Four Thoughts After Four Days of the Tournament

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It’s Hard to Repeat

Only two schools have won back-to-back titles since the end of the John Wooden UCLA dynasty in 1975. Duke won consecutive titles in 1991 and 1992, and Florida cut down the nets in 2006 and 2007. Here’s a quick look at how every champion has fared in defense of its title over the last ten seasons:

Season Champion Following Season
2007 Florida NIT
2008 Kansas Lost, Sweet 16
2009 North Carolina NIT
2010 Duke Lost, Sweet 16
2011 Connecticut Lost, First Round
2012 Kentucky NIT
2013 Louisville Lost, Sweet 16
2014 Connecticut NIT
2015 Duke Lost, Sweet 16
2016 Villanova Lost, Second Round

Villanova is the latest school to fall short in its bid to repeat. Four of the last five defending champions to make it back to the NCAA tournament made it to the Sweet 16, though, making Villanova’s defeat in the second round sting a little more. Many bracketologists had them going a lot further.

Conference Champions are Overrated

The 2017 NCAA Tournament field consisted of 23 teams from one-bid conferences and 45 teams from nine multi-bid conferences. With all due respect to Wichita State and Middle Tennessee, let’s take a look at how the conference champions of the nine multi-bid conferences have done so far:

American SMU Lost, First Round
Atlantic 10 Rhode Island Lost, Second Round
ACC Duke Lost, Second Round
Big 12 Iowa State Lost, Second Round
Big East Villanova Lost, Second Round
Big Ten Michigan On to Sweet 16
Pac-12 Arizona On to Sweet 16
SEC Kentucky On to Sweet 16
WCC Gonzaga On to Sweet 16

Five out of the nine multi-bid conference champions didn’t survive the first weekend. The last conference champion to win a national championship was Louisville in 2013.

Including the 23 one-bid conference champions, the 32 conference champions in the tournament have gone 15-28 and only four remain in the tournament heading into the Sweet 16.

The ACC Disappointed B1G Time

The ACC had nine teams make the tournament, and only one remains (North Carolina). The West Coast Conference also has just one team in the Sweet 16, but only two teams from that conference made the tournament. The Big East has two out of seven teams still alive, the Pac-12 three out of four, the Big 12 three out of six, the SEC three out of five and the Big Ten three out of seven.

While the Pac-12 boasts a higher percentage of its teams still alive, the Big Ten could easily say it had the best weekend of any conference. Arizona is a popular choice for national champion and UCLA has been hot, but it was supposed to be a down year for the Big Ten. It had no teams in the tournament higher than a #4 seed.

I don’t anyone who picked a Big Ten team to win the whole thing but Wisconsin knocked off overall #1 Villanova, Michigan defeated #2 Lousiville and Purdue sent home Big 12 champion Iowa State.

Don’t Sleep on Michigan

Michigan won four games in four days (and defeated three eventual NCAA Tournament teams) to capture the Big Ten tournament crown after almost not making it to DC for the conference tournament. That can’t help but bring back memories from Connecticut’s improbable run in 2011.

While Connecticut didn’t have the same scare Michigan had earlier this month, they did have to defeat five teams in five days to win the Big East championship. That Connecticut team went into its conference tournament 21-9, 9-9 in Big East play while this year’s Michigan team entered its conference tournament at 20-11 and 10-8 in Big Ten play.

The 2011 Connecticut team beat San Diego State and Arizona in Anaheim to advance to the Final Four, and beat Kentucky and Butler in Houston to complete its run. Michigan could face a similar challenge if it defeats Oregon on Thursday. Michigan could potentially face Kansas in Kansas City on Saturday night with a berth to the Final Four on the line.

 

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