While I love the sight of a fresh, clean NCAA tournament bracket, there's nothing I look forward to more each year than filling it in on Selection Sunday.
Luckily for me -- actually, since you're reading this, luckily for us -- the time has come. We know the 68 teams that will make the next three weeks go by way too quickly, so let's dig deep and unearth some facts that you can tuck away for conversations with your friends as the tournament plays out, and maybe some others that you can use to influence your bracket decisions.
As always, I want to be clear about what this column is designed to be: informative and hopefully fun to read for those of you who love the NCAA tournament. It's not meant to predict the results of the games, only to give you trends to be aware of.
That said, our great college basketball writers will offer their predictions in advance of the opening tip, and our ESPN+ Tourney Tools -- Bracket Predictor, Bracket Analyzer and PickCenter -- are great resources for those seeking help navigating their bracket.
NOTE: All stats referenced are since 1985, unless otherwise noted. Additionally, any historical reference to the "first round" relates to the round of 64, and "second round" is the same as the round of 32. The First Four stands on its own for the purposes of this column to avoid confusion.
Quickie to mention off the top
Let's get this one out of the way. No team has ever won a national championship after losing its first game in the conference tournament. Last year, only one top-four seed (Auburn) lost in its conference tourney opener. The Tigers were blown out in the second round by Clemson. This year, a trio of top-four seeds lost their conference tourney opener: LSU, Texas Tech and Purdue. Other notable tourney teams that also did so are Baylor, Ole Miss, VCU, UCF and Temple.
Why you should pay attention to the First Four games
Most bracket contests don't count the Tuesday and Wednesday night NCAA tourney games, but there is data from the past eight years that may help identify an early upset candidate.
Exactly one team from the First Four has advanced to the second round each year since its inception in 2011. But what's more interesting is that, in seven of the eight years, it has been the team that won Wednesday's non-16-seed game. In all, Tuesday night winners have won just one additional game in the tourney (Wichita State in 2016), while Wednesday's winners have won 13 additional games in those eight years. Last year, it was Syracuse winning two more games to reach the Sweet 16.
So, who plays in the late game on Wednesday, you ask? Arizona State and St. John's. This is the second straight year Bobby Hurley's Sun Devils are playing in the First Four.
How to approach high seeds that started season unranked
In two words: tread lightly.
Texas Tech was unranked in the preseason, but is a top-three seed and enters the NCAA tournament in the AP top 10 (the official poll is here). Houston just missed qualifying for this note, as the Cougars are ranked 11th.
History has not been kind to the 53 teams fitting that profile in the modern tournament era. Of those 53 teams, only two reached the Final Four (2011 national champion UConn and 2018 runner-up Michigan). In other words, highly successful regular-season teams from completely off the radar don't typically emerge as national title contenders.
Nearly half of those 53 teams (24) didn't even make it out of the first weekend, with the majority of those bowing out in the second round.
While Nos. 1 and 2 seeds that fit this profile have never reached the Final Four, at least the news isn't so bad for No. 3 seeds. Connecticut was a national champion in 2011, Michigan reached the title game last year, and overall, 15 of the 21 No. 3 seeds with this profile reached the Sweet 16, with six advancing to the Elite Eight. Only two were bounced in the first round (New Mexico in 2013, West Virginia in 2016).
This year's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds were all ranked in the preseason AP top 20, so they are "safe" from the potential wrath of this trend.
Is there any advantage to being the No. 1 overall seed?
Since 2017, the No. 1 overall seed has had the right to choose one of the eight early-round sites to start its tourney journey. Unfortunately for the first two teams to earn that right, their journey also ended where it started. Last year, Virginia suffered the sure-to-never-be-forgotten upset loss to UMBC in Charlotte. And two years ago in Buffalo, Villanova's defense of its national title ended in the second round at the hands of Wisconsin.
Duke is the overall No. 1 seed this year. Since 2004, when the selection committee began announcing the overall No. 1 seed, that team has reached the Final Four 46.7 percent of the time (seven out of 15), and that's despite failing to get that far each of the past three years. Meanwhile, the other three No. 1 seeds have combined to reach the Final Four just 35.6 percent of the time (16 of 45).
In this 15-year span, the No. 1 overall seed has won the title three times (20 percent), but has failed to survive the first weekend four times. Meanwhile, the other No. 1 seeds have combined to win seven championships (15.6 percent). At best, there's only a slight edge to earning top billing, it would appear.
The only other time Duke was the No. 1 overall seed (2006), it lost in the Sweet 16 to fourth-seeded LSU, which had Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tyrus Thomas in the frontcourt.
Three No. 1 seeds from the same conference
Atlantic Coast Conference teams Duke, Virginia and North Carolina all grabbed No. 1 seeds this year. This is the 10-year anniversary of the other time that three top seeds came from the same conference. In 2009, Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh earned No. 1s out of the Big East.
That year, while all three made it to the Elite Eight, only UConn reached the Final Four and none of them made the title game. The other No. 1 seed that year: North Carolina, which went on to win the national championship.
At-large teams with losing conference records don't last
For the second straight year, the bubble was considered extremely weak. There's no greater evidence of that than seeing four at-large teams in the tournament that finished below .500 in conference play. Last year, an NCAA tournament-record five such teams made the field.
Of the 41 previous teams with losing conference records to get at-large bids since 1985, nearly half (20) won their first-round game, but only six advanced to the Sweet 16, including Syracuse last year. In the modern era, the only team with a sub-.500 conference record to win more than two games (not counting the First Four) was LSU in 1987, when the Tigers reached the Elite Eight.
This year, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio State and St. John's fit this description.
The Buckeyes (8-12 in the Big Ten) and Sooners (7-11 in the Big 12) became the third and fourth teams to earn an at-large bid despite being four games under .500 in conference play. The previous two teams to do it both won their first-round game before bowing out in the second round.
In 1992, Iowa State was just 5-9 in the Big Eight, but got a No. 10 seed and beat Charlotte before falling to second-seeded Kentucky. In 1998, Florida State went 6-10 in the ACC, received a No. 12 seed and knocked off TCU before losing to No. 13 seed Valparaiso in OT.
It's not easy to repeat
Villanova is attempting to become the first repeat champion since 2006-07 Florida. Even getting back to the Final Four would be quite an accomplishment, and not just because the Wildcats aren't expected to do so, as their No. 6 seed would suggest. Just seven defending champs have returned to the Final Four since seeding began.
Taking it a step further ...
Forget about repeating, or following up a title with a Final Four appearance. It has been a challenge for defending champions to win more than a game or two. Since Florida's repeat in 2007, no defending champion has gotten past the Sweet 16. Last year, defending-champion North Carolina lost in the second round, despite being a No. 2 seed. The year before that, Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed and couldn't get past the second round, either.
