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2014 NCAA March Madness Cheat Sheet


At this time of year, we all fill out our NCAA March Madness tournament brackets. The guy in shipping and receiving who paints his face orange like a basketball for every Syracuse home game fills out one, maybe two. Your old basketball coach submitted his brackets too – you know, the guy who still wears short shorts at The Y for Sunday morning pickup. And your girlfriend submits one as well. I know you still remember that she beat you last year because “Gonzaga” was a funny name for a basketball team and she pushed forward Wichita State instead.

I analyzed round-by-round March Madness data since the field was first expanded to 64 teams for the 1985 tournament. I summarized my findings in the following series of articles which you will want to read if you fit any of the descriptions above:

Do you ever look at the back of the crossword puzzle book for the answers? Think of my series of articles as the crossword puzzle and this cheat sheet as the “back of the book”. So, if you trust me, I mean really, really trust me, you could proceed with reading my cheat sheet below, fill out your brackets and thank me later. I'll take a coffee if you finish third in your pool, drinks are on you if you're runner-up and I won't accept anything crazy if you win it all. How does a steak dinner sound?

FREE: Download our FREE March Madness Bracket!

Before I get into the results of my analysis, I have provided some information and data below to help you make your picks. I have listed every team that has qualified for the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, their seed, their coach, their conference, whether it is a major or mid-major conference, their coach's past tournament successes and the program's tournament win-total during the past three seasons.

SOUTH REGIONAL

Seed-School

Coach

Conference

Category

Previous
Tournament
Wins for Coach

Tournament
Wins Over
Past 3 Years

1 - Florida1,2,3

Billy Donovan4

SEC

Major

31

9

2 - Kansas1,2

Bill Self4

Big 12

Major

35

10

3 - Syracuse1

Jim Boeheim4

ACC

Major

52

8

4 - UCLA1,3

Steve Alford

Pac-12

Major

5

1

5 - VCU

Shaka Smart

A-10

Mid-Major

7

7

6 - Ohio State1

Thad Matta

Big 10

Major

23

9

7 - New Mexico3

Craig Neal

Mtn West

Mid-Major

0

1

8 - Colorado

Tad Boyle

Pac-12

Major

1

1

9 - Pittsburgh

Jamie Dixon

ACC

Major

11

1

10 - Stanford1

Johnny Dawkins

Pac-12

Major

0

0

11 - Dayton

Archie Miller

Atlantic 10

Mid-Major

0

0

12 - Stephen F. Austin2,3

Brad Underwood

Southland

Mid-Major

0

0

13 - Tulsa2,3

Danny Manning

Conf. USA

Mid-Major

0

0

14 - Western Michigan2,3

Steve Hawkins

Mid-American

Mid-Major

0

0

15 - Eastern Kentucky3

Jeff Neubauer

Ohio Valley

Mid-Major

0

0

16 - Albany3

Will Brown

America East

Mid-Major

0

0

16 - Mount St. Mary's3

Jamion Christian

Northeast

Mid-Major

0

0

1Previous NCAA tournament champion.
2Won or shared their 2013-14 regular season conference title.
3Won their conference tournament in 2014.
4Iconic coach.

