As the major conference tournaments get rolling this week, remember the Quarterfinal Rule – any team that fails to advance past their conference tournament quarterfinal WILL NOT win the national championship. The are no exceptions to the Quarterfinal Rule. I’ll update this post as top teams are eliminated before their conference semifinals.
2023 Teams Eliminated from National Title Contention
It’s March and the tournaments have started playing! We held our team meeting at Buffalo Wild Wings eating saucy chicken and watching 35 big screen TVs with various games going on. This is the greatest time of the year!
While chatting, we saw an interesting tweet put out by a fellow CBB aficionado, @EvanMiya about Oral Roberts and thought that his claim deserved a little deeper look.
I went to a game last night just for fun. The teams are irrelevant for the purpose of this conversation; suffice to say that both were middling, neither has a shot at the NCAA tournament and none of it has implications of national merit. But man, it’s almost March and it’s college basketball, it was a blast! 15,590 fans just having a great time sending off the seniors and hoping for a shift in fortunes during the Conference Tournament.
The beauty of CBB is that anyone can be a Cinderella. As I watched the event, the home team played the best game of their season. They were balanced on offense, they shutdown the other team’s two main threats. They rebounded well, controlled their turnovers and staved off multiple run attempts of their foe. At one point they were up by 21 and I thought to myself, “Man, if they play like this, who knows, three good games in the conference tourney and they could slip into an automatic bid.” I was impressed and drinking the Kool-aid.
It is often easier to eliminate Final Four candidates than to identify them.
For instance, if you look back through the history of all Final Four participants for the last 35 years or so, there doesn’t seem to be a common thread in the data that can be pointed to as a sure fire indicator that a particular team is going to win it all come March. (At least not yet, finding that is our goal…)
What we can identify are teams that lack characteristics germane to all Final Four teams. One of the best indicators is how well a team does on the road.
Welcome to week 15 of the college basketball season. 15 is really not terribly significant, but two weeks ago was. So let’s go in the way back machine, speed it up to 86 mph and look at the AP standings from week 13. Then let’s figure out why this ranking is important.
I’ve gathered bracket probabilities from other websites to compare with my model’s results. Here are the numbers from those models as well as a composite (average of all the models) probability for every team reaching each round. Apologies to the other play-in teams, but I assumed Rutgers, Indiana, Texas A&M-CC, and Wright State win their First Four games.
I’ll show the numbers in a few different looks – Champs, First Round Upsets, Bracket Busters, Cinderellas, Busts, Dark Horse Final Four, and a composite for All Teams/All Rounds – get your scrolling fingers ready!
I was able to find predictions at the following websites:
An early exit for a top seed is losing in the first weekend of the tournament, or in other words failing to reach the Sweet 16.
Only 67% of 1-3 seeds reach the Sweet 16, so this happens often enough that you should at least consider it while making your picks. This year, we once again have 2 top-seeded teams that are likely not going to survive the first weekend (greater than 50% chance). Here are the most likely top-seeded teams to make an early exit.
A dark horse Final Four team is a 5+ seed that reaches the Final Four.
Even though 83% of all Final Four teams have been seeded 1-4, 10 of the last 11 tournaments have had at least 1 5+ seed in the Final Four. The following teams have the best chances among this year’s “longshots.”
Bracket Buster definition: a 6+ seeded team that reaches the Elite 8.
Most bracket fillers conservatively stick to the highest seeds when picking their Elite 8 teams, and rightly so – about 81% of all Elite 8 teams were 1-5 seeds. So when a 6+ seed reaches the Elite 8, most people’s brackets are busted.
Last tournament, there were three bracket busters! Here are this year’s most likely bracket busters (teams with at least a 8% chance):
Let’s call a Cinderella team a double-digit seed that reaches the Sweet 16. This means they would pull off at least one but probably two upsets in the first weekend and have glory and praise heaped upon them for the next week before they play in the Sweet 16. Almost every year, we see at least one Cinderella. Only the 1995 and 2007 tournaments didn’t have one. Last year we had four!
Correctly identify a Cinderella team in your bracket, and you’ll not only look like a genius, but also increase your chances of winning your bracket pool. Here are this year’s most likely Cinderellas (i.e. teams with at least a 15% chance of reaching the Sweet 16):