Filling out your bracket is a ton of fun, but picking the right upsets is hard. One thing that happens most years but is difficult to predict is a top-four seed losing its first game. Only once in the past 11 years have all of the top four seeds in each region survived the first round, and five times in 34 years (1994, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2017).
Here's a look at seed-versus-seed data for each of the first-round matchups and trends that have emerged in recent years.
1 vs. 16
Finally, we have a reference point to say that No. 16 seeds do have a chance ... even if it's a really small one.
UMBC's shocking 20-point win against Virginia last year was the first by a 16-seed over No. 1 seeds in 136 all-time meetings. That large margin of victory is right in line with what No. 1s have done to No. 16s through the years. Dating back to 1998, only four of 84 matchups have been decided by single digits, all of which came in a three-year span (2012-14). One of this year's top seeds, Gonzaga, played in one of those four games when it got a scare from Southern in 2013 before winning by six.
2 vs. 15
Only eight times in 34 years has a No. 2 seed lost to a 15-seed. Three of those eight losses came in 2012 and 2013, however. Since then, 18 of the 20 meetings have been decided by double figures (average margin of 18.3 points). The only upset in the past five years was Middle Tennessee's 90-81 decision over Michigan State in 2016, when the Spartans were a popular pick to win the title.
Of the eight No. 15 seeds to win a game, seven of them finished in the top two in their standings. The only exception was Santa Clara in 1993, which finished third in the West Coast Conference.
Among this year's No. 15s, three of the four finished in the top two in their conference during the regular season: Abilene Christian, Colgate and Montana. Bradley tied for fifth place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
3 vs. 14
No. 3 seeds have won 84.6 percent of all-time meetings with No. 14 seeds, and have swept all four tourney matchups in back-to-back years for the first time since 2011-12. That's noteworthy because 14-seeds enjoyed an impressive four-year run when they won five games from 2013-16. The last time No. 14 seeds failed to win a game in three straight years? A decade ago, from 2007 to 2009.
Call it a coincidence, but the past three No. 3s to lose in the first round all came from the Big 12: West Virginia (2016), Baylor (2015) and Iowa State (2015). Last year, Texas Tech was in danger of joining that group before coming back to beat Stephen F. Austin with a 13-2 run in the final four minutes to win by 10. And the Red Raiders are No. 3 seeds again this year. They'll face the Norse of Northern Kentucky on Friday in Tulsa.
4 vs. 13
No. 13 seeds entered last year's tournament in their worst drought ever. They had just one win in the previous four years, after winning at least one game in six straight tourneys from 2008 to 2013.
Last year, No. 13s got their upset mojo back, as Buffalo throttled Arizona and Marshall knocked off Wichita State -- and the other two (UNC Greensboro and Charleston) lost by just four points. That marked just the fourth time in 34 years that two 13-seeds won a first-round game in the same tournament (also 1987, 2001, 2008).
Obviously picking the right 13-over-4 upset isn't easy, but more often than not it is something that happens at least once each year. A No. 13 seed has won at least one game in 24 of 34 years.
5 vs. 12
For years, the first upset discussions once the bracket is revealed have centered around the 5-12 matchup, and the historical data explains why.
Only five times since 1985 has at least one No. 12 seed failed to defeat a 5-seed in a single tournament. However, two of those five instances have occurred in the past four years (2015, 2018).
Overall, No. 5 seeds have won 65.4 percent of matchups with No. 12s. The most recent 12-seed to win a game was Middle Tennessee in 2017 when the Blue Raiders knocked off Minnesota, but it wasn't even an upset, as they were favored in the game.
For those of you into wagering, here's a tidbit of note: Since 2000, No. 5 seeds have lost straight up all three times they weren't favored against No. 12 seeds.
6 vs. 11
No seed matchup has been turned on its head like this one.
From 1985 to 2009, No. 6 seeds won 69 percent of the meetings, but in the past nine years, they have won just 44 percent. It has been decidedly worse for 6-seeds in the past three years, as they have lost eight of the 12 matchups.
The tide may have turned between these seeds, but one thing that has remained unlikely is a sweep. It has been 15 years since the No. 6 seeds swept all four meetings, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the only time No. 11 seeds won all four meetings.
7 vs. 10
The 7-10 pairing used to be much closer to a toss-up than it has been in recent years.
From 1985 to 2012, No. 7 seeds won 59.8 percent of meetings with 10-seeds. But since 2013, 7-seeds have won 71 percent of the matchups, winning three of the four first-round meetings in five of those six years.
By comparison, No. 10 seeds have done that just four times ever, even if you go back to when seeding began in 1979.
But don't let the recent dominance by 7-seeds fool you -- the games have still been extremely competitive. Since 2010, no first-round seed pairing has had more games decided by single digits than this one (27), including 12 decided by three points or fewer or in overtime. Last year, a pair of 7-10 matchups went to OT (Nevada over Texas, Rhode Island over Oklahoma).
Not that it means anything, but we have seen a No. 7 Cincinnati versus No. 10 Iowa matchup in the South Region before, back in 2005. In that one, the Bearcats beat the Hawkeyes 76-64.
8 vs. 9
You expect these to be 50-50 games, and historically they are exactly that, as they have split the 136 meetings in the modern era. If you're looking for something recent to grab onto, No. 9 seeds have won three of the four meetings two times in the past three years. That's something they didn't do even once from 2008 to 2015.
Sweet 16/Elite Eight
How do the top 16 seeds generally fare?
We already touched upon how unlikely it is that all of the top four seeds in each region will escape the first round, but here's what history says about advancement to the second week of tourney play in the modern era:
• On average, 9.9 of the top 16 seeded teams advance to the Sweet 16 each year. Last year, only seven did so, which tied the record for the fewest in a single tournament (it also happened in 1986, 1990 and 2000). Will these "protected seeds" do any better at avoiding early-round heartbreak this year?
• The top four seeds in a region have reached the Sweet 16 in only 17 of 136 regions (12.5 percent) since 1985. Essentially, that means it happens in one region every two years on average. It didn't happen in last year's tournament, for what that's worth.
In case you need any more reasons to think outside the box, the top four seeds in two regions have advanced past the first weekend in the same tournament just three times (1989, 1991, 2009), but only once in the past 27 years.
• Only once in the past 22 years have we had a Sweet 16 in which all the 2-seeds were still alive, and a total of just four times in the modern era (1989, 1995, 1996, 2009).
• Fewer than three No. 3 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in seven of the past nine tournaments. Only twice have all four 3-seeds made it (2008, 2009) and just once have they been shut out entirely (1997).
• Last year, only one No. 4 seed made the Sweet 16, ending a streak of seven straight tournaments in which multiple 4-seeds got that far. Included in that streak are the only two times in which all four No. 4s survived the first weekend (2014, 2017).
• Only three times have all Elite Eight participants been seeded fourth or better (1995, 2007, 2009). In fact, there have been multiple teams seeded worse than fourth in the Elite Eight in 18 of 34 years. And in each of the past three years, and four of the past five, we've had multiple teams seeded sixth or worse in the Elite Eight.
