Originally Published: March 16, 2008

Insider's Bracket Guide

Here's an inside look at the same valuable research that Jay, Digger and Dickie V get

By ESPN Stats & Information
Special to Insider

ESPN Insider gets you ready for the NCAA tournament with in-depth bracket analysis to help you project the field all the way to Motown. Plus, you can follow all the games on your desktop with our discreet RealTime Scoreboard.

The following is exclusive NCAA tournament research from ESPN.

CONFERENCE NOTES: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

THE GOOD

(1) Attention Utah State: The WAC has failed to win an NCAA tournament game in two of the past three years after a streak of 11 straight years with at least one win (1995-2005). This is the second straight year the league received only one bid (Boise State was only bid last year). That had happened just once in the previous 24 years (Tulsa in 2003).

(2) Attention Gonzaga: The West Coast Conference has at least one win in 8 of the past 10 years.

(3) Attention Western Kentucky: In 2008, Western Kentucky became the first Sun Belt team to win an NCAA tournament game since 1995. The Hilltoppers won a thriller against Drake, then knocked off San Diego to reach the Sweet 16.

(4) Attention Butler, Cleveland State: The Horizon League has at least one win in 8 of the past 11 years (this dates back to when the conference was called the Midwestern Collegiate Conference). The league has done so despite only sending one representative in 8 of those 11 years.

THE BAD

(5) The ACC has had just one Sweet 16 participant in each of the past two years (North Carolina both years) after supplying at least two teams for 27 consecutive years from 1980-2006.

(6) Attention Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest: No team has ever won a national championship after losing the first game in its conference tournament. Last year, both Louisville and UConn lost their first Big East tournament game. The Cardinals (No. 3 seed) reached the Elite Eight before bowing out, while the fourth-seeded Huskies were upset in the first round.

(7) Attention Akron: After three straight years (and five of the last six) with at least one win, the Mid-American Conference has gone winless in five straight tourneys for the first time since 1984-88. The MAC has never gone six straight years without a win in the Big Dance.

(8) Attention Stephen F. Austin: The Southland Conference, despite a victory by Northwestern State in 2006 and a respectable effort from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2007, has lost 24 of its past 26 tournament games.

(9) Attention Binghamton: America East teams have lost 19 of their past 21 games. Vermont's victory over Syracuse in the 2005 first round was the first by an America East team since 1996 when Drexel won as member of the then-named North Atlantic Conference.

(10) Attention Portland State: Montana's upset of Nevada in 2006 is the Big Sky's only NCAA tournament victory since Harold Arceneaux, Eddie Gill and Weber State took out North Carolina in 1999. Overall, Big Sky teams have lost 27 of their past 30 tourney games.

(11) Attention ETSU: The Atlantic Sun hasn't enjoyed an NCAA tournament victory since it was the Trans America Athletic Conference in 2001 (Georgia State beat Wisconsin, 50-49). But that doesn't mean that its teams haven't been competitive, even despite being a 14- or 15-seed each year. Belmont's close call against Duke was just the latest.

(12) Attention BYU, Utah: Since the formation of the Mountain West Conference in 2000, only twice has a MWC team reached the Sweet 16 (Utah in 2005, UNLV in 2007). Those instances are also the only times the MWC has produced more than one NCAA tournament victory as a conference since its formation. The MWC is 8-20 in those nine years (.286 win pct.). In the past three years, the three at-large selections from the MWC all lost their first-round games.

(13) Attention Northern Iowa: After nine straight seasons with multiple NCAA tournament participants, the Missouri Valley Conference has had just one representative the past two years.

THE UGLY

(14) Attention: Alabama State: It doesn't get much uglier than the SWAC. The conference has one NCAA tourney victory in the past 24 years (Southern in '93). And since 15th-seeded Texas Southern came up one point short against eventual finalist Arkansas in 1995, no SWAC team has come within single digits in a first-round game (31.4 avg. margin of defeat in 10 games). In fact, the past two years, the SWAC rep has lost by more than 40 points (Mississippi Valley State in '08 and Jackson State in '07). And it's not like the conference hasn't tried someone new each year, either. Seven different schools have represented the conference in the past seven years! In fact, the last time the SWAC rep didn't get a No. 16 seed was Alcorn State in 1999.

(15) Attention Robert Morris: The Northeast Conference is the only current conference yet to win a first-round game (3-27 overall record, all three wins coming in the opening round). It's been 11 years since an NEC team came within single digits of an NCAA Tournament opponent in the first round. Fairleigh Dickinson rode the hot hand of Elijah Allen and his 43 points, but couldn't top No. 2-seeded UConn, 93-85. Last year, Mount St. Mary's was pounded 113-74 in the first round by North Carolina.

