FREQUENCY OF SEEDS AND PERFORMANCE
It occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a high-level survey of the seeding of both the Final Four as well as the tournament champions and then look at ways we can check expectations (i.e., that the higher seeds should go to the better teams overall) versus results (i.e., the actual seed of the champion).
As some of you may be aware, seeding as only been a thing since 1978, so this was a constraining factor in the data collection, but there is definitely enough there to see some interesting phenomena in the data. A couple things that I did not know, just as examples:
- As much as we talk about 5-12 matchups in the tournament, a #12 has never made it to the Four. An #11 seed has made it, however (three times).
- Only once since the tournament was seeded did all the #1 teams survive to the Final Four (2008)
- Only three times since the tournament was seeded did no #1 teams make it to the Final Four (1980, 2006 & 2011)
There are other interesting tidbits you can glean from it, of course, but something that is just as interesting, or so I believe, is some of the other trends buried in the data.
First, here’s the seed count for all 152 teams which have graced seeded Final Fours in the NCAA tournament:
It should look exactly like you might expect, which is the point here. Indeed, by the time you get out to the 4-seed, you are at 82.24% of all teams that have played in a Final Four game, which in 152 games leaves only 27 instances where a team has been lower than the 4-seed (in the case of some years, multiple seeds were lower than that, of course)
Days later, as we know, three of these teams are gone – two in the Final Four and one in the NCAA Championship Game. Here’s the seeding frequency of those that won it all:
As you can see, truly quizzical endings to the NCAA Tournament have been a sparse exception statistically, with only four of them ending with a champion that was seeded as lower than a #4, and of course, one of them is that Villanova team (at #8) that made what some have argued is the quintessential Cinderella run some 30 years ago.
What about any sort of performance metric though? I wasn’t sure how to approach it – we’re just talking about the seeding, after all, so we have to make an assumption that one of the four #1 seeds is the best of the best, or at least that they are deemed such by how they are seeded and what they actually do in the tournament. The expectation then might be that all four of them should make it to the Final Four, but that only happened once to date for as we also know, there are far too many variables in a basketball game, human and technical – the countless upsets in tournament history are a testament to that.
Something that I thought was interesting was to look at the average seeding of the Final Four teams through the years and then build a frequency chart with those averages:
There you see the sole time all participants at this stage of the tournament were #1 seeds, but look at how many times the average has been less than 2.00 – only 10 times. Here’s part of the reason:
In 30 of the tournaments since seeding began, the Final Four has seen only one or two of the #1 seeds make it, although as you saw earlier, a #1 seed has won on 21 occasions.
Another assumption we have to consider is seeding as an indicator of projected performance, which is one that we all make typically when doing brackets, but team performance is taken into consideration as well when the committee does lays out the 64 and 4 as well. Taking a shot in the dark regarding how we can use this to look at the performance of the committee as well as the winners versus their seeding, I subtracted the champion’s seed from the average of the corresponding year and got this frequency chart:
The overall results are interesting – we find that in 26 of the 38 tournaments which have employed seeding, the champion’s seed has fallen above the average seed of the Final Four, which I would argue is “overperforming” in that, well, a higher seed beat the average quite simply. This includes all 21 occurrences of a #1 winning the tournament, but also some outliers – 5 instances where a non-#1 seed won and still outperformed the average seed of the Final Four – 1979, 1980 and 1997, where a #2 won, and 2006 and 2011, where a #3 won.
Here’s another chart where you can see how rare the Cinderella story is as well – that -5 belongs to 1985’s Villanova team, with an average seed in the Final Four of #3 and Villanova winning it all at #8. It happened again in the 1980s, however – the value -3.5 is 1988’s result, where the average seed was 2.50 and the tournament was won by a #6. Of course, there’s 1983 as well and that improbable run by North Carolina State at a value of -3.00. These are the examples of the unlikely becoming possible, where a team was probably seeded below their actual potential – misjudged, if you will. Other interesting note – only twice has the average seed of the Final Four matched the seed of the champion – in 2004 (#2 won) and in 2008 (#1 won).