• There has never been an Elite Eight without a No. 1 seed present, and 31 of 34 Elite Eights have featured at least two top seeds (2000, 2011 and 2013 are the only tourneys with just one No. 1 seed). In case you're wondering, all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Elite Eight on eight occasions, although that has happened only once in the past nine years (2016).
• In each of the past 11 tournaments, we have seen one or two No. 2 seeds reach the Elite Eight. Included in this span is a streak of eight straight years in which exactly two No. 2 seeds made it there from 2009 to 2016.
How many double-digit seeds will make the Sweet 16?
You can expect at least one team seeded 10th or worse to advance to the second week of play. It has happened in 32 of the 34 years since the field expanded to 64 teams. Generally, you will see between one and three double-digit seeds reach the Sweet 16.
Proof that 11 is the new 12
One of the more interesting trends in the past handful of years has been the annual presence of an 11-seed in the Sweet 16. As bracket numerologists can surely attest, this discussion used to be about the No. 12 seeds, but no longer (more on that in a moment).
At least one No. 11 seed has reached the Sweet 16 in each of the past five tournaments, its longest such streak. By comparison, zero No. 12 seeds have made the Sweet 16 in the same span.
Looking at the past four years, No. 11s have won an impressive 18 games (and that's not counting the First Four games), while 12-seeds have just three wins. Only 15- and 16-seeds have fewer in that span.
This isn't just coincidence, though. Blame it on the expansion of the field to 68 teams, along with the addition of another higher-major automatic bid when the American Athletic Conference was formed.
In those past four years, all 22 teams seeded 12th or worse have been automatic qualifiers (which is the case again this year). That means the final at-large teams in the tournament -- often major-conference teams with a mix of high-quality wins and puzzling losses, or dangerous mid-majors whose seeds may have been impacted by uninspiring strength of schedule -- have all been No. 11 seeds. This doesn't mean you should shy away from No. 12s altogether, but the general quality of these teams has been altered some.
Half of the instances (11 of 22) in which No. 11 seeds have made the Sweet 16 have come in just the past nine years. How good is that? Other than the top four seeds, No. 11s have reached the second weekend more often than any other seed in this span.
Once there, No. 11 seeds have had a reasonable amount of success -- or at least more than you might expect from such a low seed. But, as you also might expect, it depends on the opposition.
They are 8-14 overall in Sweet 16 games, but just 2-13 when facing No. 2 seeds (4-0 versus No. 7s and 2-1 against No. 10s). Once again due to tough opposition, No. 12 seeds are just 1-19 in Sweet 16 games, with all 19 losses coming against No. 1 seeds (the only win coming in 2002 when Missouri beat No. 8 seed UCLA).
No. 6s feeling the pinch
Naturally, the success of No. 11 seeds is affecting their first-round pairing partner. For just the second time ever, no 6-seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in back-to-back years (also in 2008-09). Will they avoid being shut out from advancing to the second week of play three years in a row for the first time?
Elite Eight dry spells
The last time a No. 5 seed reached the Elite Eight was 2011, when Arizona defeated Duke to get there. Since then, 5-seeds have lost seven straight Sweet 16 games, including three last year.
Yet another negative note on 6-seeds: They have just one Elite Eight appearance in the past eight years (2016 Notre Dame). In that span, No. 7 seeds have made four Elite Eights. (Unfortunately, I'm not done detailing the struggles for No. 6 seeds, as you'll see in the Final Four section below.)
How many No. 1 seeds generally make the Final Four?
The safe play is to pick one or two.
At least one No. 1 seed has reached the Final Four seven straight years and 11 of the past 12. Multiple 1-seeds have made the Final Four three times in the past four years after it didn't happen at all from 2010 to 2014. In 2011, no 1- or 2-seeds made it, marking the only time that has ever happened. As you go through your bracket, it may be hard to eliminate a No. 1 seed, but remember that history shows it's more likely that no top seeds reach the Final Four than it is that all four of them do. The only time all four No. 1s got there was 11 years ago.
Here is a breakdown of how many No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four since the beginning of seeding in 1979:
None -- 3 times
One -- 15 times
Two -- 17 times
Three -- 4 times
Four -- 1 time
Will we see yet another surprise Final Four squad?
It has been a pretty remarkable run for Cinderella in the Big Dance lately. Last year, the slipper fit for 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago. There has been at least one Final Four team seeded seventh or worse each of the past six years, which is easily the longest such streak in NCAA tournament history (more on a potential connection in the next note below).
Since seeding began in 1979, only 17 teams seeded seventh or worse have reached the Final Four, but nine of those have come in the past eight years!
Finding Cinderella ... in Virginia's bracket?
I think this is one of the more interesting trends going.
Building off of the note above, each of the past five years the Final Four team to come from Virginia's bracket has been seeded seventh or worse. In four of those five years, the Cavaliers were seeded a No. 1 or 2 ... which is again the case this year. In two of these years (2015, 2016) UVA lost to the team that reached the Final Four. Will Virginia finally perform up to its seed? If not, which surprise team would you pick to come out of the South region?
• For just the fourth time ever -- and the first time since 1999-2000 -- back-to-back Final Fours were held without a No. 2 seed. It has never happened in three straight years.
• We have had consecutive Final Fours involving at least one No. 3 seed, only the third time that has happened. It occurred in three straight tournaments from 1989 to 1991.
• The last Final Four appearance by a No. 4 seed came in 2013, when both Michigan and Syracuse squared off in the national semis. The last Final Four trip for a No. 5 seed came in 2010 under similar circumstances, as Butler and Michigan State faced each other. Among the seeds that have reached the Final Four at least once -- think 11-seed or better -- the only seed experiencing a bigger drought is ...
• Guess who? Only three No. 6 seeds have made it to the Final Four, but it has been 27 years since the last time it happened (Michigan in 1992, Kansas in 1988 and Providence in 1987).
• When you're looking for potential Final Four teams, your eyes don't wander to the 7/10 matchups on the bracket. But last year was the first time in five years that neither a No. 7 nor a No. 10 was among the last four standing. Before UConn's 2014 run to begin the streak, neither seed had gotten that far in the modern era.
• Last year, Loyola-Chicago became the fourth No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four (joining LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011). Those four trips are more than the Nos. 6, 7, 9 and 10 seeds have in the modern era.
For what it's worth, there are definitely some 7s and 10s with tournament pedigree this year, like Louisville, Cincinnati and Florida.
They are No. 1s for a reason
Despite all the talk about upsets in this column, when it comes to picking a winner, going with a No. 1 seed is a strong percentage play. In the modern era, 62 percent of champions have been 1-seeds, but the No. 1 vibe is even stronger when we look at the past 20 years.
