I know you probably haven’t had a chance to sit down and analyze this weekend in its true historical context, so I just want to assure you that your first impression is correct. The brackets really did hold true the first two rounds. In fact they did so to an unprecedented extent.
Snootiest Sweet 16s
1985 to now
2009 3.06 (All four ones, twos, and threes)
1989 3.13 (All four ones and twos)
2007 3.19 (All four ones; no seed lower than a six)
1995 3.19 (All four ones and twos)
1996 3.69 (Three ones, all four twos)
1991 4.00 (All four ones, three twos)
1993 4.06 (All four ones, two twos)
Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, this is the first year where the top 12 seeds have gone a perfect 24-0 the first weekend.
So should we be alarmed? Enacting sweeping reforms? Forming blue-ribbon Presidential commissions? I’m not so sure.
Remember this: it was just three short years ago that everyone was bent out of shape because the 2006 Final Four had no one-seeds. It was universally assumed that year that Duke and Connecticut would play for the national championship. The bracket was set up for that to happen. Instead we got teams like LSU, UCLA, George Mason, and Florida.
Besides, we’ve gone through this before. As seen above, things looked very chalky indeed for a while there in the mid-1990s, only to revert to salutary chaos by 1999. That year’s historically wacky Sweet 16 had more double-digit seeds (four) than twos, threes, and fours combined (three).
Nor do I buy the theory that the committee has just gotten so much better at seeding these teams. Sure, I think that overall the committee did a pretty good job this year, but I don’t suppose any group that gave Boston College a seven-seed can be termed particularly sharp-witted, much less historically so.
I think it’s more likely that this year’s results are a combination of design and luck. Design in the sense that the committee did indeed seed the teams pretty accurately, and the best teams played well enough to win. Luck in the sense that Marquette could have very easily beaten Missouri (of course Utah State could have very easily beaten Marquette), Western Kentucky could have very easily beaten Gonzaga, USC took Michigan State down to the wire, and, hey, for a heartbeat there it even looked like overall one-seed Louisville was in trouble against Siena.
Not to mention there is an underdog still alive in this field. Let’s all pull for those scrappy overachievers from Arizona!