(16) Attention Morehead State: The Ohio Valley Conference tops the list of longest current losing streaks in the NCAA tournament. It's been two decades since the conference's last win in tourney play. Back in 1989, when Middle Tennessee took out fourth-seeded Florida State, Dick Vitale was just two years removed from standing on his head after another OVC member, Austin Peay, upset Illinois in the first round.

(17) Attention Morgan State: The MEAC is just 3-27 all-time in NCAA tournament play, but two of those wins account for half of the all-time wins by No. 15 seeds ('97 Coppin State & '01 Hampton). The other win was an opening-round win by FAMU in 2004.

(18) Attention Cornell: Maybe Cornell can help the Ivy League find NCAA tournament success again. Since Princeton won a first-round game as a 5-seed in 1998, the Ivy League champion has bowed out in the first round in each of the past 10 years -- and only two of those games were decided by single digits.


21 BRACKET-BUSTIN' TRENDS

(1) In 11 of the past 12 years, at least one team seeded seventh or worse has reached the Elite Eight. And in the 24 years of the 64/65-team field, at least one team seeded sixth or worse has reached the Elite Eight in 20 of those years.

(2) In the past three years, exactly half of the 12 second-round games between the 8/9 winner and the No. 1 seed have been decided by seven points or fewer (or in OT). In the past 20 tournaments (80 games), the 8/9 winner has either beaten the No. 1 seed or lost by seven points or fewer (or in OT) 36 times. So, expect some close games in the second round.

(3) 10 of the last 11 national champions won their 1st and 2nd round game by double figures (Florida in 2007 won their 2nd round game by 7)

(4) No eventual champion has ever faced the highest possible seed in each round (including the national championship game).

(5) Since seeding began in 1979, only twice has there been a Final Four without a No. 1 seed (1980, 2006).

(6) Last year marked the first time that all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four. Prior to 2008, the highest number of No. 1 seeds to get that far in a tournament was three, which occurred three times (1993, 1997, 1999).

(7) Only four times since 1985 have the top four seeds in each region survived the first round (1994, 2000, 2004, 2007).

(8) Only four times since seeding began in 1979 have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16 (1982, 1989, 1995, 1996).

(9) A No. 5 seed has never won the national championship.

(10) A No. 7 seed has never reached the championship game, and the only one to reach the Final Four was Virginia in 1984.

(11) The lowest seed to win the national title was No. 8 Villanova in 1985.

(12) The lowest seed to reach the Final Four is a No. 11 (LSU in 1986 and George Mason in 2006). In fact, they are the only seeds lower than eighth to do so.

(13) A No. 12 seed has won at least one game in 18 of the past 20 years (no wins in 2000, 2007), and at least two games in 8 of the past 10 years.

(14) A No. 13 seed has won at least one game in 8 of the last 11 years (no wins in 2000, 2004, 2007).

(15) Although Belmont came close to knocking off Duke last year, No. 15 seeds have gone winless in the past seven years (0-28). That's the longest drought for No. 15s since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The only 15-seed to win in the past 11 tournaments is Hampton in 2001, when they took out Iowa State in Boise.

(16) No. 1 seeds have met in the championship game three of the past four years, which may not sound all the interesting. But when you consider that it happened just three times in the first 26 years of seeding (1982, 1993, 1999), you realize just how rare it's been until recently.

(17) Don't count on a No. 16 upset over a No. 1. It has never happened before (0-96), and games haven't been close at all the past couple years, either. All eight games have been decided by at least 21 points, with an average margin of victory of 31.6 for the top seeds.

(18) For the most part, chalk usually wins out. Since seeding began in 1979, 22 of the 30 national champions have been No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. The last national champ to be seeded worse than third was Arizona in 1997.

(19) Since 1985, in only three years have No. 12 seeds failed to win a game (1988, 2000, 2007). While 12-seeds have actually reached the regional semifinals more than 8th and 9th seeds combined by a comfortable margin (16 to 12) since 1985, they usually flame out. Of those 16 No. 12 seeds, only Missouri in 2002 has gone any further.

(20) Most Consecutive First-Round Wins (Active Streaks):

  • Purdue -- 10
  • Maryland -- 8
  • Auburn -- 7
  • North Carolina -- 7
  • Tulsa -- 5

(21) Most NCAA Tournament Appearances Without Reaching the Final Four, All-Time:

  • BYU -- 23
  • Missouri -- 21
  • Alabama -- 19
  • Xavier -- 19
  • Utah State -- 17
  • Boston College -- 17
  • Miami (OH) -- 17
  • Creighton -- 16
  • *Does not include 2009 Appearances

    OTHER INTERESTING NUMBERS


    14 FAST FACTS

    (1) Attention, Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh: No team has ever won a national championship after losing the first game in its conference tournament. Last year, both Louisville and UConn lost their first Big East tournament games. The Cardinals (No. 3 seed) reached the Elite Eight before bowing out, while the fourth-seeded Huskies were upset in the first round.