• No. 1s have won 14 titles in that span. The other six titles have been split by 3-seeds (three), 2-seeds (two) and 7-seeds (one). In the past 12 years, No. 1 seeds have won nine championships and no other seed has more than one.
• 1-seeds also have the most championship-game losses in the past two decades with seven. However, six of those seven losses came against other No. 1 seeds. The only exception came in 2016, when No. 2 seed Villanova beat No. 1 seed North Carolina on Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beater.
Common traits of recent champions
What do each of the past 10 champions have in common?
• Top 35 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency
• Top 30 strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com
• Member of a major conference
• Had won a national championship previously
• Had a player who was a first-, second- or third-team All-American
Which teams in this year's field fit the bill?
Since All-America teams won't be announced for another couple of weeks, we will replace that element with teams who have a first-team all-conference selection instead. Here are the teams we are left to choose from:
(Listed in order of seed)
Duke (1), North Carolina (1), Kentucky (2), Michigan State (2), Kansas (4), Maryland (6)
Here are other facts of note, related to cutting down the nets on April 8:
• In the modern tournament era (since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985), only two champions came from a conference that received fewer than four bids ... and none since 1990. Louisville and "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison won in 1986 from the three-bid Metro Conference, while Tark the Shark and the dynamic 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels represented the Big West Conference, which also received three bids. This year, Gonzaga is the only top-four seed from a conference that received fewer than four bids.
• Much has been said in this column about the shortcomings of No. 6 seeds in the tournament, but they have won two championships. Which is two more than No. 5 seeds have. Three 5-seeds have reached the title game, but it has been nine years since that has happened (Butler in 2010, in addition to Indiana in 2002 and Florida in 2000). No. 5s remain the only top-eight seed without a championship.
NOTE: References are since 1985, unless otherwise noted
Below is a little something on each of the 32 conferences. Some are known as underachievers, while others are perennial threats to pull a surprise.
The America East can forever lay claim as the conference that supplied the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1. UMBC's shocking blowout of Virginia was only the conference's fourth win in the first round, and its first since 2005. But don't let the lack of wins cloud your view of how competitive America East teams have been against high seeds. Two years ago, Vermont hung around against No. 4 seed Purdue before falling by 10, and Albany put up a good fight three years in a row, from 2013 to 2015, against No. 2 Duke (lost by 12), No. 1 Florida (lost by 12) and No. 3 Oklahoma (lost by 9). This year, Vermont got a 13-seed and will face Florida State on Thursday in Hartford.
Fans of the American Athletic Conference like to think back to simpler times, when things were fresh and new, because there haven't been many good memories since. In 2014, four teams made the tournament, two made the Sweet 16 and one team, UConn, became the first No. 7 seed in the modern era to not only reach the Final Four but win the championship. In the four years since, no American team has made it past the first weekend, and the conference has a total of five wins in that span. The games have not lacked for drama, though, as six of the 10 first-round games in the past four years have been decided by one or two points. Last year, Houston suffered a heart-breaking loss to Michigan on Jordan Poole's buzzer-beater in the second round, but the Cougars are back and even more dangerous this year, as a 3-seed.
When it comes to Atlantic 10 teams in the tourney, there is a lot to say, and it's really about whether you are a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full person.
If you are the former, you would say that no A-10 teams have reached the Sweet 16 in the past four years, the conference's longest such dry spell. If you are the latter, you would point out that the league hasn't had a team seeded higher than seventh in those four years, so they weren't expected to get that far. Then you would happily explain the following:
The A-10 had a double-digit seed win a first-round game seven straight years (2011-17), a streak that came to an end last year. No other conference in NCAA tournament history has done that in more than four consecutive tournaments (Pac-12 from 2012-15 and Conference USA from 2015-18). And for good measure, you would add that the past four Sweet 16 teams from the Atlantic 10 have been seeded 10th or worse.
This is the first time in 12 years the conference failed to get at least three bids. However, if your glass is truly half full, Saint Louis is double-digit seed (13).
No conference has been more prolific than the ACC in terms of sending teams to the tournament in recent years. This is the fourth straight year the league has sent at least seven teams to the Dance, the longest current streak in the nation. But getting through the first weekend has been problematic, even for the highest seeds.
Two years ago, just one of the ACC's nine tourney teams reached the Sweet 16 (national champion North Carolina), as two No. 2 seeds and a No. 3 lost in the second round. Last year, while four of the nine teams got to the Sweet 16, No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina were eliminated in the first two rounds, and no teams reached the Final Four for the first time in four years.
As mentioned earlier, the ACC received a trio of No. 1 seeds. Will they avoid the upset bug this time around?
Atlantic Sun teams have been very competitive in recent years, including 14th-seeded Mercer's upset of Duke in 2014 and FGCU becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 in 2013. This year, Liberty received a No. 12, the conference's best seed since 2001.
You could say the Big 12 has generally underachieved in the first 22 years of existence, when you consider it averages 5.7 bids per year (1.3 of which are top-two seeds).
Despite those numbers, the conference has totaled just nine Final Fours, three championship-game appearances and one title (Kansas in 2008). Getting over the hump has been hard for the league, as teams are just 3-10 in Elite Eight games over the past 10 years.
The past two years have provided some hope in the early rounds, though. After seeing seven top-five seeds eliminated in Round 1 between 2012 and 2016, that didn't happen at all in 2017 and 2018. And in the past three tournaments, Big 12 teams are 10-1 in the second round.
That said, it's a greater challenge than usual this year, because the conference is without a top-two seed for the first time in 20 years, and just the second time ever.
The Big 12 received six bids, but there's no powerhouse Kansas team to lean on this time around, as the Jayhawks are a No. 4 this year. Texas Tech is the highest-seeded Big 12 team this year, as a No. 3 in the West region.
It has truly been championship or bust for the "new" Big East, during its five years with the current membership. And when I say "Big East," I really mean Villanova. The Wildcats have won two of the past three national championships, but other than that, it's been pretty ugly. Despite receiving 28 bids in this five-year span -- 10 of which have been top-four seeds -- the conference has had just five teams reach the Sweet 16 (they are 5-12 in second-round games). While Villanova has obviously carried the mail for the league, they have also failed to deliver by losing in the second round the three years they didn't win the title ... all as a top-two seed. To make matters worse this year, while the league was ultra-competitive, this year's highest seed is Marquette, which got a No. 5 in the West region. The only other time the Big East's best team didn't get a top-four seed was in the conference's second year, back in 1981, when Boston College was a 5-seed. Heck, this is the first time the Big East didn't have a top-two seed since 2001 (also Boston College, as a 3-seed).
The Big Sky is just 3-34 in the NCAA tournament since 1985 and has just one win in the 2000s, when Montana defeated Nevada in 2006 as a 12-seed. The conference has not received a seed that high since then. This year, Montana is making its second straight appearance, as a No. 15 in the West region. The Grizzlies will get a rematch of their first-round game from last year, when they gave eventual national runner-up Michigan some trouble early before falling by 14.
