2011 March Madness: Eight vs. Nine Retrospective   From WhatIfSports.com image

March Madness: Eight vs. Nine Retrospective

Giving the "coin toss" game some love

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
March 11, 2011

When partaking in the ritual of filling out office brackets in March, an individual holds personal convictions to be self-evident. These philosophies include distrusting certain conferences or coaches -- I'm looking at you, Rick Barnes -- putting a premium on guard play -- can I interest anyone in some Tu Holloway? -- and, of course, advancing one's alma mater to the Elite Eight.

While each ideology can be debated, there lies one doctrine on which all can agree: The No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed matchup is a coin flip. In the 44 first-round games since 2000, the No. 8 seed has come out victorious on 23 occasions (52.27 percent of the time).

A common belief is that choosing a winner in this matchup is irrelevant, as, inevitability, said winner will meet its demise at the hands of that region's top seed in round two. That hasn't quite been the case, as the proverbial little guys have pulled off the upset 13 times since the tournament went to 64 teams in 1985 (12.5 percent of the time).

Although seemingly performing on a pedestrian platform, not all No. 8 and No. 9 seeds are necessarily equal. Some have gone on to Final Fours; others were sent home on Thursday afternoon. Which begs the question: what No. 8 or No. 9 seeds reign supreme when the sample size is increased from one game (their actual NCAA tournament game) to 51 games (the "what-if" world)? Thanks to the WhatIfSports college basketball simulation engine, we were able to decipher which former No. 8 and No. 9 seeds outperform the rest of the field.

To learn more about the memorable teams bred from this matchup the past 11 years, check out our team synopsises below:

2000 Wisconsin
Dick Bennett's Badgers stunned an Arizona club featuring future pros Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson and Luke Walton in the second round to ignite an improbable run to the Final Four. Along the way, Wisconsin dispatched Stromile Swift and the LSU Tigers in the Sweet 16 before taking care of Big Ten rival Purdue in the Elite Eight. Alas, the Badgers' Cinderella story ended at the hands of Mateen Cleaves and the Michigan State Spartans with a 53-41 defeat.

Simulate Wisconsin-Arizona

Just Out of Reach

Jason Caple Carolina's run ended in the Final Four.

2000 North Carolina
What was more perplexing: a No. 8 seed reaching the Final Four, or a team featuring stars such as Ed Cota, Joseph Forte, Brendan Haywood, Jason Capel and Julius Peppers somehow losing 13 games before the tournament? Whatever the case, the 2000 Tar Heels knocked off No. 1 seed Stanford, No. 4 seed Tennessee and a Tulsa team coached by Bill Self to win the South region and earn a trip to Indianapolis. Carolina met its demise against a Florida squad stacked with Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Matt Bonner, but their Cinderella run provided coach Bill Guthridge a fitting ride into the sunset. The longtime Dean Smith assistant retired after the season.

Simulate North Carolina-Florida

2002 UCLA
Steve Lavin has gained attention this season for transforming St. John's into a fledgling competitor with wins against powerhouse programs, but this isn't the first time the brazen coach has made a name for conquering Goliath. In 2002, then with UCLA, Lavin's lineup of present NBA players Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric sent the No. 1-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats packing with a 105-101, double-overtime thriller. Gadzuric paced the Bruins with 26 points and 13 boards, and Barnes nearly registered a triple-double with 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. The Bruins were toppled by a fellow underdog in the Sweet 16, losing to the No. 12-seeded Missouri Tigers.

Simulate UCLA-Cincinnati

2004 UAB
Before he turned around the Missouri program, coach Mike Anderson got his first head coaching experience at UAB. In his first NCAA appearance, Anderson's team took down the region's top ranked Kentucky Wildcats in a 76-75 stunner. The Blazers' Cinderella run ended in the Sweet 16 thanks to a 100-74 beat down at the hands of Wayne Simien and the Kansas Jayhawks.

Simulate UAB-Kentucky

2004 Alabama
Despite heading into the tournament 17-12, the Crimson Tide upended Josh Childress and No. 1-seeded Stanford with a 70-67 win in the second round. Mark Gottfried's squad proceeded to defeat defending national champion Syracuse in the Sweet 16 before succumbing in the Elite Eight to Emeka Okafor and the eventual 2004 champion, Connecticut.

Simulate Alabama-Syracuse

2007 Xavier
Most remember the 2007 Ohio State Buckeyes' run to the national championship game, thanks to the star power of future first-round picks Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook. What few recall is the controversial judgment that almost led to Ohio State's demise in the second round against the Xavier Musketeers. With Ohio State down two, the Buckeyes' attempt to tie went awry and Xavier forward Justin Cage brought down the errant shot for the rebound. Needing to stop the clock, Oden shoved Cage into the basket support with enough tenacity to warrant an intentional foul. Curiously, the zebras did not oblige and the Muskies were forced to shoot free throws without the guarantee of gaining possession back. Cage hit only 1 of 2 from the line, and Buckeye forward Ron Lewis hit a deep 3-pointer to send the game into overtime, where Ohio State escaped the upset with a 78-71 victory.

Simulate Xavier-Ohio State

2009 Siena
The Ohio State-Siena first-round showdown produced one of the more memorable Nos. 8-9 matchups in recent history. After a 56-56 tie in regulation, the Buckeyes led the Saints by three in overtime with just seconds to spare. Siena guard Ronald Moore, who was previously 0-for-4 from behind the arc, dropped a deep trey to send the game into double OT. Moore's heroics were called upon again, as Ohio State held a 72-71 advantage with the clock winding down. Moore drilled another 3-pointer from nearly the exact position as his first to put the Saints on top 74-72 with 3.9 seconds. An errant Evan Turner attempt gave the MAAC champions their second straight first-round upset over a "big conference" school, as the Saints had previously knocked off No. 4 seed Vanderbilt in 2008.

Simulate Siena-Ohio State

Ali Farokhmanesh

2010 Northern Iowa
There have been a multitude of memorable shots during March. However, many of the baskets derived from desperation because of dire straits on the scoreboard or demands from the shot clock. Few, however, exhibit the type of temerity and fortitude that Ali Farokhmanesh's 3-pointer demonstrated in a 2010 encounter with the tournament-favorite Kansas Jayhawks. While most highlights from March Madness are buzzer-beaters, Farokhmanesh's highlight is somewhat of a different variety. Up one against the Jayhawks with 34 seconds left in the game, the diminutive guard hoisted up a 3-bomb that found the bottom of the net, giving the Panthers a 66-62 lead. Kansas failed to retaliate, earning Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa a ticket to the Sweet 16.

Simulate Northern Iowa-Kansas


Check out our NCAA tournament No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed power rankings from the past 11 years.

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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