You know how to make it seem like you know what you’re talking about when fixin’ to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket? Scream out a bunch of numbers with some sound effects like there’s no Jim Cramer. Right, Cosmo?
With or without Rick Neuheisel’s help, here are a few more do’s and do-it-at-your-own-risk statistics that come into play when joining the 40 million backets that will be filled out this week:
== If you’ve decided that USC will beat the beans out of Boston College in Round One, you may as well take the Trojans in Round Two against Michigan State (or, by some act of Billy Packer, Robert Morris).
Based on tournament history, any No. 10 or No. 12 seed that somehow wins its first-round game has a 50/50 shot of having enough confidence and momentum to win again in the next round and go Sweet 16. So, USC, a No. 10 seed in the Midwest facing No. 7 BC on Friday, could then KO No. 2 seeded Michigan State, asked to entertain No. 15 Robert Morris in the first round.
Here’s the evidence: In the past 24 tournaments that they’ve seeded teams in the 64-team tournament, a No. 10 team has only won 36 of the 96 times and a No. 12 has won only 31 of the 96 times in Round One. But if they do win the opener, No. 10 has an 18-18 record and No. 12 has a 16-16 record in the next round. Those aren’t bad odds.
== If No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth crushes No. 6 UCLA (as many suggest, right Seth Davis?) and then gets enough juice to roll past (probably) Villanova and (more than likely) Duke to reach the East Regional final by some nutty circumstances, there’s actually a 50/50 shot of it reaching the Final Four based on history. A No. 11 in the regional final has a 2-2 record, but then is 0-2 in the Final Four.
As for the other No. 11 seeds — Utah State, Temple or Dayton … don’t even worry about this.
== In UCLA’s favor, even with it having to travel across the country and then perhaps face a Villanova team on its home court in the second round: A No. 6 seed has won 69 percent of its first round games. Had the Bruins been a No. 5 seed, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference (68 percent). The No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the second round has each won 53 percent of the time to advance to the Sweet 16.
== Do those No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups make you nuts? A No. 9 seed has historically done better than 50/50 in that first round brain buster — 52-44 over the last 24 years. But in the second round, that same No. 9 team has lost 49 of the 52 games.
On our bracket, we’d definitely take No. 9 Texas A&M over No. 8 BYU and probably favor No. 9 Tenneseee over No. 8 Oklahoma State. The other two No. 9s — Butler and Siena — will likely be snuffed out sufficiently by their SEC and Big Ten opponents, respectively.
== ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews has an educated guess who’ll win, but she’s not revealing. That’s just not her style.
== No team lower than a No. 12 seed has gone to the Sweet 16. But taking that further, only six teams lower than a No. 12 seed (368 teams total) have ever won in the second round. If you’re a little crazy, take No. 12 Arizona, which definitely has a chip on its shoulder, against No. 5 Utah in round one and then probalby No. 4 Wake Forest in round two. But don’t hold it against us if it doesn’t pan out.
== Only one team ever seeded below No. 6 has won the championship — that was No. 8 Villanova in 1985 (No. 8 UCLA made it to the final in 1980). Only two teams ever seeded below No. 4 have ever won a championship.
== A No. 1 seed always wins its first round game — its a 96-0 proposition. Eleven times, a No. 16 has come within 10 points of beating a No. 1 seed. Five times, a No. 16 team has come within five points of beating a No. 1 seed. Twice, a No. 16 seed has come within one point of beating a No. 1 seed. Once, a No. 16 seed (Murray State) took a No. 1 seed (Michigan State) into overtime before losing (1990).
== A No. 2 seed will win its first-round game 95 percent of the time (only four losses in 96 tries). The last time it happened was in 2001, when No. 15 Hampton beat No. 2 Iowa State, 58-57.
Perhaps that’s why oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has posted these numbers for these seeded teams to win the championship:
= No. 16 seed Chattanooga (18-16), facing UConn in round one: 1 googolplex-to-1
= No. 16 seed Radford (21-11), facing North Carolina in round one: 1 googol-to-1
= No. 16 seed E. Tennessee St. (23-10), facing Pitt in round one: 1 septillion-to-1
= No. 16 seed Alabama State (22-9) or Morehead State (19-15), in a play-in game to face Louisville in round one: 1 trillion-to-1.
