March Madness Tidbits

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As winter turns to spring in March, thoughts turn to romance and March Madness. Actually, the two are unrelated–just a self indulgent ploy to expand the audience.  Sorry for that.

March Madness came from humble beginnings. The men’s Division 1 tournament first began in 1939.  Eight schools vied for the title won by the University of Oregon and hosted by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Let’s continue with a brief look at the history of the men’s and women’s Division 1 tournament and some interesting facts associated with the men’s tournament.

The NCAA bought the rights to stage the men’s basketball tournament from the NABC in 1939 for the sum of $2,531, the amount of money the NABC lost hosting the event earlier that year. For the next eleven years only eight schools were invited to participate. The field was divided into an “East Region” and a “West Region.” The two region winners met at a predetermined site for a winner-take-all game. The field expanded to 16 teams in 1951 and to 22 teams in 1953.  Again, the NCAA divided the field into an “East Region” and a “West Region,” with the winners playing for the championship. The field fluctuated between 22 and 25 teams between 1953 and 1974. Beginning with the 1975 tournament, the field expanded to 32 teams and divided into four regions for the first time: East, West, Mideast and Midwest. The region names will change from one year to the next based on the location of the cities hosting the regions–South, Southeast and Southwest have also served as region labels.

The media and tournament officials began using the term “Final Four’ with the 1975 tournament.  In 1978, the seeding of teams began when the first four teams of each region were designated one, two, three and four. The field expanded again to 40 teams in 1979 and to 48 a year later.  In 1981, the NCAA began to use the newly created Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for ranking teams and evaluating schools for at-large bids, teams that did not win their conference but were considered worthy of an NCAA bid.

While broadcasting tournament games for CBS in 1982, Brent Musburger began using the term “March Madness” to describe the three-week contest for the national title (the state of Illinois began using the term for its high school tournament in 1908).  Five more teams were added in 1983. Beginning with the 1985 tournament the field expanded to 64 teams, 30 automatic qualifiers (regular season conference champions or conference tournament champions) and 34 at-large bids. The NCAA added a 65th team in 2001 because of the newly created Mountain West Conference and the belief that the number of at-large bids should not be reduced. A play-in game involving two of the lowest seeded teams took place in Dayton, Ohio with the winner earning the right to face a number one seed in its next game. In 2010, the NCAA expanded the play-in games to four thereby expanding the field to 68 teams.

The NCAA women’s Division 1 basketball tournament has been held every year since 1982.  From 1982-1985, 32 schools fought for the title. The field included 40 schools from 1986-1988, 48 from 1989-1993, then 64 from 1994 to the present. Before the NCAA became the official sponsor of the women’s championship tournament, the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women hosted a 16-team competition from 1969-1971.  Beginning in 1972 the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW)  became the official sponsor of the women’s championship.   Sixteen teams participated in the tournament from 1972-1979.  The field expanded to 24 teams for the 1980-1981 tournaments.  Most of the top women’s teams participated in the 1982 NCAA tournament, after which the AIAW decided to cease sponsoring any type of basketball championship competition. The University of Connecticut holds the most national titles with 11 followed by the University of Tennessee with eight.

Fun Facts for the men’s tournament:

–UCLA has won the most men’s titles with 11 followed by the University of Kentucky with eight.

–Championships won by the current Power 5 conference members break down as follows: Pacific 12 with 16, Atlantic Coast Conference with 16, Southeastern Conference with 11, Big 10 with 11, and Big 12 with 5.

–Only four schools have never played in the NCAA Division 1 men’s tournament: the United State Military Academy (Army), The Citadel, St. Francis University—Brooklyn, and the College of William and Mary.

–The current television contract with CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV runs through 2024.

–Excluding the play-in games, no 16th-seeded team has ever won a game in the tournament.

–Eight 15th-seeded teams have upset a 2nd seed, the last in 2016 with Middle Tennessee State University’s win over Michigan State University.

