I know there is no NCAA tournament this year, but I did all this research a few weeks back under the assumption that Dayton and San Diego State were likely to be top two seeds when the bracket was revealed. Since it appears we are living in the first few chapters of The Stand, I may never get another chance to post this. And if the tournament does return next year, well, I may be able to edit this post slightly and rehash it again. Enjoy.
A run by Dayton or San Diego State to the Final Four would have been unprecedented. I say that not because Dayton has not made the national semifinals since 1967 nor because San Diego State has never advanced past the Sweet 16. No, I say that because both Dayton and San Diego State entered the 2020 college basketball season unranked in the initial AP Poll. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, that has been a great way to identify top two seeds that will not make the Final Four.
There have been 280 top two seeds since the tournament expanded to a 64 teams (35 tournaments, with four regions apiece, and two top seeds in each region). Those top two seeds (roughly analogous to the top eight teams in the nation as determined by the selection committee) have won 27 of the 35 tournaments. However, none of those 27 champs were unranked in the preseason AP Poll. in fact, teams that were unranked in the preseason AP Poll and later received a top two seed have never even made the Final Four! Those top two seeds that were unranked in the preseason AP Poll are also more likely to lose in the tournament's first weekend. We'll dub these early exits 'Flame Outs'. For the one seed, this would involve losing to the sixteen seed in the first round or the eight/nine winner in the second round. For the two seed, this would mean losing to the fifteen seed in the first round or the seven/ten winner in round two.
35 teams have been either one or two seeds despite not being ranked in the preseason AP Poll. Here is how they have performed in the tournament.
Oregon in 2016 being the most recent top two seed to advance that far. In fact, these teams are two and a half times more likely to flame out than win three tournament games!
Top two seeds that were not ranked in the preseason AP Poll have struggled in the NCAA tournament. But what about those that were ranked in the preseason poll, but have still managed to exceed expectations? 65 teams have earned top two seeds after opening the season in the AP top 25, but outside the top ten. Here is how they have performed.
So how about preseason top ten teams that earned top two seeds? This is where the bulk of NCAA tournament success can be found.
Finally, let's look at the biggest upsets by seeding in NCAA tournament history. A fifteen seed has beaten a two seed eight times and a sixteen seed has beaten a one once. In those nine massive tournament upsets, the losing top seed was not ranked in the preseason AP Poll three times and ranked outside the top ten in the preseason poll seven times!
Thanks for reading. Stay safe and be kind everyone and check back next Thursday when we return to our regularly scheduled programming and examine the APR for Conference USA.
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