2018 NCAA Tournament: Stats, facts to know to fill out a March Madness bracket

How about a bucketful of figures to add to your at-home or in-office NCAA Tournament research? 


Listen, I know you love to pore over the stats and try to find the keys to unlock the best bracket possible. It’s a fun annual exercise. So what I’ve got here is a cornucopia of facts, stats and nuggets to help bring some perspective both to this year’s field and historical performance of teams and seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

What I cannot recommend is that you use these numbers explicitly to build your bracket. You’ll go crazy and contradict yourself in the process. But still, these figures are interesting to keep in mind as your make your way to a national title pick. Doing this kind of stuff brings me a lot of joy. I hope it gets you even more excited for the start of this tournament. 

[Make sure to sign up and play Bracket Games through CBS Sports by creating a pool with your office, family or friends, or filling out your bracket online.]  

[Check out SportsLine’s Upset Tournament Bracket here. Their computer simulation correctly predicted nine out of 12 double-digit seed upsets in the first round the past two years.]    

  • Highest-scoring team: Villanova (87.1 points per game).
  • Lowest-scoring team: Radford (67.4 points per game).
  • Fastest team: Oklahoma (76.8 possessions per game).
  • Slowest team:Virginia (60.5 possessions per game).
  • Best free-throw shooting team: Davidson (79.7 percent).
  • Worst free-throw shooting team: New Mexico State (64.3).
  • Best 3-point shooting team: Purdue (42.0).
  • Worst 3-point shooting team: Texas (31.5).

Most efficient offenses, adjusted points scored per 100 possessions:

  1. Villanova (127.4)
  2. Purdue (123.2) 
  3. Duke (122.6)

Most efficient defenses, adjusted points allowed per 100 possessions:

  1. Virginia (84.4) 
  2. Cincinnati (86.1) 
  3. Texas Tech (94.2)

If you want a chance to win the whole thing, best to increase your odds by entering the NCAAs with a top 40 per-possession defense and a guard reasonably expected to be drafted. Nine teams fit that criteria. Only two have two guards who apply:

Duke: 7th (Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval)
Kentucky: 23rd (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo)

The rest of the list:

Texas: 10th (Kerwin Roach Jr.)
Syracuse: 11th (Tyus Battle)
Alabama: 13th (Collin Sexton)
Villanova: 22nd (Jalen Brunson)
Florida: 25th (Jalen Hudson)
Purdue: 29th (Vincent Edwards)
West Virginia: 39th (Jevon Carter)

Tom Izzo has gotten a boost from point guard Cassius Winston, who’s tranformed into a great 3-point shooter.

80: This is the 80th NCAA Tournament. Thirty-five programs have won a national title dating to 1939, when Oregon won its only championship. The Ducks aren’t in the field this year but the three other teams from that inaugural Final Four are: Ohio State was runner-up; Villanova and Oklahoma were semifinalists. 

1: The Xavier Musketeers and Virginia Cavaliers are the highest seeded teams in the field without a national title.

6/1: Villanova’s odds, as a No. 1 seed, to win the national championship. It’s the favorite. (See all teams’ title odds here).

28: The percentage of brackets at CBS Sports that have Virginia winning it all, the most popular pick.

18.5: According to our Bracket Voodoo forecast, that’s Villanova’s title chances, the best of all schools. So the popular pick does NOT match the analytics’ pick. For perspective, 2016 Kansas was slated at 29 percent at the start of the tournament. In 2015, then-undefeated Kentucky started the tournament at 41 percent. The top five for 2018 are Villanova (18.5), Virginia (17.7), Duke (13.1), North Carolina (8.3) and Purdue (6.7).

1: Only three times has the No. 1 overall seed won the NCAA Tournament since the selection committee began ranking the No. 1s in 2004: Florida (2007), Kentucky (’12) and Louisville (’13). The No. 1 overall seed has also lost in the second round thrice. Virginia is this year’s No. 1 overall seed. Villanova was last year’s and has earned a top-line placement for the third time in four seasons.

17: Kansas has 17 wins against teams in the field, the most of any team participating. Next best is Virginia (14), then Villanova and UNC (12). Teams with no wins against 2018 tournament teams: North Carolina Central, LIU Brooklyn, Texas Southern, UMBC, Radford, Lipscomb, Cal State Fullerton, Wright State, Iona, Penn, Stephen F. Austin, Bucknell, Buffalo, Montana and Charleston.

.875: Virginia’s win percentage this season against teams in the field, the highest of any team. Kansas is second at .850. Villanova third at .800. 

O-fer: Infamously, no team has lost its first conference tournament game and then won a national title. This year, you should be suspicious of Auburn, Ohio State, Florida and Miami. 

