All of the talk around Kentucky basketball for the last couple weeks, and only increasing after Saturday’s debacle, is who is Kentucky going to be paired with come Selection Sunday this year. Many signs point to either Duke or North Carolina and that is where everybody’s focus has been. Do we want to play Duke again, even if it is in Louisville? Is North Carolina the best 2-seed? How scared should we be of either team?
I am hear to tell you that you are likely wasting your time doing so. It’s amazing how much time people spend worrying about a potential Elite 8 matchup while also admitting the NCAA Tournament is the most random of tournaments there could be. The tournament hardly ever goes as planned, which is why Warren Buffett can offer tons of money for a perfect bracket. Only once in the entire history of the tournament have all four #1 seeds made the Final Four. The tournament always has it’s share of upsets and unpredictability, and yet we just bite our nails and give ourselves ulcers over a matchup that probably won’t happen.
Consider the stats below. Since 1992, Kentucky has made the NCAA Tournament 26 times. They missed the tournament in 2013 and lost in the first round in 2008. In the other 25 times, take a look at how many Kentucky ended up playing the BEST POSSIBLE SEED for each round, not including the 1st round because they obviously would play the best seed that round. These numbers are split by where UK finished in that tournament.
(6 times) 2nd Round: 5 out of 6 (83.3%)
(3 times) Sweet Sixteen: 2 out of 6 (33.3%)
(7 times) Elite Eight: 9 out of 21 (42.9%)
(3 times) Final Four: 7 out of 12 (58.3%)
(5 times) Championship Game: 13 out of 25 (52.0%)
COMBINED: 36 out of 70 (51.4%)
In total, of the 70 NCAA Tournament games that Kentucky has played in the 2nd round or later since 1992, they have only played the best possible seed in 36 of those games, just a hair above 50%. HALF THE TIME!
Since we are mainly focusing on Elite 8 opponents, consider this stat: Since John Calipari arrived in 2009-10, in only 9 of 36 Elite Eight games have the #1 and #2 seeds in a region faced off. Just a 25% chance there.
Now look, I understand everybody wants the best possible draw to get to a Final Four. I am not saying it doesn’t matter if the very best teams at every seed line are put in our bracket. I think my point is that the reality is that as many scenarios you want to play out in your head, and especially get all worked up and upset about, it doesn’t matter at all. The tournament never plays out like you think/want. Even if Duke was to get placed in our region, there is somewhere around a 75% chance that them or us would get upset before the Elite 8.
We have a team that has a legitimate shot to make the Final Four and beyond. Worrying about the draw is unimportant if that is the case. Enjoy the ride and let the meaningless stuff go.