–Twenty-one 14th-seeded teams have defeated a 3rd seed, the last was in 2016 when Stephen F. Austin University beat West Virginia University.

–Twenty-six 13th-seeded teams have knocked off a 4th seed, with the University of Hawaii doing the honors in 2016 versus the University of California.

–The lowest seeds to advance to the Final Four were all 11th seeds: Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011, George Mason University in 2006 and LSU in 1986. None of the schools won a game once reaching the Final Four.

 

It’s March Madness, where the craziest things always happen. See if your romantic interest will watch a few games with you. If so, you have a keeper!

 

Duke-North Carolina, Round 2 for 2017

 

 

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The second game of the  2017 basketball season between Duke and North Carolina unfolds Saturday night in Chapel Hill. Last month, Duke held the Tar Heels at bay in Durham by an 86-78 score.   These games are always exciting and seem to go down to the final seconds. Let’s look back, in chronological order, at some of the more memorable games and moments between the schools.

In the March 2, 1974 game in Chapel Hill, UNC trailed Duke by eight points with 17 seconds to go. Two Carolina free throws cut the deficit to six then UNC stole two consecutive in bounds passes that led to easy scores. After a missed Blue Devil free throw, UNC had the ball down by three with three seconds left in the contest. UNC freshman Walter Davis banked in a 30-foot shot to send the game into overtime, where the Tar Heels prevailed, 96-92.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, NC on March 10, 1984, number one ranked UNC, led by Michael Jordan, played Duke in the semifinals. Behind the efforts of Tommy Amaker and Johnny Dawkins, Duke led by two late in the game. The Tar Heels’ Matt Doherty prepared to throw the ball in with three seconds left and UNC with a chance to win or force overtime. Doherty threw the ball away and Duke pulled off the upset, 77-75.

The February 5, 1992 game in Chapel Hill will be remembered as one of the more physical battles between the two schools. Duke’s Bobby Hurley suffered a broken foot, but the lasting image will always be Carolina’s Eric Montross at the free throw line late in the game with blood pouring down his face. Carolina edged Duke, 75-73.

At Cameron Indoor Arena in Durham on February 2, 1995, the Tar Heels escaped with a 102-100 double overtime victory. Two of the more memorable moments occurred when ESPN analyst Dick Vitale nearly fell out of his chair after UNC’s Jerry Stackhouse executed a thunderous dunk while being fouled and Duke’s Jeff Capel hit a 37-foot basket that sent the game to double overtime.

The next memorable game took place in Chapel Hill on February 28, 1998. The Blue Devils trailed the Tar Heels by 15 points in the first half, but Duke freshman Elton Brand got hot and the Blue Devils overtook UNC in the second half.  Still, UNC had chances in the final seconds to tie the game, but two different Tar Heels missed free throws. Coach Mike Krzyzewski earned his 500th career win as the Blue Devils won another close one, 77-75.

A classic took place in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill on February 8, 2012. Carolina led most of the game but could never pull away from the Blue Devils. Duke freshman Austin Rivers cast himself as a legend in this storied rivalry with a three-pointer at the buzzer to propel Duke to an 85-84 victory.

These memorable moments demonstrate a small portion of the plays, players, and pictures so indelibly etched in the memories of Tar Heel, Blue Devil, and college basketball fans. Both teams are generally ranked and fighting for ACC championships and seeding in the national tournament every year, so these games carry even more weight than that of a simple rivalry. Yet, no matter the records or which team supposedly has the better players or coaches, these games transcend mortal logic and metaphysical boundaries. The sublime seems to be the norm. Carolina-Duke may arguably be the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

Duke-North Carolina Basketball

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Eight miles, as the crow flies, separate the campuses of these two fierce rivals. If you drive along Highway 15-501 (Tobacco Road), the distance stretches to ten miles. The close proximity between Duke University (Blue Devils) and the University of North Carolina (Tar Heels) may explain the intense rivalry between the schools, especially in basketball. The following will offer some facts that you may not know about these two storied basketball programs.

