March! March! March!
Welcome to the Madness. It's finally here. Selection Sunday unveiled the NCAA Men's Basketball Division I bracket, where office pools will buzz with various methods on selecting a champion and earning monetary rewards or bragging rights for the next year.
Teams were seeded poorly, some were left out altogether and some were inserted with head-scratching reactions from analysts and fans alike.
While March Madness grabs all the attention this week, Numbers Game also isn't forgetting America's national pastime that permeates in Bradenton during the third month of the year.
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So with that said, let's dice up some bracket and baseball digits.
Years since a No. 16 seed nearly knocked off a No. 1 seed. No top seeds have ever lost a first round game to a No. 16, but that lower seed came within one possession of a monumental upset in 1996. That's when Western Carolina lost to Purdue 73-71.
Last year's tourney saw all four No. 1 vs. No. 16 games end in double-digit victories for the higher seeds for the first time since 2011.
Number of men's basketball national champions in the last 17 years that were ranked in the top five of the Associated Press preseason poll. So based on that 70.5 percent rate, it's either North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas or Duke that are winning it all this season. Conversely, three other champions that emerged weren't even
ranked (2003 Syracuse, 2006 Florida and 2011 Connecticut) entering the year.
And speaking of 12, that's a popular seed choice for upsets in the Big Dance. Teams seeded No. 12 have won 15 of 32 games against No. 5 seeds since 2008, but did not record a victory in last year's tournament.
Number of national champions since 1997 by the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences. Both are listed as the top two conferences according to the conference rating percentage index (RPI) that calculates the overall strength of a conference. In fact, the Big 12 has only produced one Final Four team (Kansas in 2012) outside of the Jayhawks winning the whole thing in 2008 since its formation in 1997, while UCLA produced the last Pac-12 Final Four appearance in 2008. Arizona has advanced to three Elite Eights since '08, but has lost each time and is the last Pac-12 program to capture the national title when they did it in 1997.
Average attendance at McKechnie Field for Pittsburgh Pirates spring training home games. The Buccos have played eight games in Bradenton, generating two sellouts, and have racked up a total of 55,843 fans so far. Last year's slate saw 106,083 fans jam inside the park off Ninth Street West, which shattered the previous all-time record. If the current average is sustained for the remaining eight home games, then the attendance mark will be broken for a second straight year. McKechnie will see more than 111,000 fans inside the 94-year-old park this spring, should the average hold.
Francisco Liriano's earned run average in the last two opening day starts for the Pirates. The left-handed veteran was given the opening day nod for a third straight year after right-hander Gerrit Cole works back from a right rib inflammation sustained in January. Liriano became the first Pirates pitcher to earn three consecutive opening day starts since Doug Drabek, who was given the ball to begin each season from 1990-92. The Pirates are 1-1 in opening day games the past two years.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.