You will note, however, that 22 of these 38 results fall between 0 and 2, meaning that in nearly 60% of the tournaments – at least this is how I read it – the Final Four results versus the champion seed fall fairly close or almost right on the default expectation. In other words, slightly more than half the time, they appear to get it right in the end despite all the chaos that seems to happen in earlier rounds in some years.
A moment of Zen, courtesy of the movie "Crazy People":
This story begins with my great grandfather. For the sake of privacy, I will refer to him as "Bill". Bill was born in a extremely strict and discipline orienented household. Bill's father was a WWII veteran, and basically treated Bill like he was in the Marine Corp once he was around the age of 7. This made my great grandfather the person he still is today. For good and bad.
At a young age, Bill was interested in playing football. His father would always talk about the days of Don Hudson, Bronco Nagurski, George Halas, etc... So eventually, Bill took up in playing football. As it turns out, Bill was really good, and really fast. My grandmother still has newspaper clippings of Bill breaking track records at his high school that still stand today! Back then, people usually played 2 positions. Bill played Fullback and Middle Linebacker for his high school varsity team for two years. Bill got calls from Michigan and Michigan St as a senior. In his own words, "It was one of the easiest decisions of my life." Bill decided to attend Michigan St University.
Bill used his upbringing to his advantage. He was never intimidated, scared, or nervous. Whatever Bill went through at home was worse than what he experienced on the football field and he even wanted to be on the field so he could take out some of his built up anger towards his father. Bill exceled at Moo U..uh...I mean MSU. He played 4 years there and lets just say, he enjoyed beating the shit out of Michigan. When he played, MSU was dominating Michigan (Early 50's). To make a long story a little less long, he graduated from Msu and was drafted by the Detroit Lions as a late round pick. Unfortunatley, during the second practice of the season, Bill had his knee blown out. Technology wasn't what it is today, so he couldn't play ever again.
When my dad was a wee lad, he idolized my great grandfather. And why wouldn't he? Bill taught my dad how to hunt, fish, skin deer, change oil, fight, and all of the other things a man is supposed to know how to do. This also included telling him stories about the glory days when he played for MSU. He told my father how their biggest rival, were nothing but spoiled little shits who couldn't even sniff MSU's jockstrap in man's greatest sport. This was worrisome to my dad, who loved watching Bo coach Michigan in the 70's, and didn't want to make his idol and grandad dislike him. Eventually, Bill conditioned my father to become a sparty fan. My dad still respected Michigan and rooted for them when they didn't play Michigan St, but he knew better to tell his family that.
My dad of course wanted to play football like his grandpa before him. My dad played halfback as a starter for three years at his high school. He was 5'9 and 180lbs and averged 20 y.p.c. Bill wanted my dad to play for Michigan St more than anything in the world. My dad didn't have the grades and barely passed his senoir year because he was chasing girls, being popular, and doing all the things you would expect a teenage boy would do. He couldn't even finish the rest of his senoir season because his grades got so bad (oddly enough, he did really well on the SAT) that he had to go to school 6 times a week for the last semester just so he could pass. Bill was enraged at this, and my father told him how he didn't want to play football anymore because he felt like he was just doing it so Bill would get self gratification out of it. Thats when my father and Bill's realationship started to erode.
My dad never played organized football again. The fallout he had with his idol and best friend made him dislike football for a while. It wasn't until his thirties when he saw a replay of Michigan vs Ohio St 1986. Bo was tearing a ref a new one. As my dad told me, "I felt happy about football for the first time in a long time." My dad started watching more replays, read more about Michigan, feeling as if he had missed out on something very special that he didn't witness. My dad said that he officially became a "full on" Meechigan fan in the mid 90's. One day, my family on my dad's side held a game day party. It was Meechigan vs Msu. No one knew he was a Michigan fan. That is until he showed up wearing a Michigan Football t-shirt. He told me their faces were priceless. At first, he said some people thought it was a joke, and some people were snickering. That is when he finally told them that he was a Michigan fan. They laughed at him. Everyone except my grandma. Literally. Every. Single. Person. Laughed. Well, at the end of the day he was laughing because Michigan won 40-20.