The schools began to tip it off in 1920 and North Carolina holds a 134-108 series advantage. In the last 91 meetings, Duke owns a 46-45 edge, and the last time neither team was ranked at game time was in 1955. From 1988 through 2001, every Final Four except one (1996), included Duke and/or North Carolina.

Roy Williams coaches the Tar Heels and Mike Krzyzewski leads the Blue Devils.  Williams was at Kansas from 1988 until 2003, then left for North Carolina. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980. As you may imagine, both coaches own some impressive statistics at their combined schools. Krzyzewski has 12 Final Four appearances while Williams has 8. Coach K has 90 NCAA tournament wins while Williams has 70. Coach K has the most 30-win seasons of any active coach, 14, while Williams is second with 11. Coach K has five national championships and Williams has two, while Coach K has 13 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships and Williams has 11 Big 8/Big 12/ACC conference championships.

Besides owning one of the best rivalries in sports, North Carolina and Duke are ranked among college basketball’s elite programs. After the 2016 season, North Carolina ranked third and Duke fourth in overall wins. Both schools have five national championships, which ties them for third among all college basketball programs. Finally, North Carolina ranks first with 19 Final Four appearances while Duke is fourth with 16.

North Carolina and Duke play each other at least twice a year and each game seems to be a battle to the end reminiscent of the Roman gladiator days. The players leave everything on the court while the two great generals dig deep into their coaching bags to find some play, some word of advice, some psychological edge that may tip the scale in their favor. In the league of wine and cheese, this game deserves a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 and a pound of beaufort d’ete!

 

Kentucky’s Worst Loss in SEC Play

 

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University of Kentucky basketball personifies excellence. The school has the most wins of any college basketball program in the country, eight national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, and 46 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles. Yet, even great programs experience low points. Kentucky’s low point in SEC play came on February 12, 2008 in Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. On that fateful night, the Vanderbilt University Commodores annihilated the Wildcats 93-52, administering the worst loss in the history of SEC play for Kentucky and the five-worst loss ever by a Kentucky basketball team.

Shan Foster pumped in 20 points for the Commodores while A.J. Ogilvy tallied 19 along with 12 rebounds (Lionel Richie did not score that night, at least in the game). Vanderbilt led 41-11 at halftime and led by as many as 43 points several times during the contest. Kentucky finished with more fouls (26) than made field goals (17).

Kentucky forward and future NBA player Patrick Patterson put it succinctly, “They played like men, and we played like boys.”

Under first-year coach Billy Gillespie, Kentucky started slowly at 6-5 with lopsided losses to Gardner-Webb and Indiana but had won five straight coming into the game, including a win over Tennessee. The Wildcats had already beaten Vanderbilt earlier in the year in Lexington, 79-73 in overtime.

So no one would have predicted a game like this, including Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, “I didn’t see this coming in any way, shape or form. Not of this magnitude.”

Before this defeat to Vanderbilt, Kentucky’s worst loss to the Commodores came in 1989 by 30 points. Kentucky’s worst loss ever also came in 1989, this time to the Kansas Jayhawks by 55 points. Its previous worst SEC loss came to LSU by 35 points in 1987.  All of these losses came under Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton’s watch.

Kentucky does not lose many basketball games, certainly not along the lines of the February 2008 Vanderbilt game. As a point of reference, Kentucky leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt 140-46, as of January 22, 2016.  To be fair to the Commodores, Kentucky has dominated most of its opponents over the years, but this game serves as an example of how even the great programs will belly flop from time to time.  As the old saying goes, “Nobody is perfect.”

 

SEC Basketball Milestones

 

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The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has long been known as a football conference, but it also plays a high quality brand of basketball. Everyone with a modicum of college basketball knowledge understands that Kentucky will have a team year in and year out that will challenge for the national championship. However, the SEC has a history of other programs competing in the upper echelons of the sport.

