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Beware of the Dog in the Elite 8

   by ASA - 03/28/2008

The tip off of the Elite 8 is just hours away and potential underdogs are salivating at the mouth. Recent history has shown the regional finals to be a good spot for the underdogs. Will this year be the same?

Over the last six NCAA Tournaments, Elite 8 underdogs have gone 15-8-1 ATS, going 2-2 ATS or better in each season. Of those 24 underdogs, 10 have won outright, including six in the last two years.

Last year, Georgetown and UCLA advanced to the Final Four as two-seeds, downing one-seeds Kansas and North Carolina as underdogs. Last year was one of the rare seasons in which seven of the top eight teams actually advanced to the Elite 8. Wisconsin, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, was the only team seeded one or two that didn’t advance that far.

In 2006, LSU, UCLA, Florida and George Mason all went into their Elite 8 matchups as lower-seeded underdogs. Each advanced to the Final Four with the Gators, a three-seed, eventually coming out on top.

In 2005, none of the four underdogs won outright but Kentucky and Wisconsin earned ATS wins while West Virginia earned a push.

In 2004, the underdogs went 2-2 ATS with St. Joe’s and Xavier each picking up ATS wins. St. Joe’s, the top-seed in its region, was actually a 3.5-point dog in its Elite 8 matchup with Oklahoma.

In 2003, the underdogs went 3-1 ATS with three outright victories, with a two-seed and two three-seeds each ousting the top seed in its region. Third-seeded Marquette downed top-seeded Kentucky as seven-point dogs, second-seeded Kansas took out top-seeded Arizona as two-point dogs and third-seeded Syracuse beat top-seeded Oklahoma as three-point dogs. Syracuse and Kansas eventually met in the championship with the Orange coming out on top.

In 2002, none of the four dogs was able to advance to the Final Four but Missouri and UConn both picked up ATS wins.

The Elite 8 has also been the last hurrah for numerous top seeds over the years. Of the last 24 top seeds, 16 have been eliminated before reaching the Final Four. Of those 16 teams, nine have bowed out in the Elite 8.

Last year, top seeds North Carolina and Kansas fell in the Elite 8 as favorites. In 2006, top seeds Memphis, UConn and Villanova each fall in the regional finals. Top-seeded St. Joe’s lost in the Elite 8 as an underdog in 2004. The previous year saw top seeds Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma all fall before reaching the Final Four. Of these seven Elite 8 losses, three came against two-seeds, three came against three-seeds and one came against an 11-seed.

There is another interesting trend that has developed over the past six years in regards to how these top seeds have fallen prematurely. Of the 16 top seeds that have fallen before the Final 4, 11 of those losses came against opponents that won their previous game ATS.

There hasn’t been a case in which all four top seeds made the Final Four since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. Additionally, only four times since 1978 has the top-ranked team going into the tournament actually won the national championship.

This goes to show that we will very likely see a top seed fall before the Final Four. It’s just a matter of determining which one it will be and who it will be to. Just remember to beware of the dog when the Elite 8 rolls around.

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