Later on my father and my great grandfather mended their realtionship, but not to the full extent to what it used to be. My great grandfather still holds grudges about my dad not doing well enough in school to go on and play college ball, and my dad still hates the fact that Bill only cared if he was going to choose to play for MSU. They still love each other for sure, but when there is a holiday and we are over at a family member's house people can still feel slight tension in the air when they talk to each other.
Football has always been a big deal in my family. Half of us are Michigan fans, and half of us are Sparty fans. My dad was almost brainwashed and basically had no choice to pick which team he supported until he was a grown man. I am forever grateful that my dad let me choose which team I liked, without his opinion mixed in. I am happy my father and I choose the good guys, and not the stupid ass clowns from East Landfill. GO BLUE!!!!!
About me (feel free to skip down to my bio of Briles):
I played center and linebacker in high school and strong safety in college at Cornell for two years until I blew out a knee. Back then, they did not know how to fix them like they do now. Arthroscopic surgery came along about 10 years later. It was clear to me that I had better hit the books if I wanted to make a good living. I was certainly not going to happen playing football.
I have been going to UM games since I was 7 years old and that is almost 60 years ago. My mother, my father, my older brother, my younger brother, all three of my children and a couple of my cousins all have Michigan degrees. After medical school here in Toledo, I completed a masters in public health at Michigan to finally catch up with the rest of the family with a Michigan degree.
Although I am not a football coach, for the past several years I have been going to the UM football coaches clinic each spring. I am approaching retirement and have been thinking I could volunteer as an assistant coach at a local high school after I retire. The coaches clinics might better prepare me for that role. I also thought it would be fun to get more of an inside view of the coaches and players at Michigan and a more sophisticated take on the game that would make me a better fan.
I started attending the coaches clinics under Rich-Rod and have gone every year since. They have all been enlightening but this year was the best yet. I decided to take even more detailed notes than usual and I thought I could share some of them as a diary. If there seems to be interest, I might continue to add to this diary with additional notes from some of the other coaches who spoke this year this year and even some from previous years.
What follows is a brief bio and summary of the talk given at the coaches clinic by Art Briles, the head coach at Baylor.
About Art Briles:
As you may know, he was a star QB at his high school and played in a state championship game. He was a starting wide receiver at Houston. He began his coaching career as an assistant high school coach and high school teacher in 1980. He became a head coach in 1984 and had a mix of great success and great failure over the next few years but then developed a knack for taking over teams with serious losing records and turning them into winning programs.
His Stephensville, Texas high school teams went from 0 wins to 4 state championships. At his first college head coaching job at Houston, they went from 2 winning seasons in 12 years to conference champions. At Baylor, he has taken them from dog meat (14 consecutive losing seasons) to one of the best programs in the Big 12 with two conference championships and six straight bowl appearances and top 20 poll rankings in 4 of the past 5 seasons.
He is not an imposing or intense man. He is average height and fairly thin. His communication style is folksy and it was easy to listen and follow his talk. Here is what he offered about what it takes to be successful as a football coach. I think some of this advice would apply to successfully running any team or enterprise large or small.
His advice on creating a winning program:
As a coach you must accept that winning is tough. You must learn to win with the team you have. You must create an edge. You do this by your style of play and the players you recruit must fit your mindset. You want players who will be fearless, physical, disciplined, determined and desperate. These characteristics need to be your trademark. You must think about and envision and communicate the big picture. Accept that the only consistent thing is inconsistency. There will need to be constant change and adaptation and this is especially true on special teams because more of the players are changing every year and often less experienced. Personnel management at every level of the program is your most important task as a coach. You must get the right person in the right spot.
Get happy, get beat. Get satisfied, get passed.
He has no team captains because every player should behave like a captain.