EAST REGIONAL

Seed-School

Coach

Conference

Category

Previous
Tournament
Wins for Coach

Tournament Wins Over Past 3 Years

1 – Virginia2,3

Tony Bennett

ACC

Major

3

0

2 - Villanova1,2,3

Jay Wright

Big East

Major

12

0

3 - Iowa State3

Fred Hoiberg

Big 12

Major

2

2

4 - Michigan State1,3

Tom Izzo4

Big 10

Major

39

4

5 - Cincinnati1,2

Mick Cronin

American

Major

3

3

6 - North Carolina1

Roy Williams4

ACC

Major

63

7

7 - Connecticut1

Kevin Ollie

American

Major

0

6

8 - Memphis

Josh Pastner

American

Major

1

1

9 - George Washington

Mike Lonergan

Atlantic 10

Mid-Major

0

0

10 - St. Joseph's3

Phil Martelli

Atlantic 10

Mid-Major

6

0

11 - Providence3

Ed Cooley

Big East

Major

0

0

12 - Harvard2

Tommy Amaker

Ivy

Mid-Major

3

1

13 - Delaware2,3

Monte Ross

Colonial

Mid-Major

0

0

14 - North Carolina Central2,3

LeVelle Moton

MEAC

Mid-Major

0

0

15 - Milwaukee3

Rob Jeter

Horizon

Mid-Major

1

0

16 - Coastal Carolina2,3

Cliff Ellis

Big South

Mid-Major

8

0

1Previous NCAA tournament champion.
2Won or shared their 2013-14 regular season conference title.
3Won their conference tournament in 2014.
4Iconic coach.

WEST REGIONAL

Seed-School

Coach

Conference

Category

Previous Tournament Wins for Coach

Tournament
Wins Over
Past 3 Years

1 - Arizona1,2

Sean Miller

Pac-12

Major

11

5

2 - Wisconsin1

Bo Ryan

Big 10

Major

16

4

3 - Creighton

Greg McDermott

Big East

Major

2

2

4 - San Diego State2

Steve Fisher

Mtn West

Mid-Major

23

3

5 - Oklahoma

Lon Kruger

Big 12

Major

14

0

6 - Baylor

Scott Drew

Big 12

Major

6

3

7 - Oregon1

Dana Altman

Pac-12

Major

4

2

8 - Gonzaga3

Mark Few

West Coast

Mid-Major

15

3

9 - Oklahoma State

Travis Ford

Big 12

Major

1

0

10 - BYU

Dave Rose

West Coast

Mid-Major

4

3

11 - Nebraska

Tim Miles

Big 10

Major

0

0

12 - North Dakota State2,3

Saul Phillips

Summit

Mid-Major

0

0

13 - New Mexico State3

Marvin Menzies

WAC

Mid-Major

0

0

14 - Louisiana-Lafayette3

Bob Marlin

Sun Belt

Mid-Major

0

0

15 - American3

Mike Brennan

Patriot

Mid-Major

0

0

16 - Weber State2,3

Randy Rahe

Big Sky

Mid-Major

0

0

1Previous NCAA tournament champion.
2Won or shared their 2013-14 regular season conference title.
3Won their conference tournament in 2014.
4Iconic coach.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Seed-School

Coach

Conference

Category

Previous Tournament Wins for Coach

Tournament Wins Over Past 3 Years

1 - Wichita State2,3

Gregg Marshall

Miss. Valley

Mid-Major

5

4

2 - Michigan1,2

John Beilein

Big 10

Major

13

6

3 - Duke1

Mike Krzyzewski4

ACC

Major

82

5

4 - Louisville1,2,3

Rick Pitino4

American

Major

48

10

5 - Saint Louis2

Jim Crews

Atlantic 10

Mid-Major

2

2

6 - Massachusetts

Derek Kellogg

Atlantic 10

Mid-Major

0

0

7 - Texas

Rick Barnes

Big 12

Major

20

1

8 - Kentucky1

John Calipari4

SEC

Major

36

10

9 - Kansas State

Bruce Weber

Big 12

Major

11

2

10 - Arizona State

Herb Sendek

Pac-12

Major

7

0

11 - Iowa

Fran McCaffery

Big 10

Major

2

0

11 - Tennessee

Cuonzo Martin

SEC

Major

0

0

12 – N.C. State1

Mark Gottfried

ACC

Major

7

2

12 - Xavier

Chris Mack

Big East

Major

4

2

13 - Manhattan3

Steve Masiello

MAAC

Mid-Major

0

0

14 - Mercer2,3

Bob Hoffman

Atlantic Sun

Mid-Major

0

0

15 - Wofford3

Mike Young

Southern

Mid-Major

0

0

16 - Cal Poly3

Joe Callero

Big West

Mid-Major

0

0

16 - Texas Southern3

Mike Davis

SWAC

Mid-Major

7

0

1Previous NCAA tournament champion.
2Won or shared their 2013-14 regular season conference title.
3Won their conference tournament in 2014.
4Iconic coach.

