 60 teams playing for the national championship. Also, every opponent will be playing in the biggest game of their lives, and every time a top seed takes the floor, everyone's looking to knock them off.
At least the Lehighs, Vermonts and Arkansas-Pine Bluffs made it to the party this time, which is more than can be said for the likes of frequent dancers UConn, North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana and Arizona. But that's another story for another time.
The only year all four top seeds made it to the Final Four was 2008, when Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA all survived their regions, with Mario Chalmers and the Jayhawks eventually winning it all.
With all the upsets in this year's tournament, it got me thinking about Final Fours that didn't feature ANY top-seeded teams. Had Baylor hung on to oust Duke in the South Region Final last night, it not only would have clinched winning the bracket pool I entered (sorry for digressing), but it would have marked the third time since 1979 that the Final Four contained no top seeds. It happened in 2006, when UCLA (2), Florida (3), LSU (4) and Cinderella George Mason (12) made it, with the Joakim Noah-led Gators winning it. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1980, when Louisville (2), Iowa (5), Purdue (6) and UCLA (9) vied for the title, eventually taken by Darrell Griffith and the Cardinals.
So, hard as it may be to believe, it's statistically more likely that the Final Four will be comprised of NO top seeds (twice) than it is to have ALL top seeds (once). Chew on that when you're handed your empty bracket for the 2011 Final Four.
As it is, the Dukies are the only top-seeded team headed to Indianapolis, a scenario that has occurred 10 times prior. Of those 10 Final Fours, the lone No. 1 seed has won the championship five times (Michigan State in 2000, UCLA in 1995, Arkansas in 1994, Duke in 1992 and UNLV in 1990). So statistically speaking, the Devils have a 50 percent chance of cutting down the nets a week from tonight.
We'll see what Michigan State, Butler and West Virginia have to say about that.