Leadership is a daily act in how you treat people and improve the mind set of the players, coaches, staff, administration and alums. You do this by how you act not just what you say. Kill your detractors with kindness. Surround yourself with people who are self starters of high character. Be the face and direction of the program . Challenge yourself. Be thankful but never satisfied. Love and care for those that fight for you.
He was scrawny as a youngster and grew up in a tough high school so he decided “I'm gonna' have big friends!”. No one messed with AB and his big friends. So, recruit the QB you need first but he needs big friends too. So recruiting the OL and DL is just as important. The “bigs” will run the locker room for you.
His offensive strategy: Tell the receivers to run as fast as they can and then tell the quarterback to throw it as far as he can. However you must be balanced and unpredictable on offense. The past five years, Baylor had averaged over 47 points per game, over 4000 yards passing and over 3000 yards rushing per season.
BIG TEN CHAMPS [Patrick Barron]
I thought Michigan's offense was very lively tonight. They played another skilled team and had the better scoring opportunities. The game went through stretched of carrying play for both teams, but it seemed that Michigan was able to consistently get deeper and closer to the slot for their chances. Shots on Target ended close to even, but I think Schierhorn stopped a few more difficult opportunities.
This was definitely a game for the CCM line, most of the damage coming on the Power Play. However, the game-tying goal in the early third was something to behold. Compher has just been a wizard with the puck the entire season. With a guy in his sweater, he had a cross-ice pass to an open Connor who just ole'd Schierhorn (who probably played the situation correctly) from inside the dot and beat the charging defenseman to the post, sneaking the puck in the open net. Adam will have fun with that one. It was the Hobey cherry on top of his Hobey sundae season. He has 35 goals and 34 assists. He is NOT JUST A SHOOTER. Connor now has an nine point lead on the second place point-getting...his center, JT Compher, who has a six point lead on their linemate, Tyler Motte. Compher also leads the nation with 46 assists, 8 more than 2nd place. Connor and Motte are first and second in goals with 35 and 31, respectively. Michigan has NINE players with double digit goals; nine players with 20 or more points; and six skaters with 30 or more. I don't know what else to say about this offense.
Another terrific game defensively for the Wolverines. Again, they allowed 33 shots to get to Racine, but -just like yesterday- most of them came from a distance and away from the dangerous areas near and in front of the net. Minnesota does have quality players and did generate a few nice scoring chances, but Michigan limited them -for the most part- to what Racine was able to see and stop. Also, Piazza looked just fine playing for a suspended Downing. Compher talked about the first goal in the intermission, saying that it was on a forward not locking up the trailing Bristedt (who notched his 20th of the season...no slouch there). The defensemen seemed to have dramitically improved in the second half of the season (minus the OSU series), looking more comfortable on the puck, riding attackers away from the net, and staying sound defensive position. I'm starting to believe that this level of defense can take them far.
Goodnight Minnesota [Patrick Barron]
Michigan top Power Play line is just bonkers. The entire Power Play is nuts. They were 14 of 25 in the last five games entering the B10CG. And went 3 for 4. 17 of 29, 59% in last six games, now. The top line gets all three goals, tonight, as Motte, Compher, and Werenski all score...Werenski with the winner late in the 3rd. Its really not even just the goals. There were multiple opportunities where the puck could have easily gone in before it actually did. The puck movement and passing is just incredible. Each player knows where to be and seems to be in slow motion as the pass always seems to go to the open player...the entire point of a power play. You honestly just cannot take penalties against this team.
Michigan did a fantastic job staying out of the box, tonight, conceding only one man advantage. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the kill. Minnesota kept the puck in the zone the entire time and eventually Compher lost his stick. The puck soon found its way to an open shooter on JT's side and Racine really didn't have much of a chance. You don't like to give up Man Advantage goals, but if you're only in the box once, I can live with that.
Steve Racine was fantastic, tonight. And actually, he has been for a while. He's been criticized for a few clunky goals allowed -and he's had a few- but he's also saved the day on more occasions than are credited to him. Again, the defense was sound for the most part, keeping the majority of shots away from the dangerous areas, but Racine was up to most of the ones that leaked through...including flashing the glove and stoning Tyler Sheehy midway through the third to keep the game tied. He also had a ridiculous kick save off a deflection a few minutes later.