The Big South hasn't had it easy in the NCAA tournament. This is the 18th time in 28 appearances that the conference's representative got a 16-seed. That goes a long way toward explaining why the Big South has just one win in the round of 64. That win came 12 years ago, and by the only conference team ever seeded better than 13th (Winthrop, as a No. 11 seed, defeated Notre Dame). Gardner-Webb is making its NCAA tournament debut, and the Bulldogs will face a tall order by the name of Virginia on Friday.
It's been a long wait for a championship for the Big Ten. It's been 19 years since Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell took Michigan State all the way. Since then, the seven conference teams to reach the title game have come up short, including Michigan last year. Is this the year the Big Ten gets back in the winner's circle? Michigan State and Michigan are both 2-seeds, and Purdue is a No. 3.
Big West Conference teams have just one win in the round of 64 in the past 13 years (No. 13 seed Hawaii over Cal in 2016). Simply put, Big West teams haven't been able to overcome the low seeds that have become a regular thing. That 2016 Hawaii team actually has the Big West's only first-round win for teams seeded 13th or worse (1-19). Interestingly, No. 12 seeds are 3-3 in the modern era, and only once in the past 26 years has the conference earned a better seed than that. This year, 13-seed UC Irvine enters the tournament with 16 straight wins.
The Colonial Athletic Association has been giving NCAA tournament opponents fits for years, but doesn't have a ton of wins to show for it. The CAA hasn't won a first-round game in each of the past six years, its longest such streak in the modern era. While 2006 George Mason and 2011 VCU were 11-seeds when they reached the Final Four, the last win by a CAA squad seeded 13th or worse came in 2002, when Brett Blizzard and UNC Wilmington knocked off USC. That said, if you go back to 2001, 18 of the past 22 first-round games involving CAA teams have ended in victory or a single-digit loss (14 by five points or less). Northeastern is this year's rep, which should make Kansas nervous.
Despite receiving just one bid and getting no better than a 12-seed, Conference USA has won a game in each of the past four years. Last year, Jon Elmore led 13-seeded Marshall past Wichita State. The two years before that, Middle Tennessee took down a pair of Big Ten teams as a 12- and 15-seed, and in 2015 14th-seeded UAB upset Iowa State. Will 14th-seeded Old Dominion extend the streak this year? The Monarchs will square off with Purdue on Thursday.
Things just haven't been the same for the Horizon League since Butler left. The league's seven-year winless streak in the tournament win is its longest ever. Butler has 13 of the Horizon's past 14 tourney wins (Cleveland State has the other), which dates back to 2007. Poor seeding has the Horizon swimming upstream, as this is the eighth straight year the conference representative has been seeded 13th or worse (Northern Kentucky is a No. 14 seed in the West region). The lowest-seeded league team to win an NCAA tournament game was 14th-seeded Xavier in 1991, when it was called the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
The Ivy League champion has been a handful for first-round opponents in recent years. Ivy teams are 4-5 in the first round the past nine years, with the only double-digit loss coming last year from a No. 16 seed (Penn lost by 16 to Kansas). Of the other four losses in that span, three have come by exactly two points. There has been a difference in competitiveness between 12- and 13- seeds and teams seeded 14th or worse, as you might expect.
Teams seeded 14th or worse are 1-13 with three single-digit losses. No. 13 seeds still have just one win (1-6), but with a pair of two-point losses to bluebloods in 2011 (Princeton vs. Kentucky) and 2015 (Harvard vs. North Carolina). No. 12s have had the most success (3-4, with all losses by single digits).
This year, Yale is a 14-seed in the East, so LSU should expect a fight on Thursday. The Bulldogs won their first NCAA tournament game in 2016 when they beat Baylor as a No. 12 seed.
The MAAC hasn't had a team win a game since 2009, when Fran McCaffery was coaching No. 9 seed Siena to a double-OT victory over Ohio State. For the fourth straight year, Iona won the MAAC tournament, and the Gaels have had a different seed each of those years. They have lost by an average of 17 points in the first round as a 13-, 14- and 15- seed, and this year they will play North Carolina as a 16-seed.
Last year, the Mid-American Conference got a monkey off its back when Buffalo became the first MAC team to win an NCAA tournament game since 2012, when it throttled Arizona by 21. That was as a No. 13 seed. This year, it's a completely different story, as the expectations sixth-seeded Buffalo carries into this year's Big Dance are unlike any a MAC team has experienced in the modern era. Since 1985, the highest seed the MAC had received until this year was a No. 9, done on three occasions (Ball State in 1989, Eastern Michigan in 1996, Kent State in 2008). If you go back to 1979, when seeding began and the field was smaller, Toledo was a No. 5 that year and won one game to reach the round of 16. The MAC has had just one Sweet 16 team in the past 16 years (Ohio in 2012) and one Elite Eight team in the modern era (Kent State in 2002). On the 20th anniversary of Wally Szczerbiak and Miami (Ohio) dashing to the Sweet 16 as a 10-seed, will Buffalo give the MAC something new to celebrate?
The MEAC hasn't played a first-round game since 2016, as its teams have lost in the First Four the past two years. On the positive side, the conference does own three of the eight wins by No. 15 seeds in the first round (the only conference with multiple wins as a 15-seed), the last coming when Norfolk State shocked Missouri in 2012. On the contrary, all 25 of their losses in the first round have come by double digits (an average of 23.8 points). The MEAC has never received anything better than a 14-seed, and even that has happened only twice in the past 35 years. For the fourth time in five years, the MEAC rep (North Carolina Central) will trek to Dayton for the First Four. If NCCU beats North Dakota State, it will face top-seeded Duke on Friday.
Missouri Valley Conference teams are on quite a run, with the latest hit being Loyola-Chicago's fun ride to the Final Four last year as an 11-seed. But the conference has another feather in its cap, too. The Valley is the only conference to win a first-round game each of the past six years without a loss (9-0), and has done so despite its teams being seeded fifth or worse in eight of those nine games, including four double-digit seeds the past three years. The MVC has at least one NCAA tourney win in seven straight years despite supplying no more than two teams in any of those years. This is the third straight year the conference has just one representative, as Bradley makes its first appearance since making a its surprising run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed in 2006. The task is even taller this time around, as the Braves are the lowest-seeded Valley team ever, as a No. 15 in the East. They will face Michigan State in the first round.
To say the Mountain West Conference has struggled in the tournament would be an understatement. The conference is 22-47 overall (.319 win pct.) and just six teams have advanced to the Sweet 16 in the first 19 years of its existence. The MW has never had a team reach the Elite Eight, and No. 7 seed Nevada and No. 8 seed Utah State hope to be the first to do that.
