Category Archives: florid historical references

Your updated rankings for tournament wins in the modern era

(kuathletics.com)

We have now seen 37 “modern” NCAA tournaments played to completion. All but the first one in 1985 used a shot clock. All but the first two, in 1985 and 1986, featured a three-point line.

The expansion of the tournament to 64 teams in the 1980s also did away with byes, giving us a true measuring stick when teams accumulate tournament victories over the years. Yes, the NCAA muddied that up a bit by expanding past 64 teams starting in 2001, but we can adjust with a well-placed asterisk here and there.

Here are the teams with the most tournament victories since the field expanded in 1985 right through to Kansas winning the 2022 title.

NCAA tournament wins, 1985-2022

                         Wins
1.  Duke                 101    
2.  North Carolina        96 
3.  Kansas                92 (Congratulations!)
4.  Kentucky              83
5.  Michigan State        60
6.  Syracuse              57* 2018
7.  Arizona               56
8.  UConn                 55
9.  UCLA                  53* 2021
10. Michigan              51* 2016
11. Louisville            49
12. Florida               48
13. Villanova             47
14. Gonzaga               41
15. Oklahoma              37
16. Arkansas              36
    Wisconsin             36
18. Indiana               36* 2022
19. Ohio State            35
    Purdue                35

* Round of 68 wins

Note the gap between Kentucky and Michigan State. That top four’s been in a league of its own historically speaking.

Continue reading

Hoping for a bare minimum of official reviews

(NCAA.com)

Any worthwhile Final Four preview should provide an informed forecast of events.

This will be the first Final Four in three long years with fans.

Jim Nantz loves referencing past Final Four locations and he will mention that this is the 40th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot against Georgetown, which also occurred at the Superdome. He may also mention that this is the 35th anniversary of Keith Smart’s game-winning shot against Syracuse, which also occurred at the Superdome. He will definitely mention that this is the 29th anniversary of North Carolina’s 1993 national title, which was also won at the Superdome. There would seem to be no particular reasons to mention the 2003 title won by Syracuse or the 2012 championship captured by Kentucky, both of which also occurred at the Superdome, but you never know.

Bill Raftery will make self-deprecating remarks about his coaching and playing days. In fact he was a good coach and an even better player. He was La Salle’s leading scorer as a sophomore in an era when sophomores were the youngest players on the floor.

Grant Hill may sound unduly self-deprecating in tone with reference to his playing days even though he was a first-team All American in 1994. He will say you don’t need a three here.

Continue reading

Let’s never speak of shooting backgrounds again

Brady Manek is averaging four made threes per tournament game on 47 percent shooting. He is the exception to the rule in 2022. (Maggie Hobson, goheels.com)

The Superdome is about to welcome the Final Four for a sixth time, which means the site is moving up the all-time rankings for most national title games hosted. Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City is still the leader with nine, and at the final horn on Monday night the Superdome will officially be tied with Louisville’s Freedom Hall for second place among structures that still exist. (“Old” Madison Square Garden hosted seven NCAA title games, though these weren’t what we would today call “true” Final Fours. Read more!)

Should one or more of the upcoming three games feature ugly three-point shooting, there’s a fair chance the shooting background in the notoriously cavernous New Orleans edifice will be cited as a factor. Then again we’ve already seen 64 tournament games played, and none of them took place in a venue that can host an NFL game. Last weekend’s regionals, for example, occurred in NBA arenas occupied by the Warriors, Bulls, Spurs, and Sixers. To this point, the 2022 tournament has played out exclusively in basketball venues.

Which is interesting, because the three-point shooting in the tournament this year has been historically awful.

(Data from the indispensable sports-reference.com. Pay no mind to that automatically generated 2020 label.)

No, don’t blame that new ball that was rolled out for this year’s men’s and women’s tournaments. Shooting on free throws has held up just fine on the men’s side (73.0 percent) compared to last year’s tournament (72.3). It would be an odd ball indeed that poses no problem on free throws but becomes belligerent on threes.