    (2) Since Duke won the national championship in 2001, the Blue Devils have advanced past the Sweet 16 just once, and have not beaten a team seeded higher than fifth in the NCAA tournament. That may surprise you, since Duke reached the Final Four in 2004, but fifth-seeded Illinois was the only seed higher than a No. 7 that Coach K's crew has defeated in the past seven tourneys. To further underscore how disappointing Duke has been during this span, they've been a No. 1 seed in four of those seven years (and a No. 2, 3 and 6 in the other three years).

    (3) The Horizon League has at least one win in eight of the past 11 years (this dates back to when the conference was called the Midwestern Collegiate Conference). The league has done so despite sending only one representative in eight of those 11 years.

    (4) Since the formation of the Mountain West Conference in 2000, only twice has a MWC team reached the Sweet 16 (Utah in 2005, UNLV in 2007). Those instances are also the only times the MWC has produced more than one NCAA tournament victory as a conference since its formation. The MWC is 8-20 in those nine years, a .286 win percentage.

    (5) Pick at least one Cinderella to reach the Elite Eight. In 11 of the past 12 years, at least one team seeded seventh or worse has reached the Elite Eight. At least one team seeded sixth or worse has reached the Elite Eight in 20 of the 24 years since the tournament field was expanded to at least 64 teams. Last year, Davidson reached the Elite Eight as a 10-seed, the seventh time in 12 years a double-digit seed made it that far.

    (6) For the most part, chalk usually wins out. Since seeding began in 1979, 22 of the 30 national champions have been Nos. 1 or 2 seeds. The last national champ to be seeded fourth or higher was Arizona in 1997.

    (7) In the past four tournaments, every No. 1 seed has reached the Sweet 16.

    (8) In five of the past six years, exactly two No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16. And if you look at history, only four times since seeding began in 1979 have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16 (1982, 1989, 1995, 1996).

    (9) In the past two years, seven of the eight No. 3 seeds reached the Sweet 16 (Washington State in 2007 was the one that failed, and the Cougars lost in double OT in the second round).

    (10) In the past two years, six of the eight No. 4 seeds have failed to reach the Sweet 16. In the past four tournaments, only five of the 16 No. 4s reached the Sweet 16.

    (11) The ACC has been shut out of the Final Four in three of the past six years, after placing at least one team in the Final Four in 14 of the previous 15 seasons.

    (12) A No. 12 seed has won at least one game in 18 of the past 20 years (no wins in 2000, 2007), and at least two games in eight of the past 10 years.

    (13) A No. 13 seed has won at least one game in eight of the last 11 years (no wins in 2000, 2004, 2007).

    (14) No. 1 seeds have met in the championship game three of the past four years, which may not sound all that interesting. But when you consider that it happened just three times in the first 26 years of seeding (1982, 1993, 1999), you realize just how rare it's been until recently.


    NOTES ON THE COACHES

    There are six coaches who are in their first season at a school:
    • Russ Pennell, Arizona
    • Mike Montgomery, California
    • Trent Johnson, LSU
    • Buzz Williams, Marquett
    • Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
    • Ken McDonald, Western Kentucky
    Longest tenured coaches at current school (includes 2008-09 season):
    • Jim Boeheim, Syracuse -- 33
    • Mike Krzyzewski, Duke -- 29
    • Jim Calhoun, Connecticut -- 23
    • Gary Williams, Maryland -- 20
    • Tom Izzo, Michigan State -- 14
    Longest tenured coaches overall (includes 2008-09 season):
    • Jim Calhoun, Connecticut -- 37
    • Mike Krzyzewski, Duke -- 34
    • Jim Boeheim, Syracuse -- 33
    • Gary Williams, Maryland -- 31
    Ten coaches have more than 500 career wins. Eight have fewer than 50. Brad Stevens of Butler has the highest career winning percentage of the 65 coaches in the NCAA tournament, at .862; Dino Gaudio of Wake Forest has the lowest, at .433. Four coaches have winning percentages of less than.500 for their career, and one is exactly at it. Most career losses among the 65 coaches: Gary Williams with 356. Twenty of the coaches have at least that many career wins. Combined record of all 65 coaches:
    • At current school: 9,163-4,235 (.684)
    • Career: 17,912-9,002 (.666)
    • Career experience: 856 seasons (including 65 this season)

    Come back Wednesday afternoon for extensive updates.

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