March Madness: Teams that consistently have the toughest schedules and how they perform
It’s one of the most well-known statistics in college basketball: Strength of schedule. Sure, you played 30+ games this year, but your record is meaningless without evaluating the level of competition you played.
It’s also one of the bigger factors in March Madness selections.
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When it comes to constantly strong schedules, most of these names shouldn’t surprise you.
For starters, all of the top ten come from a major conference. The ACC has a slim lead with three teams represented, while the Big 12, Big East, and Big Ten have two each, and the SEC has just one. The Pac-12 is the only major conference not represented (California is its highest ranked team, at No. 27).
But a tough schedule is one thing. How you perform against it is another. And for the most part, these teams have lived up to the high level of competition.
In this time span, the ten teams have gone 1941-681, for a win percentage of 74. There have only been four losing seasons among this group since 2010 — Villanova in 2012, Florida in 2015, and Georgetown in 2016 and 2017.
The ten teams have also earned 70 NCAA tournament bids since 2010. For context, that’s 14 percent of all available bids, taken by less than 3 percent of all available teams. That 3 percent has also been the 1-seed 17 times, accounting for an impressive 53 percent of the available 1-seeds.
So how did that success translate to NCAA tournament play? Well, in this time frame, these ten teams have played over 200 NCAA tournament games, and have a win percentage of 69.5. Slightly less than their regular-season performance, but one key difference could skew these stats: Teams can only get one NCAA tournament loss per year. Another piece that doesn't help the group is Georgetown's performance. The Hoyas are 2-5 in the NCAA tournament since 2010, making them the only one of the ten teams with a losing record.
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But there is still plenty of success among the group. Eight of the ten have been to at least one Final Four in this time span (Georgetown and Baylor have not). Michigan State leads the way with three trips to the Final Four since 2010, while four of the top 10 (Duke, UNC, Louisville, Wisconsin) have been to two each.
The Top 10 also accounts for five of the last eight national champions.
Connecticut and Kentucky are both just barely outside of the Top 10 average strength of schedule at Nos. 11 and 13, respectively.
So what can we take from this?
Teams that consistently play the toughest schedules are, more often than not, great choices to make runs in March (unless they’re Georgetown, which has missed three tournaments and not advanced past the Round of 32 in this time span). Strength of schedule is by no means an all-telling statistic, but facing tough teams year after year tends to be great practice for staying power come tournament time.