11 of 20: In the past 20 years, 11 national champions won their conference tournament. Performance in league bracket play seems to matter little when it comes to winning the whole shebang. 

16: We know who has the most wins and fewest losses (Virginia at 31-2). But the most losses? Texas Southern (15-19), which plays North Carolina Central on Wednesday in Dayton

14: Gonzaga’s winning streak of 14 is the longest of any tournament team. The last time the Bulldogs lost was Jan. 18 at home to Saint Mary’s, which is in the NIT. 

-22.5: Virginia’s line against UMBC is the biggest of the first round. It matches Gonzaga’s opening line vs. South Dakota State last season. Nevada-Texas is the only pick-em line. Here’s every line for every Thursday and Friday game.

7: Coaches with top-four seeds to never have made a Final Four:

  1. Tony Bennett (Virginia) 
  2. Chris Mack (Xavier)
  3. Matt Painter (Purdue)
  4. Mick Cronin (Cincinnati)
  5. Chris Beard (Texas Tech)
  6. Sean Miller (Arizona)
  7. Bruce Pearl (Auburn)

Last year, Mark Few, Dana Altman and Frank Martin pulled a rarity by making it three of four coaches who were in their first Final Four in the year.

63: Combined NCAA tourney wins from Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari over the past eight seasons. Izzo, Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Lute Olson — and now Bill Self, this year — are the only coaches to make 20 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Krzyzewski’s in his 23rd straight, which ties Dean Smith’s record.

24.9: Average margin of victory for No. 1 seeds over No. 16s in the modern tournament. No. 1 seeds are 132-0. Yes, I still root against the 16s versus the 1s every single year

6 or fewer: Thinking Penn’s got a shot vs. Kansas? Well, in seven instances, a 16 seed has finished a game within two 3-pointers of a No. 1 seed. Those results were: 2013 Southern vs. Gonzaga (64-58); 1996 Western Carolina vs. Purdue (73-71); 1990 Murray State vs. Michigan State (75-71 in OT); 1989 McNeese State vs. Illinois (77-71); 1989 East Tennessee State vs. Oklahoma (72-71); 1989 Princeton vs. Georgetown (50-49); and 1985 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Michigan (59-55). 

2016: The last time all four No. 1 seeds reached the Elite Eight. Before that, it was 2009.

2008: Famously, the only time all four No. 1s reach the Final Four. But since 2010, only 10 of the 32 Final Four appearances have come from No. 1 seeds.

2017: Well, last year broke the streak. You almost never wanna go all chalk at the top on Thursday and Friday. In 2017, all 1s 2s, 3s and 4s won their first round game. Prior to that, the last time that happened was 2007. It’s happened just six times since 1985. 

54 vs. 49: No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four 54 times. That’s more than the combined Final Four showings of Nos. 4-16 since seeding began (49). 

No. 2: Only one time in the past 21 NCAA Tournaments have all four No. 2 seeds made the Sweet 16. Simply incredible. And just four times since 1985: ’89, ’95, ’96, ’09. It’s hard to do, but chances are it will happen, so which 2 are you booting from your bracket?

12: Every seed, from 1-11, has made a Final Four. When does a 12 do it? 

7: Though 7-10 games feel like 8-9 games, they’re not. The 10s have never swept the 7s with the exception of one year. 

60.4-to-1:Per bracketodds.com’s calculator, those are the chances we’ll have four No. 1 seeds reach the 2018 Final Four. 

9,223,372,036,854,775,808: The number of different possible bracket outcomes. Wondering how to pronounce that number? I got you. That would be nine quintillion, two hundred twenty-three quadrillion, three hundred seventy-two trillion, thirty-six billion, eight hundred fifty-four million, seven hundred seventy-five thousand, eight hundred eight. That’s basically the size of the universe. 

9: For the second straight season, the ACC’s nine bids lead all conferences. The SEC has a league-record eight teams in the NCAAs. 

28: Saint Mary’s, which is 28th at KenPom, is the highest team in that metric to not make the tournament, which was also true in 2016, when SMC was No. 34 and didn’t get an at-large. Last season Clemson, at 35, was the highest left out. 

34:USC’s 34 RPI set a record. The Trojans were the highest-rated team from a major conference to not get an at-large. Missouri State’s 21 in 2006 is still the all-time record, unlikely to be broken.

66:Arizona State owns a 66 RPI, making it the lowest-rated team in the field of all at-large selections. 

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Arizona State

Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils fit the profile of a team that can go from First Four to second round. 

7: In the past seven years, a No. 7 seed or lower has cracked the Elite Eight. Who will you find the will to pick this year?