The Northeast Conference is the only conference that has never won a first-round game (0-30), and NEC teams haven't come close to that elusive victory very often, either. Only once in the past 20 years has an NEC team come within single digits of its opponent in the round of 64 (Robert Morris lost to Villanova by 3 in overtime in 2010). As is often the case, the inability to earn a better seed is a constant struggle. No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson is this year's automatic qualifier, making it 17 straight years the conference has gotten a 15- or 16-seed. Even worse, this is the seventh straight year the selection committee has sent the NEC rep to First Four, meaning a trip to the round of 64 is still a win away. Overall, NEC teams are just 2-4 in the First Four.
Since 1985, the Ohio Valley Conference has won just six first-round games, all coming in a pair of three-year bunches (one win each from 1987-89 and 2010-12). In all other years, the conference is 0-28 in the first round, with each loss the past six years coming by double digits. Murray State is back as a 12-seed this year, but the real news is 11th-seeded Belmont making the field as an at-large.
The only other time the OVC placed multiple teams in the field was 1987. That year, the automatic qualifier, No. 14 seed Austin Peay, shocked Illinois, making Dick Vitale deliver on his promise to stand on his head if the Govs won (look it up!), while the at-large entry, No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee, lost to Notre Dame by 13.
Murray State is the last OVC team to win a game in the tourney, when they beat Colorado State as a No. 6 seed in 2012.
Last year, the Pac-12 became the first power conference to go winless in an NCAA tournament since the SEC in 1989. If the regular season is any indication, the conference's outlook isn't any more positive this year. The Pac-12 received three bids, thanks to Oregon stealing one, and the highest seed is No. 9 Washington, making this the first time since 2012 that the conference didn't have a team seeded sixth or better. As far as Arizona State and Oregon are concerned, there is a positive spin to put on both being double-digit seeds. In the past 10 years, Pac-12 teams seeded 10th or worse are 9-2 in the first round. The Pac-12 has had four teams placed in the First Four in the past three years, including ASU each of the past two years. Overall, the conference is just 1-4 in the First Four.
The Patriot League has won just three first-round games in its history and just one in the past 12 years. The past two years, though, Bucknell has put up a good fight, losing by four to No. 3 Michigan State last year, and by six to No. 4 West Virginia in 2017. This year, Colgate is making its first tournament appearance since 1996, when Adonal Foyle was the big man on campus and the Raiders hung tough with top-seeded UConn. They are the No. 15 seed in the South and will face Tennessee on Friday.
Last year, the SEC received eight bids, its most ever, but only two teams reached the Sweet 16, and none made the Elite Eight. That's not the norm, though, as the conference has had at least one team reach the Elite Eight in 21 of the past 27 years. It's been seven years since the conference's last championship, but with seven teams in this year's field, including high seeds like Tennessee (2), Kentucky (2) and LSU (3), the SEC is poised to make some noise.
The lack of NCAA tournament wins for the Southern Conference is rather surprising when you consider how competitive its teams have been over the years. Would you believe that the only wins the conference has in the past 21 years are the three that Stephen Curry and Davidson strung together on the way to the Elite Eight in 2010? Since 1985, SoCon teams are just 3-31 in the first round. However, in six of the past nine years, the conference rep lost by eight points or fewer, despite being seeded 12th or worse in each game. Last year, UNC Greensboro just fell just short against fourth-seeded Gonzaga 68-64. This season, Wofford ran the table in the SoCon and is in a position to end this dry spell as a No. 7 seed, the second-highest seed in conference history. The Terriers will face Seton Hall on Thursday.
Stephen F. Austin has represented the Southland Conference quite well over the past five years, with a pair of wins (as a 12- and 14-seed) and a pair of competitive losses (also as a 12- and 14-seed) in the first round. That was a refreshing change from the previous struggles for the conference. From 1986 to 2013, Southland teams were 1-26 in the first round. Will NCAA tournament first-timer Abilene Christian be able to pull a surprise as a 15 seed?
The SWAC has just one first-round win in its history. That was 26 years ago, when Southern upset Georgia Tech by 15 points. That Jaguars team was seeded 13th, which is the last time a SWAC team wasn't a 15- or 16-seed in the tournament. Since then, the conference has lost 17 straight first-round games, 10 of which have been decided by more than 20 points. Prairie View A&M will face Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Four, the eighth time in 11 years the SWAC has had a team in the First Four or opening-round game. The conference is just 2-8 in such games, dating back to 2002.
This is the ninth straight year that either North Dakota State or South Dakota State has been the Summit League's automatic qualifier. North Dakota State, which is a 16-seed this year, has the conference's only first-round win in the past 20 years. The Bison upended No. 5 seed Oklahoma in overtime in 2014. NDSU pushed No. 2 seed Gonzaga in its last trip to the Dance in 2015. If they are to get a chance to give another high seed trouble, the Bison will have to take care of North Carolina Central in the First Four.
The Sun Belt has certainly had its share of moments in recent years. The conference has won four first-round games in the past 11 years, three as a 12-seed (Little Rock in 2016 and Western Kentucky in 2008-09) and one as a 14- seed (Georgia State in 2015). This year, Ron Hunter and No. 14 seed Georgia State hope to provide another bracket-busting moment for the Sun Belt when the Panthers face Houston on Friday.
The West Coast Conference has won at least one first-round game 11 straight years and 15 of 16. But let's be real here: It's almost entirely about Gonzaga putting the WCC on its back. The Zags have won their first-round game 10 straight years, while the rest of the conference has just five wins total in the past 22 years, not counting the First Four. Also, thanks to Gonzaga, the WCC has had a Sweet 16 team in a conference-record four straight years. This year, the conference has two teams in the field (Gonzaga and Saint Mary's). Only three times in conference history have two WCC teams won first-round games in the same year (2000, 2010, 2017).
It's been 12 years since a Western Athletic Conference team has won a game in the tourney. In each of the past four years, the losses have come by double digits. New Mexico State is making its seventh trip in the past eight years, as a 12-seed in the Midwest region. The Aggies will face Auburn on Thursday.
Below are more notable facts about many (but not all) of the teams and coaches in this year's field. They are listed in alphabetical order so that finding one that interests you is easier.
Facts are from the modern era (since 1985) unless noted otherwise.
Since seeding began 40 years ago, the Sun Devils have just six tournament wins and have won more than one game in a single tourney just once. In 1995, they reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 5 seed, led by Mario Bennett and Ron Riley. ASU's only win in the past 15 years came in 2009 over 11th-seeded Temple.
This is the first time the Tigers have been to back-to-back tournaments since 1999-2000. Auburn has never lost a round of 64 game (8-0), and that's despite the fact that it was a 7-seed or worse in six of those eight games. Most of those first-round games have been nail-biters, too, with six of the eight decided by four points or less. Bruce Pearl is hoping to reach the Sweet 16 with his third different school (Milwaukee, Tennessee).
