Nobody is better at breaking down the stats and trends of NCAA Tournament performance than Pete Teirnan, whose bracketscience.com is a must-visit for fans who are serious about studying the NCAA Tourney.
In his blog last week, Tiernan discussed something that should be of great interest to University of Kentucky basketball fans.
In the 64-team era of the NCAA Tournament, only two teams have done what UK is trying to do this year — go from the NIT to winning the NCAA championship.
One of those is a team local fans are very familiar with — the 1986 University of Louisville Cardinals. The other was Syracuse in 2003. Here’s Tiernan’s introduction of his analysis on how the current UK team compares to those teams.
The three teams actually have some key similarities. Kentucky has a rookie phenom in John Wall, just as Louisville did with “Never Nervous Pervis” Ellison and Syracuse did with Carmelo Anthony. And all three teams had or have veteran coaches who’ve tasted tourney success. Louisville’s Denny Crum was making his twelfth tourney appearance, had five previous Elite Eight runs and one championship (1980) before cutting down the nets in ’86. Jim Boeheim was making his twenty-second tourney appearance, had three previous Elite Eight trips, yet was still looking for his first crown. And John Calipari, like Crum, will be making his twelfth appearance in the dance with five Elite Eight runs. Unlike Crum, however, he doesn’t have a championship under his belt. (He could’ve, if his 2008 Tigers shot free throws better, but I digress.)
Tiernan goes on to examine how UK stacks up against the other two statistically, and then compares UK against other NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds who failed to make the tournament the previous year.
I won’t repeat his entire post, but it’s worth a look.
In the end, UK will be bucking some long odds if it makes a run for the title, but it certainly isn’t impossible.
As I’ve said before, the main thing I see working against the Wildcats now is a schedule that, even with its marquee wins, may not have been tough enough to fully prepare them for the tournament.
Then again, if you’re far and away the best team, that tends not to matter.