THE FIRST ROUND*

*The first round is now technically the four games that open the tournament and whittle the field from 68 to 64. I'm sorry Mr. NCAA, but we all still call the opening Thursday/Friday games “The First Round”.

1. The 1 through 3-seeds are virtual locks to advance to the next round.

2. About 25% of 4-seeds are an unexpected miss – a possible sign of experienced coaches looking ahead.

3. A 5-seed will be upset two times out of every five; therefore, selecting two 12-seeds wouldn't be unreasonable. You should be looking to pick 12-seeds from major conferences, picking against 5-seeds from mid-major conferences.

4. A 6 and 7-seed will be upset two times out of every five games and there are pretty much two upsets a year in the 8/9 match. Therefore, it might be prudent to select one or two 11-seeds, one or two 10-seeds and two 9-seeds.

5. Teams currently participating in a major conference win between 60-70% of their First Round games. If you go with a team from a mid-major conference, consider the Atlantic 10 or West Coast. These are the only two mid-major conferences with greater than a 50% success rate over the past ten years based on their current membership.

6. In the 6/11, 7/10 and 8/9 matchups, underdog schools from major conferences have had more success than those from the mid-majors. However, mid-major favorites have had more success than major favorites.

7. All iconic coaches win at least 70% of their games in the First and Second Round. Of the new guard, Sean Miller (Arizona), Scott Drew (Baylor) and Chris Mack (Xavier) have won about 80% of their First and Second Round games.

8. The current coaches at Creighton, Iowa, Saint Louis, Memphis, Oklahoma State and Albany have had little to no success in the NCAA Tournament.

9. If you can't decide between two teams, lean towards taking coaches with more prior tournament victories. And if that's not clear cut, consider the school with the most tournament victories since 2011.

THE SECOND ROUND

1. I wouldn't be giving up on any 1-seeds yet.

2. The analysis suggests that you can start crossing off 7-seeds and any seeds 13 and higher.

3. In The Second Round, 2-seeds have won about 2/3 of their games. The numbers seem to lean towards advancing a 10-seed (not a 7-seed) if you are going to take a chance with a Second Round upset of a 2-seed.

4. Focus on the 10 through 12-seeds if advancing a high seed to The Sweet Sixteen.

5. Advancing two schools among the 10-12 seeds to The Sweet Sixteen would be a reasonable move.

6. Most teams currently playing major conferences win between 50-60% of their Second Round games.

7. 10 through 12-seeds from major conferences have a 58% winning percentage in The Second Round compared to 38% for mid-majors. If you do take a chance on a mid-major, teams from the Missouri Valley have had the most success in The Second Round over the past ten years. The Atlantic 10, Mountain West and West Coast conferences are distant runners-up.

8. 10 through 12-seeds from mid-majors (based on their conference at that time) have a 43% winning percentage in The Second Round compared to 35% for majors.

9. All iconic coaches win at least 70% of their games in the First and Second Round. Of the new guard, Sean Miller (Arizona), Scott Drew (Baylor) and Chris Mack (Xavier) have won about 80% of their First and Second Round games.

10. If you can't decide between two teams, lean towards taking coaches with more prior tournament victories.

THE SWEET SIXTEEN

1. Put an end to the Cinderella discussion. Only a small selection of upstarts have made it to The Elite Eight from a 10, 11 or 12-seed. You're wrong if you think there is a trend towards more upstarts punching tickets to The Elite Eight.

2. You should expect about six 1 through 3-seeds to advance and the remaining be filled out by the field.

3. Move forward any 1 or 2-seeds left in your bracket.

4. 3-seeds have won 50% of their Sweet Sixteen battles; however, their success depends on the level of their opponent. The 3-seeds are 41% versus 2-seeds and they win 65% of their Sweet Sixteen games when facing a higher seed.

5. Very little disparity between the success of 4 and 6-seeds and that of 10 and 11-seeds. The key determining factor is the likelihood of the higher seeds moving on even further and 4 through 6-seeds advance into The Final Four much more often.

