Reggie Miller

March Madness is in full swing!

There are sites galore for stat leaders, top programs, practically everything the sports fan could want in the way of basketball data and information.

Well, almost everything.

For those who think the Internet has everything, let me tell you, it doesn’t.

I searched long and hard to find the answer to this questions:

Which college basketball team is the biggest choker of all time?

In the end, I had to gather the data, create my own equation and crunch the numbers myself. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

An idea is born

What got me started on this thread was Georgetown losing to America’s darling—Florida Gulf Coast University last week. You see, Georgetown was a No. 2 seed and lowly FGCU was a No. 15, so it was a major upset, or choke job if you’re looking at it from another perspective.

That got me thinking. Didn’t it seem like Georgetown was one of those teams that choked a lot? Hmmm… what about Duke and Kansas? They also got upended by much lower seeds recently.

Of course, I was also interested in Kentucky and Louisville. How did they stack up in this tower of terrible performances?

Thus, Chokers Index was born.

It’s not a pretty sight, so prepare yourself.

Chokers Index methodology

I began with 1985, the first year that the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams. Since then, they increased the number of teams invited, but for all intents and purposes, it matters little.

Next, I gathered data for the next 28 tournaments. (2013 is not included, bad news for Georgetown’s CI going forward.)

Then, I only considered teams that had a large sample size. This means only teams with 14 or more NCAA Tournament invitations during this time period were included.

There are a couple ways to look at what makes up the biggest choker. You might consider teams that are upset most often to be the worst offenders. But you could also measure how large the upsets were, right?

Let’s look at both cases, first the most frequent tournament chokers, as defined by losing to a lower seed than your own.

Duke and Ohio State top our list of dishonor by choking two-thirds of all their tournament appearances. Let’s give them a hand! click to expand

As a frequent No. 1 seed, Duke was in a tough spot with this exercise. They either needed to win it all or lose to another No 1 seed or it would be considered an upset.

Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

Louisville performed quite well in this analysis, only losing to a lower seed 6 times in 21 appearances. Kentucky beat the half-way mark but just barely with 45.45 percent.

Realizing that this approach was far too simple, I pressed on!

The CI measures difference between seeds

Like I said before, losing to a better team doesn’t hurt your score here. Instead, I take the difference between the seeds, for example, when (2) Duke lost to (15) Lehigh in Greensboro, North Carolina, no less, they were awarded a devastating score of 13.

While we’re on the topic, the most epic choke jobs in the history of the NCAA Tournament prior to this year are:

  • 2012: Lehigh upsets Duke (75-70)
  • 2012: Norfolk State upsets Missouri (86-84)
  • 2001: Hampton upsets Iowa State (58-57)
  • 1997: Coppin State upsets South Carolina (78-65)
  • 1993: Santa Clara upsets Arizona (64-61)
  • 1991: Richmond upsets Syracuse (73-69)

Moving forward, an upset loss in later rounds isn’t nearly as bad, so I’ve added a modifier to give the team credit for winning an earlier round game.

Teams that lose in Round One accrue 100 percent of the difference between the seeds. But in later rounds the modifier is reduced as follows.

  • Round Two: 84 percent
  • Round Three: 67 percent
  • Round Found: 50 percent
  • Round Five: 34 percent
  • Round Six: 17 percent

And now the unveiling! (drumroll please)

Missouri takes home the prize of biggest choker in NCAA Tournament games. Notre Dame gave them a run for their money but in the end, that 6.58 was too much

The major choke jobs of 1987, 1990 and 2012 put Missouri over the top, or under the bottom, as you might choose to look at it.

How did our local teams fare?

Louisville only had 6 upsets from their 21 appearances, but they averaged a 4.82. Indiana did better with 3.88. Kentucky was the best with an average of 2.53, good for 5th best of the schools surveyed.

What does it all mean?

Next year, when you’re completing your NCAA Bracket, come back to this article to see which teams are mostly likely to disappoint you by choking against a lesser team.

Interesting results

  • The year with the most upsets was 1990 when 14 teams lost to underdogs. Worst among them were Louisville, Purdue and Michigan.
  • The average Choker Index was 3.8, which neatly split the 33 teams of this survey in half.
  • Duke was upset more than any other team but because they were invited to all but one of these tournaments (as was Kanas) they were able to push down their index with a good number of minor choke games.