Friday, March 17, 2006

Some Final Four Stats

I was bored during a telephone conference earlier today and decided to pass the time by seeing if I could remember every Final Four for the past 20 years. Success!!! Anyway, my nerdiness will now entertain you. Here are a few observations:

1. Duke and North Carolina have combined for 17 Final Four trips in the past 20 years, which is more than any other conference. Duke has been to the Final Four ten times, North Carolina has been seven times, and only Kansas has more than four trips. (They've been six times, inevitably when I haven't picked them. I swore that I would never pick them again after I picked them every year I was in college and they never made it. So naturally, they made it twice once I started work.) However, the Big Ten has proven to be a deeper conference than the ACC, as it has sent seven teams to the Final Four over 20 years (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio State), whereas only Georgia Tech and Maryland have gone from the ACC in those two decades. Ergo, as much as I sing the praises of ACC basketball, almost all of the conference's impressive stats can be attributed to the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. Annoying as he may be, Dick Vitale has a reason to be so obsessed with them.

2. Arguably, Michigan State is the best program in the last ten years, with four Final Four trips and a national title. Thanks, Maurice Taylor!

3. The Big East's struggles yesterday are nothing new for the conference, as only the Pac Ten has had fewer Final Four entrants over the past 10 or 20 years. (I only gave them credit for teams in the conference at the time that they made the Final Four, so they don't bootstrap Louisville, Marquette, and Cincinnati's trips. Likewise, the SEC only gets credit for two of Arkansas' three trips over the past 20 years.) In the last decade, the odd thing is that the Big East has had four Final Four entrants...and three of them have won national titles. The one that didn't was 1996 Syracuse, which made the finals before losing to Kentucky. Thus, Big East teams don't do much to get to the Final Four, but they're 7-1 once they get there in the past ten years.

4. The Pac Ten sucks. They have three Final Four trips in the past ten years, two from Arizona and that one bizarre trip for Stanford. They had three Final Four trips in the ten years before that, again two from Arizona and one from UCLA. I guess that the Pac Ten's enormous advantage in sophistication and mental ability only extends to the gridiron. That said, the Pac Ten isn't working on quite the same national title drought as the Big XII, none of whose current members have won a national title since 1988. That's not quite the Big Ten's 1968-97 drought in football, but it's nice nonetheless.

5. The SEC has sucked recently. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed this, but the conference has not had a Final Four entrant since the 2000 Florida Gators unleashed their armada of I-ROCs on the unsuspecting citizens of Indianapolis. The SEC is also no stranger to Final Four droughts, as they didn't send a team from LSU's cameo trip in 1986 until Kentucky arrived in New Orleans in 1993. From '93 to '00, the conference was a force of nature, sending Kentucky four times, Arkansas twice, Florida twice, and even noted power Mississippi State in 1996.


Anonymous said...

"2. Arguably, Michigan State is the best program in the last ten years, with four Final Four trips and a national title. Thanks, Maurice Taylor!"

Uh . . . I don't think so. How can the best program in the country have three first-round exits and zero conference titles in the last five years?

Sparty had a fantastic 3-year run from 1999-01 but otherwise has been pretty ordinary.

peacedog said...

If you go back a few years longer the ACC adds UVA and NC State to the list. Also, I think it's interesting to see who makes the Elite Eight - winning 3 tournament games to get there is no small feat, and often the Elite 8 games are just as tough as the FF games. Virginia has flamed out a couple of times in the Elite 8 for example (losing once to an incredible Cincy team lead by Van Exel, and once to your boys Rice and Higgins).

Michael said...

Good point on Michigan State. I think that any rational observer would conclude that Duke is the premier program in the country right now. I just wanted to take a shot at Maurice Taylor.

When Virginia and NC State have to go back more than 20 years to show when they were last competitive, they have major problems. By the same token, if you expand the time period to 1980, you add Purdue and Iowa to the Big Ten's list of Final Four teams so they can claim that they have sent nine teams to the Final Four in the past 26 years.

peacedog said...

But Virginia doesn't have to go back that far. They were competative into the Jeff Jones era, and have fallen off since. I'll grant you, it was "ago", but then what as Mississipi state done for the bulk of that 20 year run? Not much.

Yeah, Viriginia is maybe 12-15 years from when it was good (but that was on the tale end of a pretty good decade). But in 10 years we may still be marvelling at Kentucky and Florida and likely won't remember Mississipi State.

I'm only interested in examining the field of 64. Not that teams who made previous fields don't deserve to be noticed (on the contrary), but the field of 64 has made the tournament a different beast.