Continue reading

Villanova’s quest for free throw glory

Harvard’s Bob Ferry, right, defends Duke’s Johnny Dawkins in 1984. (Sean Kardon/Associated Press)

The one guaranteed source of drama in Villanova’s round of 32 game against Ohio State today will be watching what Jay Wright’s team does at the free throw line.

If the Wildcats were to go 7-of-10 at the line and be eliminated from the bracket by the Buckeyes, for example, then Villanova’s name will go down in the record books. Conversely, going 6-of-10? A forgotten season. That’s how close this thing is.

“This thing” is the record for the most accurate free throw shooting team of all time. The record has been held for decades by Harvard’s 1984 team, which converted 535 of its 651 tries for a success rate of 82.18 percent. Today, 38 years later, Villanova enters its game against OSU at 82.53. The Crimson of 1984 may watch today’s game in a state of high anxiety.

For a time it looked as if the record might fall last year. Both Colorado and Oral Roberts came close to setting a new standard, and the New York Times ran a piece on the free throw chase by Ken Plutnicki, who averaged nine points for that Harvard team.

Continue reading

The trouble with committees

Until last night, you could subscribe to a Whig history of NCAA tournament selection and seeding even if you doubted the wisdom of using a committee for that process. Yes, the history ran, there was a bad three-letter sorting metric in the old days, but now there’s a sound three-letter sorting metric.

The committee appeared to be growing more savvy. See? the committee would say. You don’t need to replace us with the wealth of insightful metrics of the 2020s. We love them! We use them and we know how to step in when one metric disagrees with another. You need us.

Then last night happened. The trend up until this year had been to put together the top of the bracket in a manner that year by year was becoming progressively more aware of measures of team strength. Then, down at the cut line, measures of win value would make the tough decisions.

It didn’t work out that way in 2022. A stronger team was given a No. 3 seed at the expense of a weaker team’s spot on the No. 2 line. At the at-large cutoff, bids and one near-invite (that would have been actual had there not been a bid thief in the Atlantic 10) were awarded like golden tickets at the Wonka factory. The reason cited was good wins.

Really?

Continue reading

Stop worrying about “top 25 in both offense and defense at KenPom”

How did this happen? (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty)

As conference tournaments take over the calendar, a different rite of March entirely is with us once again. All during Champ Week and especially next week when brackets are being completed, you may hear this team praised or that one doubted because it does or does not “rank in the top 25 at KenPom for adjusted efficiency in both offense and defense.”

Being one of the nation’s best teams on both sides of the ball is surely a good thing. All of us would like our team to make this list. Furthermore, teams meeting this specific top-25 definition of performance ambidexterity have indeed won a flock of national titles over the past two decades.

Nevertheless, there’s a curious quality of wheel-reinvention at work here. In fact, the first sentence on the warning label for this evaluative rule is that it’s 0-for-1 over the past 12 months. The dual-top-25 thing ruled out Baylor as a potential national champion last year.

Continue reading

Age and college basketball

In terms of roster age, Duke’s as young as past one-and-done-heavy teams. What that will mean when pretty much the rest of Division I is older than normal remains to be seen. (goduke.com)

The population of men’s Division I college basketball rosters as a whole in 2022 may be older than it’s been at any time since first-year students were granted athletic eligibility in the 1970s. If this is indeed the case, the geriatric shift has been brought about by allowances in eligibility granted in response to the pandemic.

Indeed, it’s possible we already started seeing the consequences of this demographic adjustment last year. With the benefit of hindsight, Baylor looked pretty old last spring even for a national champion in the one-and-done era not named “Duke” or “Kentucky.”

The pandemic may have expanded our definition of “old”
National champions, average age weighted by minutes (AAWM)

                              AAWM
2012    Kentucky              19.7
2013    Louisville            21.7
2014    UConn                 21.7
2015    Duke                  20.1
2016    Villanova             21.1
2017    North Carolina        21.6
2018    Villanova             21.2
2019    Virginia              21.4

2021    Baylor                22.3

Age on March 1 of title season

Poor Gonzaga. The Bulldogs arrived at the 2021 title game sporting a very late-2010s-looking AAWM of 21.0, doubtless thinking it was business as usual in the world of college basketball actuarial tables.

