Sports / NCAA Basketball

The History of the Final Four, Visualized

By Lindsey Poulter, Jack Beckwith
Published: April 4, 2017

It's with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to another year of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. The 2017 edition of March Madness was filled with lots of things: plenty of Trevon Bluiett baskets, bench celebrations for the ages, and too much Charles Barkley singing. After three weekends of fun, North Carolina avenged last season's loss in the final game and took home the title.

In the spirit of the season, Lindsey Poulter has blessed us with a visualization and history lesson all wrapped into one. Using data on Final Four teams since 1985, she looked at the schools and tournament seeds that have made it to the coveted final weekend most often. (For those not keeping track at home, the '85 season was when the tournament expanded to its current 64-team format.) Check it below.

And just for the stats nerds out there:

  • Though Duke was eliminated early from the 2017 tournament, three of the four most prolific schools in Final Four history - North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky - all made it to the Elite Eight. However, only North Carolina was able to make it to the final weekend in Phoenix.
  • Though the 2017 tourney wasn't particularly prone to upsets, the East region was chock-full of surprises. South Carolina ultimately emerged from the region as a #7 seed, meaning for the ninth consecutive year, at least one seed #3 or above made the Final Four.
  • Is eleven a lucky number? With a loss to Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, the Xavier Musketeers were just one game away from becoming the fourth #11 seed to go to the Final Four. Only one #9 seed and one #10 seed have made the Final Four since 1985.

You can find Lindsey on Twitter and check out her Tableau profile for more gorgeous data storytelling.