6. You shouldn't advance any mid-majors past this point.

7. The Elite Eight is made up of a higher proportion of teams from the ACC, American, Big 10 and SEC based on the conference the school currently belongs to.

8. Over the last 10 years, 1/3 of major conference tournament winners make it to The Elite Eight. There are seven major conferences, so you'll probably want to pencil two of them in.

8. Rick Pitino (Louisville) has a great track record in The Sweet Sixteen and The Elite Eight. And, if you think their teams can make it this far, Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Steve Fisher (San Diego State) have had above average success in The Sweet Sixteen and The Elite Eight over a relatively decent sample size.

9. If you can't decide between two teams, lean towards taking coaches with more prior tournament victories. And if that's not clear cut, consider the school with the most tournament victories since 2011.

THE ELITE EIGHT

1. Over the last 10 years, just under 1/4 of major conference regular season champions make it to The Final Four. There are seven major conferences, so you'll want to advance at least one, but most likely two.

2. You will likely want to advance one or two 1-seeds to The Final Four, one 2-seed, one 3-seed depending on how many 1-seeds you expect to move on and, finally, one from the remaining field.

3. The confidence of schools above a 4-seed is growing as they have claimed victory in 47% of Elite Eight battles over the past ten years.

4. Over the past ten years, the ACC, American and Big 10 have made up 60% of Final Four qualifiers based on their current conference. The SEC and Big 12 make up 25% of the remaining 40%.

5. Rick Pitino (Louisville) has a great track record in The Sweet Sixteen and The Elite Eight. And, if you think their teams can make it this far, Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Steve Fisher (San Diego State) have had above average success in The Sweet Sixteen and The Elite Eight over a relatively decent sample size.

THE FINAL FOUR

1. The prior year's tournament winners have found it difficult to make it to The Final. Since 1985, only 17% of prior champions have made it to The Final.

2. The composition of The Final is typically made up of 1, 2 or 3-seeds that belong to a major conference.

3. The highest seed to ever advance to The Final was an 8-seed. No 7-seed has ever even qualified for The Final Four and 6-seeds have only appeared in The Final twice themselves.

4. Over the past ten years, the ACC, American and Big 10 have made up 2/3 of National Semi-Final winners based on their current conference. Hopefully you have a team from these conferences remaining to push forward into The Final.

5. I wouldn't advance teams from the Big East or Pac-12. Only 10% of schools from these conferences have advanced to The Final since 2004 based on their current conference.

6. If they make it to The Final Four, Bill Self (Kansas) and Billy Donovan (Florida) have won 70-80% of their National Semi-Final and Final games. Tom Izzo (Michigan State) is the opposite; he's only won 30-40%.

7. If you can't decide between two teams, consider the school with the most tournament victories since 2011.

THE FINAL

1. Since 1985, only ten schools out of the 29 champions had never hoisted the trophy before. A first time champion has occurred only six times over the past 20 seasons and only once in the past ten.

2. The coach with the most career tournament wins and the school with the most tournament wins since 2011 clearly have had more success in The Final over the last 20 years.

3. Dating back to 1985, history (based on the school's current conference) has shown that the national champion is more likely from the ACC, SEC or American. The same holds true for the past ten years.

4. Resist the temptation to go with the higher seed. Since 1985, a higher seed has beaten a lower seed in only six Finals and, of those six, only three games pitted teams with more than a one-seed disparity.

Download our FREE Complete 2014 NCAA Bracket, which uses all of the above cheat sheet data:

Sportingcharts -bracket -small -click


TIE-BREAKER

1. Most March Madness pools have a tie breaker for total points in the championship game. Since 1985, The Final's average is 146 points with a median of 148. The average points in the past ten Finals are 139.

2. The average points in all NCAA tournament games since 1985 are 142 with a median of 141. The average points in all NCAA tournament games over the past ten years are 137.

Good luck everyone! I will see you at Ruth's Chris in a few weeks.

Bob Sullivan writes periodically for SportingCharts.com and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.



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