What began as a simple experiment three years ago has now become a yearly obsession! I must complete this year’s version of the Choker’s Index at all costs! Do you know why? Because I need to be able to identify the teams that will wreck your brackets.
If you’re not familiar with the Choker’s Index, it’s a deep-dive into the data that surrounds which NCAA men’s basketball teams have a historical record of choking the big game and thusly… destroying your bracket. It’s heady stuff.
I hear you cry, “But this isn’t real estate? What’s going on Tre?!?”
Ok, I hear you, and here’s where I share something truly deep and heartfelt… ok, ready? Here I go… I do other stuff besides real estate. “Gasp!”
Now with the pleasantries out of the way, make way for the heavy lifting.
How the Choker’s Index Works
First, the ground rules:
- Only schools that’ve been to 15 or more NCAA tournaments since the field was expanded to 64 in 1985 are included.
- Losing to a team seeded worse than yours counts. Losing to a better team doesn’t. When you’re a #10 and you get beat in the opening round by that #7, we’re not concerned.
- Opening rounds games count the most. As the tournament progresses, the factor is reduced slightly each round.
- The bigger the defeat, the more it costs you! If you’re the #1 seed and you fall to the #2 in the fourth round, that only costs you a half point. No biggie. But when the #15 knocks out the #2 in the opening round… BLAM!
Last Year’s Results
When I add last year’s chokers to the spreadsheet, we now have 32 years of data. That’s a decent-sized dataset boy.
One thing I chart is the average total of Choker Points. That number is now 37.61. So, years when the yearly total is lower, that’s a year we didn’t see many upsets in our brackets. To be specific, that year was 2009 with a paltry 11.18. Weak sauce!
The worst offender that year was Illinois (#5) when they lost in the first round to Western Kentucky (#12). Everything else was a small change.
Our craziest, most upset-ridden, year was 1990. Check these out!
- Missouri (#3) lost to Northern Iowa (#14) in the 1st Round: 11 Choker Points
- Illinois (#5) lost to Dayton (#12) in the 1st Round: 7 Choker Points
- Louisville (#4) lost to Ball St. (#12) in the 2nd Round: 6.72 Choker Points
- Purdue (#2) lost to Texas (#10) in the 2nd Round: 6.72 Choker Points
- Michigan (#3) lost to Loyola Marymount (#11) in the 2nd Round: 6.72 Choker Points
- Oklahoma (#1) lost to North Carolina (#8) in the 2nd Round: 5.88 Choker Points
- Arizona (#2) lost to Alabama (#7) in the 2nd Round: 4.2 Choker Points
- Kansas (#2) lost to UCLA (#7) in the 2nd Round: 4.2 Choker Points
- Syracuse (#2) lost Minnesota (#6) in the 3rd Round: 2.68 Choker Points
- Xavier (#6) lost to Texas (#10) in the 3rd Round: 2.68 Choker Points
- Georgetown (#3) lost to Xavier (#6) in the 2nd Round: 2.52 Choker Points
- Michigan St. (#1) lost to Georgia Tech (#4) in the 3rd Round: 2.01 Choker Points
- UConn (#1) lost to Duke (#3) in the 4th Round: 1 Choker Points
- Indiana (#8) lost to California (#9) in the 1st Round: 1 Choker Points
That’s a whopping total of 64.33 Choker Points for the year during the 1990 NCAA Tournament. If only every year was that much fun!
Last year’s 2016 NCAA Tournament was far less volatile. Here are the chokers who shouldn’t have lost.
- Michigan St. (#2) lost to Middle Tennessee St. (#15) in the 1st Round: 13 Choker Points
- Purdue (#5) lost to Arkansas Little Rock (#12) in the 1st Round: 7 Choker Points
- Arizona (#6) lost to Wichita St. (#11) in the 1st Round: 5 Choker Points
- Texas (#6) lost to Northern Iowa (#11) in the 1st Round: 5 Choker Points
- Xavier (#2) lost to Wisconsin (#7) in the 2nd Round: 4.2 Choker Points
- Kentucky (#4) lost to Indiana (#5) in the 2nd Round: 0.84 Choker Points
- Kansas (#1) lost to Villanova (#2) in the 1st Round: 0.5 Choker Points
- North Carolina (#1) lost to Villanova (#2) in the Final Game: 0.17 Choker Points
This was a fairly average year for Choker Points with a total of 35.71.
2017 Choker’s Index
Now let’s look at all the years and all the schools!
With this in mind (because we know data can’t lie) here are the Top 10 teams that will wreck your brackets in 2017:
- Notre Dame | Spread -6.5 – Won by 2
- UCLA | Spread -18
- Michigan | Spread -2.5 – Won by 1
- Gonzaga | Spread -22 – Won by 20
- Michigan St. | Spread +2
- Wisconsin | Spread -5.5 – Won by 10
- Arizona | Spread -16.5 – Won by 18
- Kansas | Spread -23
- Villanova | Spread -26.5 – Won by 20
- Louisville | Spread -20
(First Round Updated: 3/17)
These aren’t the upsets, these are the favorites that choke to a lower side. How Kansas isn’t higher on this list, I have no idea.
Play responsibly my friends, and don’t make me say, “I told you so.”