You can probably place a little blame on him for the second goal. While it does appear that there was some contact to his pad/skate, he looked a little gumpy and slow trying to get back across the crease to defend the wraparound. I don't think it was entirely on him, but that was definitely very awkward. It also might have been Martin that hit him, making the entire sequence rather unlucky. Other than that, he was very strong to start and end the game
BONUS: ODD MAN RUSHES
I only had two. There were a couple I was close to tallying but decided against it. The first was late in the opening period, a 3v2 with De Jong and Piazza back. Nothing of note came of it. The second was a little dicier. A neutral zone turnover lead to a 2v1 that Martin made a perfectly time dive to smother the pass and take the puck to the corner. This is very good. I will keep taking this.
This happened a lot (Patrick Barron)
While Thursday was a good start to March Madness – shout out to Yale for knocking off Baylor and Arkansas Little-Rock for coming back to shock Purdue – let’s hope that Friday’s games are even better. Here’s a look at the first slate of games:
7. Dayton – 10. Syracuse (12:15, CBS)
A few things about Syracuse’s coaching legend:
The NCAA on Friday suspended Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim for nine ACC games, took away 12 scholarships, and ordered that 108 wins be vacated as a result of a multiyear investigation into the university's athletic programs.
The NCAA said that the violations, which were self-reported by Syracuse and dated back to 2001, included academic misconduct, extra benefits, failure to follow the drug-testing policy and impermissible booster activity.
Other violations included impermissible academic assistance and services, Boeheim's failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff, and the school's lack of control over its athletics program.
I’m sure he didn’t know about anything that was going on.
Even after those sanctions were announced, he flipped shooting guard Tyus Battle, a 5* potential one-and-done 2016 Michigan commit, under potentially shady circumstances and set off a chain reaction that basically pushed 5* wing Josh Langford to Michigan State instead of Michigan.
The targets of Boeheim's latest bluster are two of his former players, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. Ennis left Boeheim and Syracuse after one tremendous season as a freshman; Grant stayed two years but eventually opted for the draft after taking time to consider returning to school. Asked about how his two former players are preparing for the NBA, Boeheim essentially said he's cut off contact with them.
Ennis and Grant signed contracts worth a combined $8 million dollars with NBA teams.
And, from a purely subjective standpoint, he has the annoying 2-3 zone as his staple – as much of a singular stylistic identity as any in college basketball. As Bomani Jones is fond of saying: “zone is for cowards.” He put it on a t-shirt.
This is my completely unsubtle attempt to convince you that Syracuse is Bad. I’m sure you’re rooting for your bracket regardless.
Anyways, as for the actual game itself, it should be a defensive slugfest. Dayton boasts one of the nation’s best defenses – one that’s good enough to mitigate their pretty mediocre offense. Dyshawn Pierre and Charles Cooke anchor the strong interior defense for the Flyers, while sparkplug point guard Scoochie Smith (one of the best names in the tournament), is the go-to guy to make things happen on offense. In the last two seasons, Dayton has made it to the Elite 8 and Sweet 16, so there’s plenty of March experience on the roster. As for Syracuse – who have lost five of their last six games – their 2-3 has been enough of a boost to get them into the tournament by the skin of their teeth; senior guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, as well as 5* freshman swingman Malachi Richardson, are players to watch for the Orange.
2. Villanova – 15 UNC Asheville (12:40, tru TV)
UNC Asheville was the surprise winner of the Big South tournament after finishing tied for third in the conference during the regular season, and they shouldn’t be too much of a test for a veteran Villanova team that just fell off the one-seed line. Villanova is one of the rare teams with and offense and a defense that are good enough to win a title, and even though there’s been legitimate reason to be skeptical of the Wildcats in March, a team with Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson should be able to handle a team like Asheville with ease.
[After the JUMP: less editorializing, I promise]