26: It has been 26 years since a No. 6 seed made the Final Four. Who was it? Chris Webber and the Fab Five at Michigan.  

+.145: UMBC, a 16 seed, rates as the “luckiest” team in the field, per KenPom. In the past 16 NCAA Tournaments, the luckiest team in the field lost its first game 14 times.

28:Xavier has the most NCAA Tournament appearances (28) of anyone in the field to not make a Final Four. It also has the most Big Dance wins — 27 — of any school in college basketball without a Final Four showing. 

23/21: Tennessee coach Rick Barnes will be making his 23rd appearance in the NCAAs. That’s more than Tennessee has as a program. The Vols are in their 21st Big Dance.

2,156: The distance as the crow flies from College of Charleston to the San Diego airport. The Cougars have the longest trip of any team in this year’s field. 

13: A No. 13 seed has beaten a No. 4 in six of the past nine NCAA Tournaments. Looking at the bracket this year, Charleston over Auburn is the only 13 that’s got some buzz around it. 

14: A No. 14 has beaten a No. 3 in four of the past five NCAA Tournaments. I’ve already told you whyMontana over Michigan is a Cinderella you need to be strongly considering. 

7 > 8: Seeding matters. A 7 seed has made it to the Sweet 16 25 times since 1985. Contrast that to a No. 8, which has only gotten there 13 times. Heck, 10 seeds have reached the second weekend 23 times since the field expanded to 64 teams. You want that 2 instead of a 1 in the second round.

12:Iona is making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance. In this field, it has the most Big Dance showings without ever winning a game. The Gaels are seeded 15th and will play Duke on Thursday. 

1: The number of teams making an NCAA tourney debut. Welcome, Lipscomb!

0 for 36: The Northeast Conference is still the only league that has never won a game in the first round. If that changes this year, it might erupt the earth’s core: LIU Brooklyn needs to beat Radford in the First Four on Tuesday night and then topple No. 1 Villanova. 

29: Most consecutive NCAA tourneys: Kansas (29), Duke (23), Michigan State (21), Gonzaga (20). Kansas’ Bill Self — this is lunacy — is coaching his 18th straight NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed or better. 

16: Combined national titles in the East Region, thanks in large part to UCLA. The teams in that quadrant who’ve got banners are UCLA (11), Florida (2), Villanova (2), Arkansas (1). The Midwest has the most programs with a national title (five): Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Syracuse

1-6: Bill Self’s success rate at Kansas in getting to the Final Four as a No. 1 seed.  It happened in 2008. The Final Four that year was in San Antonio.   


If KU makes the Final Four, it will be the second time in eight tries as a 1 under Self.

9: Kansas is in its ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. No other team has ever done this (John Wooden’s UCLA run was pre-seeding). 

2.26: Are you experienced? At 2.26 average seasons of playing experience for Wichita State, the Shockers are the oldest on-the-court team in this year’s tournament. Next up: Iona, St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island. Kentucky, for the second straight season, is the greenest team in the NCAAs (a startling 0.18 years of playing experience prior to 2017-18 on this roster). Duke is right behind UK (0.67), and Alabama, Syracuse and Texas round out the bottom five. If veterans matter more to you than talent, keep that in mind.

44: A No. 12 seed has won 44 first-round games since the field expanded 1985. The 1988, 2000, ’07 and ’15 tournaments are the only ones since the field expanded in 1985 to not have a 12th seed win. Middle Tennessee got it done last year by beating Minnesota. South Dakota State, New Mexico State and Davidson are all trending this year as 12-over-5s. 

.808: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s win percentage in the second round and Elite Eight. He is 21-5 in those games (i.e., on two-day turnaround). If Michigan State gets past Bucknell, it would play TCU, Syracuse or St. Bonaventure. 

21-17: Since seeding the field began, No. 1 seeds have more national titles (21) than the rest of the seeds combined (17).

10-15: Pick at least one double-digit seed to reach the Sweet 16, because it has happened all but two years since ’85 (1995, 2007). And 15 times there have been at least three double-digit seeds who made the Sweet 16. 

7: Since 1980, there have been seven reigning champions who’ve made the Final Four the next season. Second-seeded UNC will try to be the eighth. Florida was the most recent, the Gators winning back-to-back in 2006-07.

7 for 7: Hate the First Four if you must, but the format is providing the NCAA Tournament with a vital part of the March Experience. Since the First Four was initiated in 2011, every year has seen at least one team — always one of the at-larges — win at least one game once it gets to the field of 64. Last season it was USC. Who’s it gonna be this year: St. Bonaventure, UCLA, Arizona State or Syracuse?

Now that you’ve made it this far, listen up to see how Gary Parrish and I picked each of our brackets. 

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