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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | March 3, 2018

Why losing streaks don't matter in March Madness

Are you sitting down? Because you probably should before reading this: Losing streaks don't really matter when filling out your NCAA tournament bracket.

What!? Blasphemy!

Yes, you read that second sentence correctly. Go back and read it again if you want. There's a variety of strategies basketball fans employ when making their March Madness picks: which school's colors they like better, which team's mascot might win in a theoretical fight, which school's name is more fun to say and yes, how teams have recently performed on the court.

We're here to dispel that final notion, or myth, if you will. We analyzed the last 20 years of NCAA tournament results and found that 68 teams entered the tournament on a losing streak of at least two games. Forty of those teams (just over 58 percent) won their Round of 64 matchup.

Length of Losing Streak Number of Teams Combined Tournament Wins Avg. Tournament Wins Per Team
Five losses 1 0 0.00
Four losses 2 1 0.50
Three losses 15 13 0.87
Two losses 50 64 1.28

In total, those teams combined for 78 wins in the NCAA tournament, including 16 Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and five Final Fours, so more than a third of those teams made the second weekend, if not further.

Tournament Finish After Losing Streak Number of Teams
First Four 2
Round of 64 26
Round of 32 16
Sweet 16 16
Elite Eight 3
Final Four 5

This data doesn't suggest that you should automatically pencil in a team on a three-game losing streak into the Final Four, but don't write off a team in the first round just because it left a sour taste in your mouth when you saw that it lost its regular-season finale and its first-round matchup in its conference tournament.

Here's a complete list of teams in the last 20 years that have entered the tournament on a losing streak of at least two games.

Year School Losing Streak Tournament Finish
2017 Florida 2 games Elite Eight
2017 South Carolina 2 games Final Four
2017 Oklahoma State 3 games Round of 64
2017 Butler 2 games Sweet 16
2017 Dayton 2 games Round of 64
2016 Vanderbilt 2 games First Four
2016 Wisconsin 2 games Sweet 16
2016 Iowa State 2 games Sweet 16
2016 Syracuse 3 games Final Four
2015 Oklahoma State 2 games Round of 64
2015 Ole Miss 2 games Round of 64
2015 St. John's 2 games Round of 64
2014 North Carolina 2 games Round of 32
2014 Kansas State 3 games Round of 64
2014 Arizona State 3 games Round of 64
2014 Iowa 3 games First Four
2013 Oklahoma 2 games Round of 64
2013 Minnesota 3 games Round of 32
2013 La Salle 2 games Sweet 16
2013 California 2 games Round of 32
2011 Villanova 5 games Round of 64
2011 Wisconsin 2 games Sweet 16
2011 Purdue 2 games Round of 32
2011 Georgetown 4 games Round of 64
2010 Clemson 2 games Round of 64
2010 Missouri 2 games Round of 32
2010 Villanova 2 games Round of 32
2010 Syracuse 2 games Sweet 16
2009 Connecticut 2 games Final Four
2009 California 2 games Round of 64
2009 Clemson 2 games Round of 64
2008 Louisville 2 games Elite Eight
2008 Indiana 2 games Round of 64
2007 Vanderbilt 2 games Sweet 16
2007 Virginia 2 games Round of 32
2007 Stanford 2 games Round of 64
2007 UCLA 2 games Final Four
2007 Duke 3 games Round of 64
2006 West Virginia 2 games Sweet 16
2006 North Carolina State 4 games Round of 32
2006 Alabama 2 games Round of 32
2006 Oklahoma 2 games Round of 64
2006 Wisconsin 3 games Round of 64
2005 Charlotte 3 games Round of 64
2004 Wake Forest 3 games Sweet 16
2004 Memphis 2 games Round of 32
2004 Providence 3 games Round of 64
2004 North Carolina 2 games Round of 32
2003 Florida 3 games Round of 32
2003 Maryland 2 games Sweet 16
2003 Alabama 2 games Round of 64
2003 Cincinnati 2 games Round of 64
2002 Georgia 2 games Round of 32
2002 UCLA 2 games Sweet 16
2001 Georgia 2 games Round of 64
2001 Virginia 2 games Round of 64
2001 Notre Dame 3 games Round of 32
2001 Xavier 2 games Round of 64
2000 Indiana 2 games Round of 64
2000 North Carolina 2 games Final Four
2000 Syracuse 2 games Sweet 16
2000 Purdue 2 games Elite Eight
1999 Purdue 3 games Sweet 16
1999 Iowa 2 games Sweet 16
1998 Michigan State 2 games Sweet 16
1998 West Virginia 3 games Sweet 16
1998 Western Michigan 2 games Round of 32
1998 Oklahoma State 2 games Round of 32