COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — As a 1 seed, North Carolina had the weight of high expectations entering the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In winning their sixth national title Monday, the Tar Heels did even better than 1 seeds typically do.
In fact, over the last three decades, North Carolina has outplayed their seed more consistently than all but one team, a Capital News Service analysis found.
Top seeded teams win just over three games on average in the tournament, which requires six victories to win (excluding the play-in games), as this graphic shows.
Since 1985, North Carolina’s seeding predicts the team should have won 71.73 games in the tournament. They’ve actually won 88 games, or 16.27 more than expected. The only team with a better record of exceeding expectations: Kentucky, with 16.85 extra wins.
While Duke has more wins during that period than any other team – 90 – they were also expected to win more games than everyone else.
For schools with at least 15 tournament appearances, Pittsburgh was the worst. The team had more wins than their seed predicted in only four out of 19 tournaments.
What about coaches? Some coaches, like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, have mastered the art of exceeding expectations.
Izzo has won 14.42 more games than his seeds predicted, highest amongst coaches with at least 10 tournament appearances.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has the most wins of any coach in the tournament with 90, but ranks seventh when it comes to meeting expectations.
Gonzaga’s Mark Few, who coached the losing team Monday night, has done about as well as expected; he’s won 1.45 more games than his seeds predicted.
At the other end, former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson was more than 10 games under his expected wins. His teams did better than their seed in just over a third of their appearances.