[NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated that there had been no overtimes in the last three tournaments, based on game info at sports-reference.com/cbb showing no overtimes for the previous two tournaments. However, last year's game between Ohio and North Carolina did go to overtime before the Tar Heels won, as did San Diego State and Temple in 2012. There were also overtime games in 2011, including BYU over Florida].
No games in the 2013 Tournament have gone to overtime. What about the rest of the tournament drama? Well, we haven’t had a true buzzer beater winning shot, though I think the expectation there is a bit overblown. There have probably been barely more than 30 true game-winning shots that occurred with no time remaining over the last 30 years. Keith Smart’s famous baseline jumper, for example? Came with :04 left. Ohio State’s consecutive daggers from three with less than :03 remaining (Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross), La Salle’s winner, and Vander Blue’s layup to beat Davidson all have come in as game-winning late shots.
Here is a summary of how frequently each round has seen close games, from overtime to those decide by 3 points or less in regulation, since 1985. (And yes, the first round includes those games now designated as second round by the NCAA, and the second round is the round of 32).
Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchups may have seemed to lack drama. It was actually in line with historic results, if not a boost to the positive side thanks to the shot by LaQuinton Ross and Syracuse knocking off a No. 1 seed. One close game, and an average margin of 9.5 points (compared to 9.8 for other years).
So far, there have been eight games decided in overtime or by 3 points or less in this tournament since last Thursday (nine if you include the First Four game between NC A&T and Liberty). If there are no more tonight, then that would tie for the fewest since 1985 through the Sweet Sixteen games, along with the 1992, 1993, 1994, 2005, and 2009 tournaments. One of those years, by the way, featured one of the most iconic and greatest shots in the Elite Eight round, Christian Laettner’s game-winner in overtime vs Kentucky.
The most? 1990, which I profiled last year. You can’t compare other tournaments to that one, which featured 21 close games before the Elite Eight, including the Kenny Anderson shot against Michigan State, the Maurice Newby shot for Northern Iowa over Missouri, Rick Fox beating Oklahoma, and Tate George vs Clemson. No other tournament has had more than 17 close games through the first three rounds.
Just keep in mind that exciting games are still relatively rare events in the tournament. That doesn’t mean we cannot root for a few extra minutes and the end of that overtime drought tonight, though.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images, information on tournament games via tournament game finder at sports-reference.com/cbb]