When top seeded Villanova was stunned by Wisconsin and second seeded Duke was surprised by South Carolina in the east region of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, one may have been led to believe that Bracket Armageddon had occurred. However, I looked back, starting in 2010, at the composition of the Sweet Sixteen and found some surprising and revealing facts.
Top Four Seeds: This year, twelve of the top sixteen teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen. That's the most of any year in my sample. The year with the least of the top seeds advancing was 2010, when only half of them advanced to the second week. But what is really interesting, in terms of consistency, is that when the fifth seeds are included, the numbers are very similar from season to season. The most of the top five seeds to get to the Sweet Sixteen is still twelve, but at least ten have advance every year since 2010.
Eleventh Seeds: Teams seeded in this spot have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen an astounding nine times in the past eight seasons. That's more than any other spot outside the top four seeds. This leaves me wondering if for some reason, the committee is missing the boat on this particular seed line. But what it really tells me is that despite us feeling like there are more upsets in any particular year, it's actually pretty constant from season to season.
The Bottom of the Field: I commented during my last couple of appearances on the "Lou in the Morning" program that I generally spend a lot more time analyzing the top seeds than I do looking at who might squeak into the field. To my point, no seed lower than an eleven has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 2013, when a twelve, thirteen and fifteen all made it. That's half of the total from that group to advance that far in the last eight years. So while an improbable run by a Florida Gulf Coast stays in our memory, it's primarily because of its rarity.
Number One Seeds: Only twice in the last eight years has every top seed made it through the first two rounds, and not once has more than one fallen in the same season. Again, that's an extremely consistent and interesting statistic. Therefore, Villanova's loss to Wisconsin was more the norm than the exception, with the Wildcats joining five others since 2010 to watch the second weekend from home.
Number Two and Three Seeds: All of the two seeds have never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, likewise with the number three's. In fact, those two seeds are more vulnerable, albeit barely, than the fours since 2010. No more than two seconds seeds have advanced since 2013 and in the last eight years, an average of just two third seeds have gotten past the second round. Whether this demonstrates parity, or a flaw in the seeding, I suspect a case could be made either way.
Number Four Seeds: Despite having to play, at least theoretically, tougher teams, the fours have more success in getting to the Sweet Sixteen than the seeds above them. All of the number fours have advance twice, the same number as the top seeds, both instances occurring in the last four years. Over that time, only one less four has advanced than the top seeds. My point is that even though a lot is made about being a top seed, it hasn't been that big an advantage in the most recent tournaments.
The challenge going forward of course is to determine that single number one that's going to get knocked out by an eight or nine, and trying to predict the couple of twos or threes that will advance. As you can see from these numbers, Warren Buffett is no fool when it comes to offering a hefty bounty for anyone that can successfully predict the first 48 games. It's no easy task, and virtually impossible from a statistical perspective.
Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg,
where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and
philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/
listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike
Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes
and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their
glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.