Below is a breakdown of the current conference teams in terms of overall win-loss records (through the 2014-15 season) and place within the Top 50 nationally; the number of national championships as determined by winning the NCAA Tournament, which began in 1939; the number of Final Four appearances and the number of SEC titles (From 1933-34 and 1936-1950 the SEC champion was determined by the winner of the SEC Tournament. In 1935 and 1951 to the present the SEC champion has been the regular season victor as determined by conference win percentage, so consequently many seasons have resulted in a tie for first place. It is unclear why no tournament was held in 1935.)

  1. Overall Won-Loss Record and National Ranking (vacated and/or forfeited games do not count):
    1. Kentucky 2178-673 (1)
    2. Arkansas 1605-901 (33)
    3. Alabama 1600-984 (34)
    4. Missouri 1585-1089 (37)
    5. Tennessee 1568-985 (41)
    6. Vanderbilt 1547-1093 (49)

No other SEC school placed in the Top 50 nationally.

  1. National Championships:
    1. Kentucky 8
    2. Florida 2
    3. Arkansas 1
  1. Final Four Appearances:
    1. Kentucky 17
    2. Arkansas   6
    3. Florida 5
    4. LSU  4
    5. Georgia 1
    6. Miss. State 1
  1. SEC Titles:
    1. Kentucky 46
    2. LSU 10
    3. Tennessee 9
    4. Alabama 7
    5. Florida 7
    6. Miss. State 6
    7. Vanderbilt 3
    8. Arkansas 2
    9. Auburn 2
    10. Georgia 1
    11. South Carolina 1

The SEC can play basketball as well as football. Clearly, Kentucky is the conference powerhouse but other programs have shined on the national scene over the years. Six programs are ranked in the national Top 50 of all-time win leaders, including the number one team, Kentucky. The recent additions of Texas A & M and Missouri (NCAA probation notwithstanding) will only add to the conference’s reputation in basketball. So while you’re waiting for spring practice to start, pay attention to SEC basketball. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

 

Milestones of ACC Basketball

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Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball has a long and rich history. Many years, the media have anointed the conference as the best in the land. Because of the conference’s academic reputation, the league’s fans have been dubbed the “Wine and Cheese” set.

However, some of college basketball’s most storied programs reside in the ACC. Below is a breakdown of the current conference teams in terms of overall win-loss records (through the 2014-15 season) and place within the Top 50 nationally; the number of national championships as determined by winning the NCAA Tournament, which began in 1939; the number of Final Four appearances and the number of ACC titles as determined by the winners of the ACC Tournament.

  1. Overall Won-Loss Record and National Ranking (vacated and/or forfeited games do not count):
    1. North Carolina 2140-767 (3)
    2. Duke 2062-853 (4)
    3. Syracuse 1920-851 (5)
    4. Notre Dame 1795-972 (9)
    5. Louisville 1755-884 (11)
    6. C. State 1661-1008 (25)
    7. Pittsburgh 1556-1099 (45)

No other ACC school placed in the Top 50 nationally.

  1. National Championships:
    1. North Carolina and Duke 5
    2. Louisville 3
    3. N.C. State 2
    4. Syracuse 1
  2. Final Four Appearances:
    1. North Carolina 18
    2. Duke 16
    3. Louisville 10
    4. Syracuse 5
    5. N.C. State 3
    6. Virginia 2
    7. Georgia Tech 2
    8. Notre Dame 1
    9. Florida State 1
    10. Wake Forest 1
    11. Pittsburgh 1
  1. ACC Titles:
    1. Duke 19
    2. North Carolina 17
    3. N.C. State 10
    4. Wake Forest 4
    5. Georgia Tech 3
    6. Virginia 2
    7. Florida State 1
    8. Miami 1
    9. Notre Dame 1

 

The ACC is replete with powerful basketball programs and the statistics above support this claim. Five out of the top 11 all-time win leaders reside in the ACC. A Final Four is rare without either Duke or North Carolina and both schools are among the national leaders in NCAA championships. With the recent additions of Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse, the conference may be the most competitive it has ever been. So come tournament time, remember to have a nice bottle of chardonnay and some brie while watching the games!