Toughest Path to NCAA Title?

Submitted by LJ on March 26th, 2013 at 6:16 PM

The difficulty of our region with Florida as the three seed got me thinking: if, other than Michigan's games, all remaining matchups play out according to seeding and Michigan wins the national title, would it be the most difficult path of all time?  Here's what that path would be, with current Kenpom rankings included:

Round Opponent Kenpom Ranking
64 SDSU 102
32 VCU 16
16 Kansas 9
8 Florida 1
4 Indiana 3
Final Louisville 2

I'm guessing previous winners have had paths nearly that difficult, but this would be quite a murderer's row.



March 26th, 2013 at 6:37 PM ^

That's right.  However, they also got the benefit of a 12 seed in the R32 and a 10 in the Elite Eight, so it's probably not an all-timer of a difficult path.  Kenpom rankings unfortunately don't go earlier than 2003.


March 26th, 2013 at 6:32 PM ^

I just looked up their bracket and they beat Kansas in the sweet 16 85-82 then UNC in the final four 66-58 before Kentucky in the title 84-79. Let's hope we don't have to beat three one seeds but it's kinda neat that if we do Kansas will be the sweet sixteen loser in both examples.


March 26th, 2013 at 8:03 PM ^

As others have noted, Arizona beat 3 #1's, but I'd argue that some of those mid-80s/early-90s gauntlets teams like NC State had to do (beating Houston and Virginia), givien how good teams were back then compared to now, seem more daunting.  But yeah, UM going through 3 teams ranked #1 at some point of the year is pretty impressive.


March 26th, 2013 at 6:39 PM ^

I don't think Michigan has a tougher stretch than any other tourney year for a 4 seed. If you go by top seeds winning then sure they would have to beat three top seeds. But so would any other team if all goes according to plan. Now if it plays out as you say then you could argue its the toughest tournament stretch I suppose, but that seems like a big if. Especially this year!


March 26th, 2013 at 6:53 PM ^

What makes this year unique is that we would have also played a good 5 seed (#16 in Kenpom) and a fantastic 3 seed (#1 in Kenpom), along with the potential one seeds being #2 and #3 according to Kenpom.

If you look at the 1997 Arizona team that went through three 1-seeds, their path is significantly easier because they benefitted from low-seeded teams early on and in the elite eight.  Unless Florida loses to FGCU (obviously very unlikely), we're very unlikely to see anyone outside of the Kenpom top 10 the rest of the way.


March 26th, 2013 at 7:28 PM ^

While I am not sure about all time, it's relatively easy to estimate the relative levels of difficult for getting to the Championship game this year.

Assuming for a second that we beat Kansas, we then face the winner of Florida and FGCU. Getting past this, it would be either Indiana, Syracuse, Marquette or Miami in the Final Four. 

It's pretty interesting if you use the simulated matchups (which "play" these games in isolation) on Massey's site. The easiest path would give us about a 1 in 3 (32.054%, to be more precise) shot at getting to the Championship Game (Kansas, then FGCU, then Marquette to advance). The hardest path would give us less than a 1 in 10 shot, or more precisely, a 9.80% chance (beat Kansas, but then Florida and Indiana).

If it came down to us Louisville, for the sake of discussion, Massey gives us a 31% chance against Louisville, but we would be a slight favorite against, say, Arizona (60%). Taking it out to the possible matchups from the other regions, right now, Michigan would have about a 1 in 5 shot at winning it all (roughly, based on rough figuring) along the easier paths.

Lots of probabilities of independent events and such, but the chances aren't insignificant certainly.  



Perkis-Size Me

March 26th, 2013 at 7:44 PM ^

MSU has a pretty rough run if they have any hope of getting to Atlanta. Beating Duke and then, in all likelihood, Louisville, makes for a pretty tough stretch in and of itself. Not to mention whoever they'd have to play in the Final Four and title game.


March 26th, 2013 at 8:25 PM ^

Since 1998 (don't ask why history begins here), 


The toughest successful runs TO the final four have been:

1) 2006 - George Mason - 6, 3, 7 1 seeds 

2) 2000 - Wisconsin  - 9, 1, 4, 6

    2000 - Florida - 12, 4, 1, 3

    2011 - VCU 6, 3, 10, 1 (also had the play-in game)


The easiest runs include:

1) 2001 MSU - 16, 9, 12, 11

2) 2008 Kansas - 16, 8, 12. 10

3) 1999 Duke -  16, 9, 12, 6

4)  1999 MSU  - 16, 9, 13, 3



March 26th, 2013 at 8:39 PM ^

Michigan would face either: 13, 5,1,3    or 13, 5, 1, 15

Here are the paths 4 seeds that have made the final 4 faced:

2012 Louisville - 13, 5, 1, 7

2011 Kentucky - 13, 5, 1, 2

2006 LSU - 13, 12, 1, 2

2005 Louisville - 13, 5, 1, 7

1999 OSU - 13, 12, 1, 3

Only Kentucky face the 'by seed' path.  The others had at least one game against a much lower than expected seed.



March 26th, 2013 at 9:23 PM ^

I can appreciate what you're saying, but aren't all paths to the championship tough? With all of the parody in college basketball, the tournaments seeds don't really mean a whole lot unless it's a 1 vs. 16.


March 26th, 2013 at 10:25 PM ^

I think that the only thing that may make our path any more challenging than normal is the case of Florida being a 3 seed but #1 on kenpom. I don't think that our first 2 rounds were particularly daunting though and I think the Midwest is tougher this year.