The Wooden Watch midseason list was released last Wednesday, meaning we have another piece of the puzzle that is the greatest event on the sporting calendar: March Madness. I live in the world of research, where any information is worth evaluating, so let's get to it:
Does having one of the top 25 players in the nation assure a deep run in March?
Of course not, but it's not a bad place to start when it comes to crafting your preliminary Sweet 16. Over the past three seasons, 85.1% of Wooden Watch players have qualified for March Madness, and those teams averaged two tournament wins. That would mean a Sweet 16 berth, and with 66.7% of those teams being a 4- seed or better, it's not crazy to think that at least half of the Sweet 16 is represented on this list.
Furthermore, you can narrow your search for your finalists. Of the six teams that have played in the final game of the year over the past three seasons, five had a midseason Wooden Watch player on their roster (2018 Michigan being the lone exception).
Is a Wooden Watch player on a low-seeded team worth picking?
You'd think that a star player is capable of carrying a double-digit seed, but that's not really the percentage play. Since 2017, just 25% of the Wooden Watch players on a 10-seed or worse won a game. That said, both of those instances (Ja Morant's Murray State Racers and Jordan Murphy's Minnesota Golden Gophers) came last season, and players like Georgia's Anthony Edwards and Washington's Isaiah Stewart can fill it up in a similar fashion. If their respective teams qualify, they will deserve a look, but don't get over-excited about an extended run (both Morant and Murphy couldn't advance to the second weekend).
Duke, Kansas and Kentucky all have two representatives. I've got three-quarters of my Final Four, right?
I'll continue to post research on what it takes to be a Final Four team and what a champion does not look like at this stage, but there is no one metric that always works and this is no exception.
Sure, two of the past three champions have had multiple representatives on the midseason Wooden Watch list, but it's not all rainbows and unicorns for teams with that sort of star power. Over that stretch, there were five teams that had multiple such players and did not earn a one seed. Of those five squads, three failed to win a game in the second week of the tournament and in a season where we honestly have no idea who is elite, that could well be the case for these teams as well.
Blind résumés don't lie?
Player A: Led his team in scoring by shooting 48.8% from the field, 40.1% from 3 and 75.4% from the line. A social science major born in late January who was projected as a mid-second-round pick in the NBA draft.
Player B: Leads his team in scoring by shooting 48.7% from the field, 40% from 3 and 76% from the line. A social science major born in late January who is projected as a mid-second round pick in the NBA draft.
Player A was the last Oregon player to make the midseason Wooden Watch list prior to 2020 in Dillon Brooks, and Player B is current Duck Payton Pritchard. You'll recall that Brooks ended the program's 78-year Final Four drought in 2017.