Elite 8 and Final Four Picks

These rounds are all about the best teams taking control.


The Cinderella slippers usually fall off in the Sweet 16.  Double-digit seeds 4-25 in this round since 2003.  Also, picking the top 2 seeds to advance to the Elite 8 is right about a third of the time, 18 times of 60 since 2002.  13 of the 18 teams that entered the tournament with an adjusted efficiency margin over 30 won a Sweet 16 game.  This round is all about the best teams taking control as 4-6 of the kenpom top 10 and 7-8 of the kenpom top 26 usually survive to the Elite 8.

In the top half of the bracket, the top seed has won 31 of 42 times against a 4 or 5 seed.  Of the seven 4/5 seeds that upset a 1 since 2010, six underdogs were in the top 20 in adjusted offensive or defensive efficiency.  Of the 1 seeds that fell, five were ranked worse than 16 in either offensive or defensive efficiency.

In the bottom half, a similar pattern can be found with 2 v 3 or 6 seeds.  The 2 seed has won 21 of 29 times against a 3 or 6, with six of those upsets by a team that specializes in one side of the ball.  In 3 v 7 seeds, the match-up is surprisingly close, each seed winning 4 times.  In all but two of the 3/6/7 upsets, the underdog’s speciality matched opposite the favorite’s speciality (offensively focused underdog v. defensively focused favorite or vice versa).

Going from eight to four teams provides even more significant trends.  Over two-thirds of all Final Four teams have been top 3 seeds, with six 4-seeds, four 5-seeds, and eight from 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 seeds since 2002.  Over a third were conference tournament champions.  Final Four teams are likely to have been top 3 in their conference during the regular season unless from the old Big East or the new ACC.  Typically, the Final Four teams consist of three from the top 10 preseason poll and one from the top 25.  Also, at least two and usually three of the kenpom top 10 advance to the Final Four.  If a mid-major rides to the Final Four, they should be in the top 10, or at least the top 12 conferences in kenpom.  Finally, FF teams should be in the top 20 in either adjusted offensive or defensive efficiency.