10 Tournament Myths & 6 1st-Round Upset Picks

10 Tournament Myths & 6 1st-Round Upset Picks

photo via Pixabay

photo via Pixabay

With the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s First Four games getting underway Tuesday,The New York Times has come up with a list of 10 March Madness myths to be wary of as you fill out your office pool bracket. They are:

  1. Rosters packed with one-and-done players don’t win. Tell this to the 2012 Kentucky team and the 2015 Duke squad. Both teams had three freshmen who left college after a single season as their biggest stars and won it all.
  2. Beware the chalk. We focus on the Cinderella stories. We remember the early upsets. We consider the tough matchups in the Round of 8. We think picking a No. 1 seed to defeat all comers in its quadrant seems like a bad idea. It’s not. Top seeds have comprised 42 percent of all Final Four teams since 1985.
  3. #12 seeds beat #5 seeds. This is the most celebrated first-round upset pick, because it nearly always happens once: Only twice since 2000 has a #5 seed not lost to a #12 seed. But overall, since 1985 the #5 seeds have won nearly two-thirds of their opening-round games.
  4. Defense wins championships. A good defense can get you far, but top defensive teams have tended to fall short in recent years . Last year, Gonzaga had the country’s best defense, per KenPom.com, and lost the championship game to North Carolina, a strong defensive team that was stronger on offense.
  5. Be down on the Big Ten. The conference has a reputation for falling short in the N.C.A.A. tournament, and a Big Ten team hasn’t won the title since Michigan State in 2000, a drought exceeded among power conferences only by the Pac-12, which hasn’t won since 1997. But since 2000, 14 Big Ten teams have reached the Final Four, which puts the conference in a first-place tie with the A.C.C. in that category, and seven have played in the title game.
  6. It’s never the one you see coming. The ultimate winner is usually a pretty likely suspect. North Carolina was third on the selection committee’s overall ratings heading into last year’s tournament. Villanova was seventh the year before, when it won. Duke was third the year before that.
  7. January, February, Izzo. That is what one famous t-shirt says, referring to the commonplace theory that Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s coach of 23 seasons, is a wizard of March, a leader who knows how to win tournament games. But there is little evidence that Izzo particularly turns it on March. To wit, Izzo won his only national title when Michigan State was the top overall seed. But Michigan State has exited in the first round five times, three times in an upset.
  8. Cinderella always shows up to the ball. Except when she doesn’t: The upstarts provide the most lasting memories, but there just have not been many lately.
  9. Duke faces an early, ignominious exit. Everyone knows the names Lehigh and Mercer, because everyone remembers them, as No. 15 and No. 14 seeds in 2012 and 2014, upsetting Duke in the first round. But Duke is the most successful team in the current era of college basketball. The Blue Devils have made the tournament all but one year since 1985, a period in which they have been to 12 Final Fours (more than a third of them) and won five titles. They have had only two other first-round exits. So go ahead and hope for another Duke embarrassment. Just don’t count on one.
  10. The world of college basketball is flat. The last time a team won it all for the first time was Florida in 2006. Before that, it was Maryland in 2002. Perennial contenders Xavier and Gonzaga are still hunting their first titles.

Additionally, The New York Times identified the following six first-round upsets it thinks might happen:

  1. #12 New Mexico State over #5 Clemson
  2. #13 Marshall over #4 Wichita State
  3. #11 Loyola-Chicago over #6 Miami (Fla.)
  4. #10 Providence over #7 Texas A&M
  5. #11 San Diego State vs. #6 Houston
  6. #16 Penn vs. #1 Kansas
Permalink

Recent Posts

Leave a comment

POST COMMENT