ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Michigan State – Easiest Path into the NCAA Championship Game in Tournament History (2010)?

Updated on August 7, 2020

I've had a few discussions with a friend at work, Matt Tevelow, and although I am not a basketball fan at all (especially not the NBA or WNBA) and I watch when it's turned on in a bar or something. Anyways, Matt and I had discussed a week or so ago, just as March Madness was heating up how the ranking system worked. I had never put much thought into it, however he wrote an article about, that explains some of the complexities of the seeded rankings. He asked me to post his view on the NCAA's seeding process and here it is:

In the 25 years since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams, there have been just 4 teams seeded 5th or higher to have made it to the championship game. Only one, the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks – seeded 6th, have won it. One reason for this lack of lower seeds is the difficult path they must take to the championship.

The advantage of getting a high seed in the tournament is having an easier road through the field. If there were no upsets, the one seed would play against teams seeded 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1 to get to the championship (adding all the seeds together you get a combined score – later called scratch score - of 31). By comparison, a five seed would play teams seeded 12, 4, 1, 2 and 1 (a combined score of 20). A lower combined score generally equals a more difficult path.

If Michigan State makes it past 5th seeded Baylor, they may have the distinction of the easiest path for team seeded 5 or higher in tournament history. To get to the championship game they will have faced teams seeded 12, 4, 9, 6 and 5. The highest seeded team was Maryland; whom they faced in their second game and required a buzzer beater to win. The combined score for the teams faced is 38, which is almost double the scratch score of 20 they would have had if there were no upsets.

All of the other teams to make the championship seeded 5 or higher also had upsets ease their path. Indiana in 2002 (seeded 5th), Florida in 2000 (seeded 5th) and Michigan in 1991 (seeded 6th) all made it to the championship game, but had to face teams seeded at least one and three to reach that point. The other team to make it was Kansas in 1988 (seeded 6th), who beat Oklahoma to win the tournament. To get to the championship game they played teams seeded 11, 14, 7, 6 and 2. This results in a combined score of 40…22 higher than the scratch score of 18 for a 6 seed. The 1988 Kansas team may rival the current Michigan team for easiest path, but they did have to go through a 2 seed. This year’s Michigan team faced no higher than a 4 seed, which I think gives them the edge.

When looking at the easiest road ever to the championship, the 1990 UNLV Rebels may have that distinction. They were the number 1 seed, which generally results in an easier path, but due to upsets they faced teams seeded 16, 8, 12, 11, and 4 (a combined score of 51!)

Facing higher or lower seeds guarantees nothing. Highly ranked teams fall all the time and the one-and-done nature of the tournament makes it highly unpredictable. Michigan has taken care of their business; but having an unprecedented number of higher seeds cleared out without ever having to face them has contributed to their success.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)