Thursday, December 31, 2009

Team of the Decade

In a recent podcast, Andy Katz asked Mike DeCourcey of the Sporting News and Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS who they thought the team of the Decade was. Mike said Kansas and Seth said Michigan State.

With today being the last day of the decade, I wanted to take a look back at the decade of 2000-2009 (or the "Aughts") in the NCAA Tournament and discuss who should be named the team of the decade.

Only North Carolina and Florida won multiple championships. North Carolina won in 2005 and 2009 with two different sets of players and Florida became the first team since Duke in 1992 to win back-to-back titles when they won in 2006 and 2007. In addition, Florida was the only team with three championship game appearances.

However, should North Carolina and Florida be in consideration for team of the decade when both missed two tournaments. Florida followed up their consecutive titles by missing the tournament in 2008 and 2009. North Carolina missed the tournament in 2002 and 2003.

Michigan State won the championship in 2000 and lost the 2009 championship game. The tied North Carolina for the most final four appearances with 4. In addition, they are only one of 7 schools to participate in the tournament all 10 years. They won 25 tournament games overall.

Kansas won the championship in 2008 and lost the 2003 championship game. The also went to the 2001 final four. They also participated in all 10 tournaments. They won 26 tournament games - one more than Michigan State and tied with North Carolina for the most in the decade.

All four have arguments for why they could be considered the team of the decade
  • North Carolina tied for the most titles, had the best tournament winning percentage and tied for the most final fours
  • Florida tied for the most titles and had the most championship game appearances
  • Michigan State appeared in every tournament, won it in 2000 and tied for the most final fours
  • Kansas appeared in every tournament, won it in 2008 and tied for the most wins
Here is ESPN's look at the decade's best teams. Who do you think the team of the decade was?

Underachieving Duke

On April 2, 2001, Duke defeated Arizona 82-72 to win its 3rd National Championship. Arizona was the #2 seed in the Midwest region that year. That marked the record 18th time that Duke had defeated a top four seeded team since 1979 when the tournament began seeding teams.

Why is this significant today? Because, that is the last time Duke has defeated a top four seed. That is 8 years without defeating a top 4 seed. In that timeframe, 57 other schools have beaten a top 4 seed at least once including Kansas with 8 victories over top 4 seeds.

Duke's current futility includes 6 consecutive years being defeated by a lower seed which is an NCAA Tournament Record.
  • 2004: #1 Duke lost to #2 Connecticut 79-78 in National Semifinals
  • 2005: #1 Duke lost to #5 Michigan State 78-68 in Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006: #1 Duke lost to #4 Louisiana State 62-54 in Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007: #6 Duke lost to #11 Virginia Commonwealth 79-77 in First Round
  • 2008: #2 Duke lost to #7 West Virginia 73-67 in Second Round
  • 2009: #2 Duke lost to #3 Villanova 77-54 in Sweet Sixteen
The 2004 year is unique because they went to the final four without defeating a top 4 seed. In the Sweet Sixteen, they defeated Illinois who was a #5 seed and in the Elite Eight, they defeated Xavier who was a #7 seed.

In 2002, Duke was a #1 seed and defeated by #5 seed Indiana. The only year since the 2001 championship that they played to their seed was 2003 when as a #3 seed, they were defeated by #2 seed Kansas.

Why has Duke underachieved in the tournament? Jatin Patel states that Duke's lack of true road games out of conference has led to them underachieving. Most of their games away from Cameron Indoor are at Madison Square Garden which many have dubbed "Cameron Square Garden" because of the many Duke fans in the New York City area.

To see if this has any merit, I decided to look at the location of Duke's losses in the tournament since 2002:
  • 2009: Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2008: Washington, DC
  • 2007: Buffalo, New York
  • 2006: Atlanta, Georiga
  • 2005: Austin, Texas
  • 2004: San Antonio, Texas
  • 2003: Anaheim, California
  • 2002: Lexington, Kentucky
In that same timeframe, they are 8-0 in North Carolina and 2-0 in South Carolina. They are 5-8 playing in all other states.

Why has Duke underachieved in the tournament? It may be location. It may be the fact that Duke overachieved in the regular season. It may just be a string of bad luck. But whatever it is, Duke haters are loving it while Duke fans would like to know how to end it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Time Dancers

Three schools that have never been to the NCAA Tournament are looking to crash the party this year - Northwestern, Army and William & Mary.

For the first time since 1969, Northwestern is ranked - entering the AP Poll at #25. They have victories over Stanford, Notre Dame, Iowa State and North Carolina State. Their only losses are to Butler and tonight in overtime at Illinois in the Big Ten opener.

Despite firing their basketball coach prior to the season, Army is 9-3. Despite losses to Buffalo, VMI and SMU, they appear to be the top team in the Patriot League. The Patriot League will only be a one-bid league, but the league champion will get home-court advantage in the conference tournament. That could be the difference between Army staying home or dancing for the first time in school history.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three is William & Mary. They opened up the season with losses to UConn and Harvard, but since have won 9 straight including wins over Richmond, Wake Forest, VCU and Maryland. They currently are ranked #7 in the RPI. They are building a resume for an at-large bid and a high seed.

Joe Lunardi takes a look at each of these three teams' chances at a bid in March.

Monday, December 28, 2009

NCAA Talk about Expansion

There has been a lot of talk in the past about expanding the NCAA Touranment. I am against the idea. The tournament is perfect at 6 rounds. When the Great West Conference gets an automatic bid in 2020, the tournament will likely expand by one team again so that at-large pool remains at 34. That is OK, but anything beyond that is too much.

Jim Boeheim has been the biggest proponent of expansion. This is not surprising considering that Syracuse has barely missed the tournament several times in recent history. However, Coach K was against it, but he now has had a change of heart. He does have one interesting idea in his proposal. He suggests that the tournament expand to 96 teams, but both the regular season AND the conference tournament champions get automatic bids. I do agree with him that the regular season champion of the conference should get an automatic bid. It does put more value on the regular season instead of team getting hot at the end of the year, but it still makes the tournament too long.

Some other views on expansion:

Introduction to HoopsTournament.Net

I am an college basketball fanantic. I started following the NCAA Tournament in 1983 when I was 10 years old. I watched the tournament selection show that year and I got a bracket from the Sporting News. I was hooked. Since then, I have not missed a selection show. I watch it every year live. When I was dating my wife, we went out to eat on Selection Sunday and I told her that I had to be back by 5:30 to watch the selection show. She didn't understand then. She does now. I plan my life around the tournament.

While watching the tournament, I would always wonder about how teams had fared in various situations in tournament history. I could not find anywhere that had the amount of information that I needed. So I set out to research and create a database of every tournament game. I started this project in 1992. In 1999, I first published my results on the internet. In 2000, I started HoopsTournament.Net.

I continue to add to the website each year. It started with adding additional data. My current focus is creating a page for each team. The page includes the following items:
  • Game by Game results of every tournament game for that team
  • Records by that team in different situations (such as record on Thursday, vs. the Big Ten, etc.)
  • Link to the team's official basketball home page
  • Link to the team's official conference basketball home page
  • Link to the team's most popular message board
  • News feed
This year I have started the social networking aspect of the website also. With this first entry, I am now starting a blog. In this blog, the main purpose will be to compile information about the NCAA Tournament. At times, I will also give my opinion and introduce (what I think) are interesting facts about tournament history.

I also started a page on facebook at and on twitter at I will share links, retweets from others that I follow and post one-line facts while watching the tournament games on these pages.

If you have any comments on ways to improve the website, please feel free to let me know. I want this to be the most comprehensive resource for NCAA Tournament History on the internet.