= No. 15 seed Cal State Northridge (17-13), facing Memphis in round one: 500 billion-to-1
= No. 15 seed Binghamton (23-8), facing Duke in round one: 10 billion to 1
= No. 15 seed Morgan State (23-11), facing Oklahoma in round one: 1 billion to 1
= No. 15 seed Robert Morris (24-10), facing Michigan State in round one: 500 million to 1
The other odds of interest:
= No. 12 seed Arizona (19-13) — 175 to 1
= No. 10 seed USC (21-12) — 200 to 1
= No. 7 seed Cal (22-10) — 150 to 1
= No. 6 seed Arizona State (24-9) — 55 to 1
= No. 6 seed UCLA (25-8) — 45 to 1
= No. 4 seed Washington (25-8) — 50 to 1
== At least one No. 1 seed has made it to the Final Four every year — except in 1980 (when No. 2 Louisville eventually beat No. 8 UCLA, and No. 5 Iowa and No. 6 Purdue also made it) and in 2006 (when No. 3 beat No. 4 LSU for the title, in a Final Four that also included No. 2 UCLA and No. 11 George Mason).
== A championship game with two No. 1 seeds has happened three times in the last four seasons.
== The only team to beat three No. 1 seeds in a single tournament Arizona, seeded No. 4, when it won the title in 1997.
== The best place for a No. 1 seed to get tripped up is in the regional finals. No. 1 seeds who have reached the fourth round have gone 42-27 when a trip to the Final Four on the line. No. 2 seeds have only gone 21-23 in regional finals with a Final Four spot waiting for the winner.
== Mike DeCourcy, who does a nice job covering college hoops for the Sporting News (linked here), gives UCLA the 14th-best shot at winning it all, with Arizona State not far behind (16th-best shot). For some crazy reason, he also has given a reasonable shot to 12th-seeded Arizona (20th), ahead of Pac-10 regular-season champion Washington (24th). Then there’s USC (25th), and, with lesser chances, Cal (36th) and … Cal State Northridge (60th).
== The University of South Carolina is seeded third in the NIT, opening up against visiting Davidson tonight (4 p.m., ESPN2). Go cocks.
== Kentucky is seeded fourth in the NIT, opening up against visiting UNLV tonight (6:30 p.m., ESPN). Go Ashley Judd. Or don’t, because this is really below you.
== Stanford and Oregon State are playing in the College Basketball Invitational’s 16-team field, having been rejected by both the NCAA and NIT selection teams. They each open play on Wednesday at home. Not against each other. That would be embarassing enough for the Pac-10.
== There is also the new CollegeInsider.com Tournament, with 16 more teams involved (linked here). So adding up the NCAA (65), NIT (32), CBI (16) and CIT (16), that 129 out of 330 schools playing in the post-season. Oregon is the only Pac-10 school without a place to go.
== Yes, there are also odds posted for these events. According to Keith Glantz and Russell Culver, Florida is the 3-1 favorite and San Diego State is 5-1 to win the NIT; Jacksonville is the 500-1 shot. But would that mean Jacksonville, and not Stanford (at 3-1), should have been the favorite to win the CBI? Wisconsin-Green Bay is the second choice at 5-1, and Boise State is the longest shot at 35-1. But … would that mean Boise State, and not Oakland (at 5-1), would be the favorite in the CIT? Bradley and Pacific are also 6-1 runner-up favorites to win that one, with The Citadel as the 25-1 longshot.
So what would The Citadel’s chances be of winning the NCAA Tournament? Does Sheridan have a NASA-based number for that one?
== In nine years as ESPN’s “Bracketologist,” this Joe Lunardi dude has missed only 10 teams in his final projections, including a perfect record in 2008. Sunday he was 16-0 in picking the South bracket, 16-0 in picking the West (accurately predicting Maryland in from the bubble of six teams vying for two spots), 15-1 in picking the Midwest (he had Creighton in, not Arizona) and 16-0 in picking the East.
Mrs. Lundardi must be very proud.
== The guys over at EA Sports, using their own “NCAA Basketball 09: March Madness Edition Tournament” video game for Xbox 360, have Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and North Carolina reaching the Final Four based on their simulation.
Oh, and Louisville winning it all, 76-70, over Pitt.
The company’s PR people point out that prior to last year’s tournament, EA Sports “correctly predicted 23 of the 32 first round tournament games (72 percent).
Wonder what happened last year.
In the other games simulated by the ’09 edition (linked here), UCLA loses to VCU, 74-68 in the first round, Cal State Northridge loses to Memphis 89-67 in the first round, but USC knocks out Boston College 91-89 in round one before losing to Michigan State 83-71 in the second round.
== There are no schools in the tournament that begin with the letters H, J, Q, Y and Z. In the order of the alphabet, those numbers represent 8, 10, 17, 25 and 26. We suggest using those five numbers in the next California Lottery.