clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Can Teams That Lose Big Ultimately Win Big?

Do big losses like North Carolina's to Florida State or Baylor's to Kansas ordinarily signify the end for those teams' national title hopes?

Getty Images

Human beings are emotional creatures (I'm crying right now), which makes them naturally susceptible to overreacting in the heat of the moment.

Nowhere in 2012 is this more evident than on Twitter, a tool which affords folks the opportunity to let the world know exactly how they're feeling at any given moment in time. Predictably, the result is often a person saying (or tweeting) something they may have meant at the time, but which a few moments of reflection reveal to be foolish.

People often tweet in absolutes. Take, for instance, the recent ugly losses by then-top five teams North Carolina and Baylor. You couldn't refresh your timeline without seeing something akin to "great teams don't lose by 30 or points" in UNC's case, or "this is why you can't take Baylor serious as a national title contender."

The common thought is that no one game during the course of a college basketball season can be an accurate reflection on that season as a whole. That said, do these people have a point? Do teams with the potential to win a national title ever get blown out by 18 (Baylor to Kansas) or 33 (Carolina to Florida State) points?

The largest regular season margin of defeat for a team that eventually went on to win the national championship is 27 points by the 1964-65 UCLA Bruins. So, basic math tells us that history is not on North Carolina's side, despite the fact that the Tar Heels were the near-unanimous preseason pick to cut down the nets in April.

But just how much of an anomaly is that UCLA team?

John Clay helps us out with the statistical breakdown:

Of note:

--Just one national champion in the past 17 years (Maryland in '02) has suffered a defeat by 20 points or more, and only three have not suffered a loss by double-digits.

--The two Kentucky national champions ('96 and '98) and the '04 Connecticut team are the only title-winners between now and 1990 whose largest defeat came in a non-conference game.

--Total number of national champions who have lost a game by 25 or more points: 2.

--Total number of national champions who have lost a game by 20 or more points: 6.

--Total number of national champions who have lost a game by 15 or more points: 29.

Basically, 15-20: You're cool; just regroup, re-focus and remember that it's a long season.

20-25: You've got a lot of things you need to get straightened out, but it's been done before. Crazy things can happen in college basketball.

25 or more: Is your head coach John Wooden or Dean Smith? Ok, well this probably isn't going to end well.

So like just about every other squad in the sport, the one team left standing at the end of the NCAA Tournament will have been susceptible to the occasional off night. The national champion usually has a bad night or two, but it also generally avoids completely losing face in the process.

Baylor, you're cool. North Carolina, you're going to have to buck history.