Last week I wrote about the numerous easy brackets the Florida Gators have lucked into over the past few years. Now I'm interested in a more historical perspective. Which teams have had the easiest paths in NCAA history?
To win this tournament you need some skill and some luck. All you can do is play the teams that lay in front of you, but if you're lucky then you avoid the other 1s and 2s and 3s out there.
I narrowed the search down to 1985-2013, as that is the window for 64-team brackets. Adding up the seeds played by each team to come up with a composite, it turns out there is a clear pattern. The 1-seeds automatically begin with a 16-seed and then the winner of the 8/9 game, and it's that third game where they sometimes draw a 12-seed where the true gifts begin.
Of the 25 easiest paths, 20 were by 1-seeds. The others were two 2s, two 3s and a 4-seed.
The table lists the seed lines played in each of the first four rounds: the 1st round, the round of 32, the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. The final column is the total of those seeds.
Kansas, from two years ago, and Michigan State from 2001 had the easiest paths. Kanas also had the 5th easiest path ever in 2008.
No team appears in the 25-easiest more than twice, though Duke (1991) and Kansas (2012) each had totals of 37, which are tied for 26th all time.
The only team in this year's tourney which qualifies is the Florida Gators, coming in with the 6th easiest bracket ever. This Gators team also has the easiest path ever for a non-1 seed, edging 1990 Arkansas.