For Scott Drew and his Bears, the second-round game has never been the problem. It's just a matter of whether they get there. Under Drew, Baylor is 4-3 in the first round, with two of those losses coming as a No. 3 and No. 5 seed. But in the four years the Bears won their first-round matchup, they made a pair of Elite Eights (2010, 2012) and a pair of Sweet 16s (2014, 2017). The degree of difficulty will be a bit higher this year, as this is the first time since 2008 they are worse than a 6-seed.
Rick Byrd and the Bruins are looking for their first NCAA tournament victory (0-7). In their previous seven appearances, they lost by at least 12 points six times. The only exception was their near-upset of Duke back in 2008, when they fell just short 71-70. This ties for Belmont's best seed, as they lost to Arizona as an 11-seed back in 2013.
The Bulls are in the tournament for the fourth time in five years, but the previous three trips came as Nos. 12, 13 and 14 seeds. While they played well in each of those appearances, including an impressive 21-point win over fourth-seeded Arizona last year, the expectations will be completely different this time around. Interesting storyline alert: Nate Oats was an assistant under Bobby Hurley, who left for Arizona State after taking Buffalo to the 2015 tournament. The Bulls will face Hurley's Sun Devils in the round of 64 if ASU beats St. John's in the First Four.
This is the Bearcats' ninth straight tournament appearance, all under Mick Cronin. Cincinnati has just one Sweet 16 appearance in the past 17 years (2012 as a No. 6 seed).
Mike Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to 12 Final Fours in 34 tournament appearances, including five national championships (four as a No. 1 seed, one as a No. 2). This is just the second time in the past eight years that Duke earned a No. 1 seed. The importance of the Blue Devils' ascension back into 1-seed territory in the season's final week, which had everything to do with the return of Zion Williamson, cannot be overstated. Why, you ask?
Duke has not reached the Final Four in any of its past seven appearances as a No. 2 seed, dating back to 1997. In that span, they have failed to survive the first weekend four times.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have won the championship two of the past three times they were a No. 1 seed. Essentially, it's been title game or bust for them as a top seed. The past 10 times they have been a No. 1 -- dating back to 1999 -- Duke has reached the title game five times (winning three championships) and lost in the Sweet 16 the other five times. There has simply been no in between.
This is just the third time the Gators have been seeded worse than seventh. The previous two times, they lost in the first round as a No. 10 seed in 1995 and 2010. The Gators are once again a 10-seed this year.
Last year, the Seminoles reached the Elite Eight for the first time in 25 years, and did so as a No. 9 seed. This year, as a No. 4 seed, the road shouldn't be as difficult early on ... or so it would seem. The last two times they received a seed this high, they were bounced in the second round. In both 2012 and 2017, they were 3-seeds, only to be eliminated by No. 6 Cincinnati and No. 11 Xavier, respectively.
The Zags are a tournament fixture, with this being their 21st consecutive appearance. That's right, it's the 20-year anniversary of their run to the Elite Eight as a 10-seed. Not only has Gonzaga won 10 straight first-round games, it is the only team to reach the Sweet 16 each of the past four years. This year marks their third appearance as a No. 1 seed. In 2013, they were upset by Wichita State in the second round, but in 2017 they reached the title game before falling to North Carolina.
Houston Cougars basketball is officially back! Last year, they won their first tournament game since Phi Slama Jama made three straight Final Four trips from 1982 to 1984. That was nice after a 34-year wait, but there is unfinished business to take care of after last year's heartbreaking second-round defeat at the hands of No. 3 seed Michigan when Jordan Poole beat the buzzer. This year, the Cougars are a No. 3 seed.
Quirky stat alert: The Hawkeyes have just three NCAA tournament wins in the 2000s, all as a No. 7 seed in the first round (2001, 2015, 2016). This year, their mission is to take down a No. 7 seed in the first round.
All good things must come to an end. And so it is that two amazing Jayhawks streaks came to an end this year: 14 straight years with at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and nine straight years as a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. This year's No. 4 seed is their lowest since 2006, when they were also a No. 4 and lost to Bradley in the first round. KU, however, did extend its record of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances to 30.
And there are more streaks to keep alive as well. KU has won 12 straight first-round games and, more impressively, has made three straight Elite Eight appearances. Never before have they made four Elite Eights in a row.
The Wildcats ran all the way to the Elite Eight last year as a No. 9 seed. This year, they will try to be the first K-State team in the modern tournament era to reach the Sweet 16 in consecutive years.
John Calipari's teams have reached the Elite Eight in nine of his past 12 trips to the Dance (six out of eight at Kentucky). This year, the Wildcats are a No. 2 seed, which has been good news for Big Blue Nation recently. In four trips as a top-two seed under Calipari, the 'Cats have reached the Elite Eight all four times, losing in the national semis twice and winning the title in 2012. In Calipari's past 10 tourney appearances as a top-two seed -- at Kentucky, Memphis and UMass -- he failed to get as far as the Elite Eight just once (2009 at Memphis, losing in the Sweet 16).
The Tigers earned their best seed since getting back-to-back No. 1 seeds in 1980 and 1981. Despite four Final Four trips in school history, they have never made it to the championship game. In 2006, John Brady coached LSU to the Final Four as a No. 4 seed, but the Tigers have just one NCAA tournament win since then, in 2009 as a No. 8 seed. Will this talented team be able to avoid distractions and make a run?
Louisville has had plenty of tournament success through the years, but never when seeded worse than sixth, as is the case this year (it is the No. 7 in the East region). The Cards have just one win in the six appearances in which they were seeded seventh or worse, and they lost by double digits in five of the six losses, as well. That win came in 1992 as a No. 8 seed over Wake Forest.
Head coach Steve Wojciechowski won four NCAA tournament games as a player at Duke in the late '90s. Now, he's trying to win his first tourney game as a head coach. After the Golden Eagles missed the tournament three straight years from 2014 to 2016, this is their second trip in the past three years under Wojciechowski.
The Terrapins have won 12 of their past 13 first-round games, dating back to 1998. However, that success hasn't carried over to the second round, at least not in recent years. The Terps have just one Sweet 16 appearance in the past 15 years (2016); they have lost five of their past six second-round games.
It's not hard to appreciate what John Beilein has done in Ann Arbor. Back in 2012, the Wolverines were upset in the first round by No. 13 seed Ohio in a disappointing end to a good season, one that put Michigan basketball back in the national conversation.
The sting from that loss didn't last long, and it's worth noting how the Wolverines have fared the past three times they were a top-four seed. Last year, they lost in the championship game as a No. 3 seed. In 2014, they reached the Elite Eight as a 2-seed. And in 2013, they fell in the title game as a 4-seed. This year's team is certainly talented enough to make another run, as a 2-seed in the West.
The Spartans are in uncharted territory. They have failed to reach the Sweet 16 in three consecutive years for the first time during the Tom Izzo era. As the No. 2 seed in the East region, they are favored to end this mini-drought, but then again Michigan State has been a top-three seed twice in these past three years. It doesn't hurt to have Big Ten Player of the Year, Cassius Winston, running the show for a Hall of Fame coach.
