Historical comparison: How unpredictable is this Sweet 16?

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

This is a fairly unpredictable field of 16, but it's far from the craziest we've ever seen. (Getty Images)

Florida Gulf Coast! Wichita State! La Salle!

It's a nutty Sweet 16, folks -- or is it? You heard many people proclaim this year's NCAA tournament would just be the wildest, based on the events of the regular season. A lot of that talk was overblown. The regular season was a good, sometimes nutty ride, but by no means a massacre of predictability and/or stability at the top of the rankings.

The Sweet 16 is playing out to something of a mirror effect, then. You see some top teams -- like Gonzaga, Georgetown, New Mexico -- out before the second weekend, but nine of the 12 top clubs are still around. Yes, the Sweet 16 is also boasting a nine seed, a 13 seed and a 15 seed. It wasn't the most epic of first four days, but plenty enjoyable and delivering smolder to many a bracket.

Each year the tournament gives us a different domino effect. This year, the average seed of the remaining teams is proving to be on the wilder side. So how does it compare in the 64-team-or-more tournament era? Top five, in fact. You can thank record-breakers FGCU for that.

The craziest year was 1986. The most boring, just a few brackets back, in 2009. Twelfth-seeded Arizona was the only non-top-five seed to get to the second weekend.

Thanks to ESPN Insider's John Gasaway for help with these figures. I find it fascinating to see how the seeds sneak through to the Sweet 16 each year. That 1986 field had 11-seeded LSU eventually make the Final Four, the first -- and still lowest, with a few others -- team placed that low to win four games in the Big Dance. The '09 Sweet 16 came a year after all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four, still the only time that's happened.

Here are the means of the Sweet 16 seeds for every NCAA tournament since seeding began in the 64-team field 28 years ago.

1986: 5.56
1990: 5.50
1999: 5.50
2000: 5.31
2013: 5.06
2010: 5.00
2011: 5.00


1985: 4.88
1997: 4.81
1998: 4.75
2002: 4.69
2001: 4.56
2004: 4.56
2012: 4.56
2005: 4.50
2006: 4.44
1988: 4.38
2008: 4.38
1994: 4.25
1987: 4.19
1992: 4.19
2003: 4.19
1993: 4.06
1991: 4.00


1996: 3.69
1995: 3.19
2007: 3.19
1989: 3.13
2009: 3.06

 
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