March was full of madness this year. We saw a 16 seed beat a 1 seed for the first time ever and Loyola-Chicago advanced to the final four as an 11 seed. However, the tune in April is much different. The title game, which is often played the first week of April, represents the saner side of college basketball.
Monday night marked the second title in three seasons for the Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats were the #6 team in the AP pre-season top 25. This pre-season poll, which is often described as meaningless by pundits, tabbed the Wildcats as one of the top teams in the country. Digging into the numbers we find that the pre-season AP poll actually tells us quite a bit about who has a chance of winning the national title.
There are 351 Men’s Division 1 basketball programs, but only a handful are serious contenders for the national title. Since the tournament expanded to its 64 team format in 1985, 27 of the 34 national champions were ranked in the AP pre-season top 10. Stated another way, almost 80 percent of the national titles have been won by what amounts to less than three percent of the teams.
Each year our brackets are busted and we throw our hands up at our inability to foresee the future. Yes, in a 63 game tournament you’ll never be able to predict every upset. However, before the season even starts, it’s quite easy to tell which handful of teams will be a contender for the national title.
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