Bumped. - BN Eds.
Last night saw U Conn cut down the nets for the 3rd time as National Champions since 2004. Obviously, that is three more than UCLA over the same time period.
But how does UCLA compare to U Conn and other top flight programs in terms of Sweet Sixteen appearances, Final Four appearances, Championship Game appearances, and National Championships? I chose 2000 as a starting point, figuring this would allow for some reasonable amount of data, while at the same time allowing me to get some sleep before racing Doughnut to the bakery to start a new day.
In terms of number of years in which the team has made it to the Sweet Sixteen, here are the top programs since 2000 (15 seasons)-
10- Kansas, Michigan St
8- Arizona, Kentucky
7- UCLA, U Conn, Florida, North Carolina, Syracuse, Wisconsin
UCLA is is one of the top 11 programs in the country in terms of number of Sweet 16 appearances since 2000 (tied for 6th most). Note the absence of Indiana, Iowa and New Mexico from this list, but this a story for another day.
Here are the same 11 programs ranked in order of number of trips to the Final Four since 2000-
5- Michigan St
4- U Conn, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina
3- UCLA, Duke, Kentucky
2- Syracuse, Wisconsin
UCLA is tied for 6th most again in terms of number of trips to the Final Four. So UCLA's Sweet 16 teams make it to the final weekend with about the same regularity as the other teams in the top 11- thanks to the Ben Ball Warriors of 2006-2008. Note however that the order flips somewhat between the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four. Arizona in particular hits a low bar by only making 1 Final Four appearance in their last 8 Sweet Sixteen appearances. In contrast, U Conn, Florida, and North Carolina have all sent more than half of their Sweet Sixteen teams to the Final Four, a better rate than the Bruins.
Here are the same 11 programs ranked in order of number of trips to the National Championship Game since 2000-
3- U Conn, Florida, Kansas
2- Duke, Kentucky, Michigan St, North Carolina
1- UCLA, Arizona, Syracuse
As you can see, UCLA drops down to tied for 8th place as we move closer to the last team standing. Of the 7 UCLA Sweet Sixteen teams, 3 made it to the Final Four, but only 1 of those teams (2006) made it to the Monday night Championship game. The other 2 teams were knocked out on National Semifinal Saturday. Note again that U Conn and Florida have the same number of Sweet Sixteen teams as UCLA, but have advanced to the Championship game 3 times, compared to UCLA's single trip.
Finally, here are the same 11 programs ranked in order of National Championships since 2000-
3- U Conn
2- Duke, Florida, North Carolina
1- Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan St, Syracuse
0- UCLA, Arizona, Wisconsin
UCLA drops to 9th place in terms of National Championships, as one of only 3 teams to reach the Sweet Sixteen at least 7 times since 2000, but never win the championship during that same time frame.
As can be seen, the higher the bar is raised, the lower UCLA falls in the rankings. So does this mean that we are just looking at this all wrong, and that we should raise a "Mission Accomplished" banner when we reach the Sweet 16, as only one of 11 programs to do this as often as we do? Or does this mean that reaching the Sweet 16 is necessary but not sufficient to being considered truly successful?
Here is how I see it. Have we been as good as U Conn since we have reached the same number of Sweet Sixteen's? NO. Have we been as good as Florida since we have reached the same number of Sweet Sixteen's? NO.
If you have also answered no to these questions, then clearly reaching the Sweet Sixteen doesn't cut it. The TIARAistas may be happy that we made it to the Sweet Sixteen. But simply getting back to the point that other programs have reached with as much or more consistency, and not being able to take it to the next level, as other programs have been able to do, is simply not praiseworthy.
One final note. For those who would argue that it is not fair to compare us to Duke, Florida, or Michigan State, because they have ridden the glory train with a single coach (Coach K, Billy Donovan, and Tom Izzo, respectively), and they are bound to fall off after these coaches retire (a premise which can't be proven or disproven), I would point to U Conn (JIm Calhoun, Kevin Ollie) and Kansas (Roy Williams, Bill Self) as examples of programs where a successful coach moved on but the school was able to hire a successor who brought them again to the highest level. Then again, those schools didn't have Doughnut as their AD, so they probably had an unfair advantage.
Kyle Anderson said it best. "We don't hang Sweet Sixteen banners up in Pauley". Truer words were never spoken. And let's not start now.
Go Bruins !!