Continue reading

Coaching hires and coin flips

Can an athletic director who was merely repeating what Vanderbilt had just done still serve as trailblazer for college basketball hiring decisions? Absolutely. (AP/Paul Sancya)

On May 13, 2019, John Beilein announced that he was leaving Michigan to become head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beilein’s exit came almost a full month after that year’s college coaching carousel had closed for business.

Nate Oats (March 27), Kyle Smith (also March 27), Mark Fox (March 29), Fred Hoiberg (March 30), Buzz Williams (April 3), Jerry Stackhouse (April 5), Eric Musselman (April 7), Mike Young (also April 7), Mick Cronin (April 9), and Mike Anderson (April 19), had all accepted new positions. Eight of those 10 guys were either current Division I head coaches or, in Fox’s case, on garden leave from being one. Hoiberg was a former Iowa State head coach who subsequently served an ill fated stint at the helm of the Chicago Bulls.

Conversely, Stackhouse’s head coaching experience consisted of two seasons in the NBA G League. Today if you enter “Vanderbilt hires Jerry Stackhouse” into a Google News search for calendar year 2019, the first result on the page is a headline from The Tennesseean: “Vanderbilt makes untraditional hire in Jerry Stackhouse and there are plenty of questions.”

On May 22 of that year, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel elected to follow the Commodores’ untraditional path. Manuel’s selection of Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard was somewhat less surprising than Vanderbilt’s choice in the sense that Howard was and is a Michigan basketball legend. It was perhaps slightly more aberrant than Vanderbilt’s path, however, in light of the fact that Howard had not yet served as a head coach in the G League or anywhere else.

Continue reading

Updated tournament wins this century

The win total now clocks in at 17. Not bad! (Photo: Darron Cummings)

Counting NCAA tournament wins in this century is little more than a blinkered exercise in setting arbitrary and subjective quantitative goalposts. Much like a good portion of real life. Right, let’s do this.

                     NCAA tournament      National titles
                      wins, 2000-21           2000-21
1.   Kansas                51                    1
2.   North Carolina        50                    3
3.   Duke                  49                    3
4.   Michigan State        46                    1
5.   Kentucky              45                    1

After Kentucky there’s a big drop — equivalent to one national championship run — before you get down to a plucky underdog with two national titles like Florida. No other program has won more than 36 games. (Full team list at the bottom of this post. Limber up your scrolling finger.) 

Continue reading

An unbiased summary of why everyone should buy my book

I wrote a history of Catholic college basketball that starts with Naismith and ends with the 2020 tournament being canceled. The book opens with an interview of Sister Jean on the day after her 100th birthday in 2019, back when we still did such things in person. It’s my first book, it’s called Miracles on the Hardwood, and it comes out today.

You might be saying, “But my team isn’t Gonzaga, and it’s not a non-UConn or -Butler Big East team, and in fact it’s not any other Catholic team either.”

Well, me too. I’m a graduate of a huge public land grant university, and I live and die with every bounce of the ball for its basketball team. But in the course of writing a book about the 12 percent of Division I that’s Catholic, I learned a great deal about the sport I love.

I learned why men’s college basketball in the United States is played in halves, while most of the rest of the world — amateur and professional, men’s and women’s — uses quarters.

I learned that in the 1960s John Thompson ran a 4-H program in Washington, D.C., and told the Washington Post, “Our kids don’t need to know how to make Indian headbands, they need to know how to survive in the city.”

Speaking of Thompson, the 15 coaches selected as finalists in recruiting Patrick Ewing arrived at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in September 1980 in alphabetical order according to their school names.

When the three-point line was introduced in 1986, Bob Knight told the press, “I don’t like the damn rule.”

Continue reading