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Daniel Wilco | | February 16, 2021

What consistently strong schedules mean come March Madness

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It’s one of the most well-known statistics in college basketball: Strength of schedule. Sure, your team played 30-plus games this year, but your record lacks context without evaluating the level of competition it played.

RELATED: What having the hardest SoS means for your NCAA tournament hopes

It’s also one of the factors in March Madness selections.

So which teams have been consistently playing the toughest opponents each year? We looked at every DI team’s strength of schedule as of Selection Sunday for the past eight years and averaged their scores:

*Note: Strength of schedule rankings are based on official NCAA data

Rank Team Conference Average SoS
1 Kansas Big 12 8.5
2 Duke ACC 8.7
3 North Carolina ACC 9.7
4 Florida SEC 15.8
5 Baylor Big 12 15.9
6 Louisville ACC 18.6
7 Kentucky SEC 23.4
8 Villanova Big East 24.3
9 Wisconsin Big Ten 24.5
10 Michigan St. Big Ten 26.3

When it comes to constantly strong schedules, most of these names shouldn’t surprise you.

For starters, all of the top 10 come from a major conference. The ACC has a slim lead with three teams represented, while the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC have two each, and the Big East has just one. The Pac-12 is the only major conference not represented.

But a tough schedule is one thing; how a team performs 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 10 teams have gone 2594-881, for a winning percentage of .746. There have only been two losing seasons among this group since 2010 — Villanova in 2012 and Florida in 2015.

The 10 teams have also earned 89 NCAA tournament bids since 2010. For context, that’s 13 percent of all available bids, taken by less than three percent of all possible teams. That three percent has also earned a No. 1 seed 23 times in those 10 seasons, accounting for an impressive 57.5 percent of the available No. 1 seeds.

This group has also won roughly 70 percent of its NCAA tournament games during the time period examined.

  NCAAT wins NCAAT losses Percentage
Duke 26 8 76.5%
Kansas 24 10 70.6%
UNC 24 8 75.0%
Florida 18 8 69.2%
Kentucky 31 8 79.5%
Baylor 11 7 61.1%
Michigan State 21 10 67.7%
Louisville 16 7 69.6%
Wisconsin 18 9 66.7%
Villanova 17 7 70.8%
TOTAL 206 82 71.5%

But there is still plenty of success among the group. Nine of the 10 have been to at least one Final Four in this time span (Baylor has not). Kentucky leads the way with four trips to the Final Four since 2010, while Michigan State has been to three and six of the top 10 (Duke, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Villanova and Wisconsin) have been to two each. Louisville's participation in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was later vacated.

The top 10 also accounts for six of the last 10 national champions. 

2018 Villanova 36-4 12
2017 North Carolina 33-7 13
2016 Villanova 35-5 13
2015 Duke 35-4 13
2014 Connecticut 32-8 27
2013 Louisville 35-5 7
2012 Kentucky 38-2 28
2011 Connecticut 32-9 9
2010 Duke 35-5 11

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. 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.

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