Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2011

No. 1 seed benefit, not ‘burden’

Recent history shows seeding powerful predictor of tournament success

The Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team arrived at their hotel in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday night, and KU coach Bill Self addressed the media. The Jayhawks play Boston University Friday in their opening game of the NCAA basketball tournament.

March 17, 2011


No. 1 seeds that reached Final Four

A list of No. 1 seeds since the NCAA began seeding its basketball championship tournament. Teams that reached the Final Four are in bold.

2010: Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Kentucky

2009: Louisville, UConn, Pitt, UNC

2008: UNC, Memphis, UCLA, Kansas

2007: Florida, Ohio State, Kansas, UNC

2006: Duke, UConn, Villanova, Memphis

2005: UNC, Illinois, Duke, Washington

2004: Duke, St. Joe’s, Kentucky, Stanford

2003: Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma

2002: Maryland, Kansas, Cincinnati, Duke

2001: Duke, Michigan State, Illinois, Stanford

2000: Michigan State, Arizona, Stanford, Duke

1999: Connecticut, Duke, Michigan State, Auburn

1998: North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas, Duke

1997: Kentucky, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas

1996: Kentucky, UMass, Purdue, UConn

1995: UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, Wake Forest

1994: Arkansas, Missouri, Purdue, North Carolina

1993: North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana

1992: Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, UCLA

1991: UNLV, North Carolina, Ohio State, Arkansas

1990: UNLV, Oklahoma, UConn, Michigan State

1989: Illinois, Arizona, Georgetown, Oklahoma

1988: Arizona, Oklahoma, Temple, Purdue

1987: Indiana, UNLV, North Carolina, Georgetown

1986: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, St. John’s

1985: St. John’s, Georgetown, Michigan, Oklahoma

1984: Kentucky, Georgetown, UNC, DePaul,

1983: Houston, Louisville, Virginia, St. John’s

1982: North Carolina, Georgetown, DePaul, Virginia

1981: Virginia, LSU, Oregon State, DePaul

1980: Syracuse, LSU, Kentucky, DePaul

1979: Indiana State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, UCLA

At some point during the non-stop coverage of an NCAA basketball tournament that promises to rivet the nation with buzzer-beaters, multiple-overtime thrillers and upsets galore, some voice communicating via TV, radio or newspaper will label the No. 1 seed “a burden.”

When that happens, engage your Sugar Mountain Live CD and escape the madness for a while, because the No. 1 seed is anything but a curse. It’s a blessing earned through four months of winning ways.

Recent history emphatically shows that tournament seeding powerfully predicts tourney success. Starting in 2007, the past four national champions (Florida, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke) won six games in a row as a No. 1 seed. If that streak continues, the 2011 national champion crowned in Houston will come from this year’s pool of No. 1 seeds, ranked in order by the NCAA Tournament selection committee thusly: Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Duke.

Two years ago, all the 1, 2 and 3 seeds reached the Sweet 16.

A No. 1 seed has won 18 of the 32 seeded tournaments. (Despite what most probably think, Michigan State, the first team to win the title in a seeded tournament, in 1979, was not a No. 1 seed. Larry Bird’s Indiana State, the national runner-up, was a top seed, but Magic Johnson’s Spartans were ranked second to Notre Dame in the Midwest.)

As for any pressure that accompanies a No. 1 national ranking, such as last year’s Kansas team held for the majority of the season, or a No. 1 seed that the Jayhawks again bring into this tournament, KU coach Bill Self said he thinks this year’s team is a looser bunch than last year’s.

“I’m not sure the seeds matter that much anyway,” Self said. “I think it’s more about the matchups.”

Yet, for all the talk of matchups, this KU team, so balanced and so blessed with versatile players, most notably twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, seems to have its fate determined more by how it’s performing on a given night than what style of ball the opposition plays.

“I’d say you should always be more about you, regardless of who you play,” Self said. “If you don’t play well, you’re not going to win. So many times as a coach, you worry so much about another team you can forget about what you do. I think it’s got to be a balance. From a scouting standpoint, there are certain things you need to take away and certain things you need to attack, but not adjusting how you play to get that done. We may tweak, but we won’t change.”

How Kansas plays is attacking to put the defense in retreat mode, which results in a high-percentage shot, and trying to prevent the same at the other end.

Talk of parity in college basketball is not unfounded, but the teams at the top don’t seem as impacted by it as those seeded in the No. 5-to-No.-12 range.

“I really think I wouldn’t be surprised if a team that barely got in is in the Sweet 16 or even further down the road,” Self said. “I think anybody can be had. All you’ve got to do is get hot at the right time.”

History includes several such runs.

No. 14 seed Cleveland State, led by guard Mouse McFadden and coach Kevin Mackey, reached the Sweet 16 in 1986. Chattanooga, another team seeded 14th, made it that far in 1997. No. 11 seeds LSU (1986) and George Mason (2006) made it all the way to the Final Four.

Villanova, seeded eighth, is the lowest seed to win the national title.

In the 32 Final Fours since the tournament began seeding teams in 1979, at least one No. 1 seed has advanced to the Final Four 30 times. The lone exceptions: 1980 and 2006, which means 25 consecutive Final Fours featured at least one No. 1 seed.

If history is an accurate predictor of the future, there is a 47 percent chance the Final Four in Reliant Stadium in Houston will feature two No. 1 seeds, a 34-percent chance just one top seed will make it, a 6-percent chance none of them will be included and a 3-percent chance all four will make up the Final Four.

Kansas heads to Tulsa for Friday and Sunday games as a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in five years, a remarkable stretch, especially given the ridiculous one-and-done rule that tends to erode stability among the nation’s elite college basketball programs. In doing so, Kansas matches the feat achieved by North Carolina under Roy Williams (2005-2009), Kentucky under Rick Pitino (1993-97) and DePaul (1980-84) under the late Ray Meyer.

Duke is the only school to have a more dominant stretch of No. 1 seeds, getting eight in nine seasons under Mike Krzyzewski (1998-2006). Based on maintaining No. 1 seeds over the course of a complete roster turnover, the Mount Rushmore of active coaches would bear the heads of Krzyzewski, Pitino, Self and Williams.

One advantage to earning a No. 1 seed: Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — there are 68 teams now — No. 1 seeds really must just win five games to take the national title. A No. 1 seed’s first game generally is little more than a sparring partner. No. 1 seeds are 104-0 against No. 16 seeds.


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