Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.
Skill Level Appropriate for all
- [Narrator] Since 1939, the NCAA has used a single-elimination tournament to determine its men's college basketball champion. Back in 1939, the tournament included only eight teams. In 1951, the field was expanded to include 16 teams. By 1975, the field grew to 32 teams. Then, to 40, 48 and finally, in 1985, the field was expanded to the modern-day 64-team tournament. Sure, there have been some play-in games added in to expand the field to 68, but we will not speak of those atrocities today.
Instead, we'll focus on the tournament of 64 teams we refer to as March Madness, the one that turns offices and dorms upside down, as people fill out their brackets and try to predict the outcome of all 63 games. By the way, the odds of predicting the winner of all 63 games is, well let's just say the odds are not good. If all 325 million people in the United States each filled out 28.3 million unique brackets, we still might not get a perfect bracket.
With 34 years of data of a 64-team tournament, where teams are seeded one through 16 in four different brackets, there are a ton of fun and interesting statistics. But let's keep this simple today. Let's look at the teams that make it to the Final Four, 34 tournaments of Final Fours. That's 136 Final Four teams. 56 have been number one seeds. 28 have been number two seeds.
That's 61.8% of all the Final Four teams. That means our median Final Four team is a number two seed. The rest of the 136 teams are represented from the seeds three through 11. Teams seeded 12 through 16 have never made the Final Four. Let's look at some of those lower seeds, five through 11. Only 23 have made the Final Four, 17% of all the Final Four teams.
But, there has been a trend of more of these teams making the Final Four in recent years. In the first 17 years of the tournament, only nine five-to-12 seeds made the Final Four. In the last 17 tournaments, 2002 to 2018, 14 have made the Final Four, a 55% increase. And when we look at 2010 to 2018, eight of those nine years a five-to-12 seed made the Final Four.
In that same time span, there were three tournaments where more than one of the five-to-12 seeds made the Final Four. During that nine-year stretch, over 30% of the teams were seeded five through 12. And from 2013 to 2018, at least one team seeded seven or higher has made the Final Four. Let's now look at the championship game. 65% of the champions have been number one seeds.
Only 11.7% of champions have been number two seeds. And the same goes for three seeds. The other 11.7% are the four, six, seven and eight seeds combined. No team seeded nine through 16 has ever won the tournament. And neither has a five seed. And it seems that pedigree is also an important factor. While there have been 34 champions since 1985, only 17 unique schools have won those championships, and 11 of those teams not only won at least one championship game, they also lost at least one championship game.
So, in total, only 29 teams have participated in an NCAA finals since 1985. In fact, the last time there was a new champion was in 2006, when Florida won their first-ever NCAA championship, and then they won it again the following year. Look, the odds you'll pick the perfect bracket are insanely low, but playing with even the most basic statistics of this tournament can be lots of fun.