Oh, how we long for the days of Bobby Jackson and Sam Jacobson. Since the Golden Gophers' Final Four season in 1997, they have just one NCAA tournament win. On a positive note, this is just the second time since then that they have qualified for the tourney in consecutive years.
The Bulldogs are back in the Dance for the first time in 10 years. The last time they advanced to the second week of play was 23 years ago, when Erick Dampier, Darryl Wilson, Dontae' Jones & Co. made a surprising run to the Final Four as a 5-seed. Maybe getting a No. 5 seed this year is a good omen.
The Wolf Pack were this close to their first Elite Eight last year, but lost to Loyola-Chicago by one point. They are trying to win an NCAA tournament game in consecutive years for just the second time in school history (2004-05).
New Mexico State
It's been 26 years since the Aggies won an NCAA tournament game. They've lost their past 10 games since then, all as a No. 12 seed or worse. The seeding issues remain, as they are a 12-seed. They will face Auburn in the first round.
When it comes to Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, you can count on a win in the first round. As drivers hope to do in the Daytona 500 each year, Williams has avoided "the big one" and is 28-0 in his career in the round of 64.
Of the 115 teams to play at least four first-round games since 2000, North Carolina is the only one not to lose. In fact, the Heels are 30-1 in the round of 64 all time. The only loss came in 1999 when the third-seeded Tar Heels were upset by Weber State, who were led by Harold "The Show" Arceneaux with 36 points.
Expectations are high once again in Chapel Hill, and Coach Williams' UNC teams have handled them extremely well. In seven previous appearances as a No. 1 seed under Williams, North Carolina has reached at least the Elite Eight every time, and they won the title three times in five Final Four trips.
As a top-four seed, the Boilermakers have often disappointed and never exceeded the expectations related to their seed. In 12 appearances as a 4-seed or better, they have failed to reach the second weekend half the time and have advanced to the Elite Eight just once. Purdue's history as a No. 3 -- which is what the Boilers are this year -- is particularly troubling. All four previous times they have been a 3-seed, they have lost in the second round.
Any college basketball fan can tell you it's been a while since St. John's was a factor in March Madness. But did you know the Johnnies have just five wins since legendary coach Lou Carnesecca retired following the 1992 tournament? To make matters worse, three of those wins came during their 1999 trip to the Elite Eight.
Last year, the Pirates got their first tournament victory since 2004. This year, they will try to do something they haven't done since 2000 -- win two games. That year, the Hall won a pair of overtime games as a No. 10 seed, before losing to Oklahoma State by two in the Sweet 16 without star point guard Shaheen Holloway, who was injured in the previous game. And guess what? The Pirates are a 10-seed this year. Wofford awaits in Round 1.
The Orange have reached the Sweet 16 in four of their past five trips to the tourney, including an Elite Eight (2012) and two Final Fours (2013 and 2016). They were seeded first, fourth, 10th and 11th in those trips, so being a No. 8 seed this year will not affect them one bit.
Fran Dunphy, who will step away as head coach following the tournament, is 2-7 at Temple in the Big Dance. Those wins came as a No. 7 and 9 seed, but his only tourney win while at Penn (his previous stop) came as a No. 11 seed in 1994 over Nebraska. That's exactly what the Owls are seeded this year, as they face Belmont in the First Four.
This ties for the highest seed in school history. The previous two times the Vols earned a No. 2 seed, both under Bruce Pearl, the ending was rather disappointing. In 2008, they lost to third-seeded Louisville in the Sweet 16 by 19 points, shooting 34 percent from the field. In 2006, they were upset by No. 7 Wichita State in the second round. Last year, Tennessee suffered similar disappointment as a No. 3 seed, losing to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago when Clayton Custer's shot bounced in with 3.6 seconds left. So, why should Vols fans have hope this year?
Other than obviously having a talented team, Rick Barnes reached the Elite Eight each of his three previous NCAA tourney trips as a top-two seed -- all while at Texas -- including a Final Four trip as a No. 1 seed in 2003. Tennessee is still looking for its first Final Four appearance in school history, and its only Elite Eight came in 2010 as a No. 6 seed.
For the second straight year, the Red Raiders are a No. 3 seed, this time despite losing their Big 12 tournament opener (a bad omen for national title hopefuls, as discussed above). Last year, Chris Beard took them to their first Elite Eight, and he has a star in Jarrett Culver who can give them a chance to do it again. Tech will be looking to win a tournament game in back-to-back years for just the third time in school history.
It's OK if you don't remember the Aggies' 1970 team that reached the West regional final. Unfortunately for Utah State fans, they are just 1-15 in the NCAA tournament since then. That win came in 2001 over Ohio State in overtime as a No. 12 seed. This year, the Aggies received their best seed ever, a No. 8 in the Midwest region.
In the past three years, Villanova has one fewer NCAA tournament win (13) than the Pac-12 has as an entire conference (14). For the first time in six years, the Wildcats are not a top-two seed (they are a No. 6). They have been hit or miss in their past nine appearances, either reaching the Final Four (including two titles in the past three years) or failing to escape the first weekend. How will the defending champs fare without the pressure of being a high seed?
Earlier in the column, we detailed how Virginia's bracket has been home of the Cinderella the past five years. The Hoos have been eliminated by a team seeded at least five spots lower in three of the past four years, so is this the year the Cavaliers turn things around? Their recent history as a No. 1 seed doesn't paint a pretty picture.
In three previous trips as a No. 1 under Tony Bennett (2014, 2016, 2018), they lost in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and first round, respectively. As the top seed in the South region, whether UVA can reach the Final Four for the first time in 35 years will be one of the top storylines to follow in this tournament.
The only time the Hokies ever won more than one game in a single tournament was in their first appearance back in 1967, when they won a pair of games to reach the Elite Eight. Since then, they have just one tourney win in four different decades ('70s, '80s, '90s and '00s). Buzz Williams took Marquette to three consecutive Sweet 16s (including one Elite Eight) from 2011 to 2013, but he's still looking for his first tournament win in Blacksburg. The past two years, the Hokies were seeded eighth and ninth, but this year they are a No. 4, the best seed in school history.
In just his second season, Mike Hopkins has the Huskies in the tournament for the first time in eight years. They have won their first-round game in each of their past five appearances, dating back to 2005.
The Badgers return to the tourney after they had their streak of 19 consecutive appearances snapped last year. Not only has Wisconsin won 10 of its past 11 first-round games, but it has reached the Sweet 16 in each of its past four appearances and six of the past seven. The true test of how tournament-tough the Badgers have been lies in the varying seeds they have had in those past four trips: 8, 7, 1 and 2. This year, they are a No. 5 seed.
Thank you to Chris Fallica and Bryan Ives from ESPN Stats & Information for their contributions to this column.