Making sense of the madness

If April showers bring May flowers, then what does March madness bring? Why, NCAA men’s college-basketball office pools, of course. Sunday, March 13, is Selection Sunday (all March Madness-related activities must be alliterative in title: Final Four, Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteeen, Thuper-dope Thirty-two…), and the following morning office workers and dormmates across the country will be filling out their 65-team tournament brackets. Odds will be crunched, bones will be rolled, and the delivery guy’s 10-year-old daughter, who didn’t even watch any of the games, will walk away with the coin. Before you let little Susie beat you out of your buy-in, check out these cold facts from the last 20 years of the tournament (since the current 64/65-team format was introduced).

The Excellent Eight:

1. The tournament is divided into four 16-team regions, and no 16 seed has ever beat a 1 seed. Ever. Don’t even think about it.

2. No 16 seed has ever won, but every year (save two: 1994, 2000) there has been at least one 13, 14 or 15 seed giant killer in the first round.

3. Despite the first-round-upset rule, only one team seeded higher than 8 has ever made it to the Final Four—LSU (11 seed) in 1986. And it promptly lost.

4. In fact, 70 of the 80 teams to make it to the Final Four since 1985 have been 1, 2, 3 or 4 seeds.

5. No number 7 seed has made it to the Final Four.

6. Of the last 20 champions, 11 have been 1 seeds, four were 2 seeds, two were 3 seeds and one each came from the 4-, 6- and 8-seed spots. No 5 or 7 seed has won a title.

7. Bet on the East. Only 10 teams from schools west of the Rockies have made it to the Final Four (out of 80 total teams) in 20 years, and only three of those won the championship: UNLV (1990), UCLA (1995) and Arizona (1997, with Mike Bibby at the point).

8. Bet on Duke. Long gone are the days of UCLA winning 10 titles in 12 years. Only three teams have won more than once in the last 20 years, with the Blue Devils of Duke the only team with three titles (1991, 1992, 2001). They’re ranked No. 6 right now, which puts them at a probable 2 seed. Fourth time’s a charm?