NCAA Men’s Regionals Finals: Expect close games

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

English: National Collegiate Athletic Associat...

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While we may not be able to accurately pick which of the four teams will win their regional finals games this weekend, one thing is pretty sure: the games will be close.

Case in point: Of the 16 regional finals games from 2009-12, 11 were decided by seven points or less. In fact, the average margin of victory in those 16 games was 7.06.

Going back to 1985 when the NCAA went to a 64-team tournament, blowouts (for the purpose of this article, we’ll define a blowout as a win by 20 points or more) were much more common from 1985-99 than in this century. From 1985-99, there were 13 regional finals games decided by 20 points or more. Since 2000, there has not been a single regional final decided by 20 points or more.

Here’s a look at the final margin of victory in regional finals games since 1985 (totals since 2000 are listed in parenthesis). Note: 112 regional finals games have been played since 1985; 52 have been played from 2000-12

Margin of victory, number of games, pct (since 2000)

1-3 points: 24 games, 21.4% (10 games, 19.2%)
4-9 points: 38 games, 33.8% (19 games, 36.5%)
10-19 points: 37 games, 37.0% (23 games, 44.2 %)
20 points or more: 13 games, 11.6% (0 games, 0.0%)

The last regional final decided by 20 or more points was in 1999 when Duke defeated Temple, 85-64. Since then, the largest margin of victory has been 19 points, accomplished twice in regional finals games in 2008. Since 2009, no regional finals game has been decided by more than 13 points.

The largest margin of victory in a regional final since 1985 was 37 points, one of only two regional final games that were decided by 30-plus points since ’85. That 37-point game was in 1989 when Michigan beat Virginia, 102-65.

Here’s a look at the five regional final games that have had the biggest margin of victory since 1985.

Margin of victory, score, year

37: Michigan 102, Virgina 65, 1989
30: UNLV 131, Loyola-Marymount 101, 1990
27: Indiana 106, UCLA 79, 1992
25: Kentucky 106, Florida State 81, 1993
25: Utah 76, Arizona 51, 1998

Of the 13 teams that won a regional final by 20 points or more, six lost in their first game in the Final Four, four lost in the Final Four title game, and three won the title game. The three that won the title game: Michigan (1989), UNLV (1990) and Kentucky (1996).

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp


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