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A Brief History of No. 1 NBA Draft Picks in the NCAA Tournament

Oh boy.



Photo via Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics

Want to know a little secret about why there’s been so much attention paid to OSU’s ongoing postseason ban appeal with the NCAA? Beyond the obvious that OSU is a tourney team and being held out of the postseason at this late stage would be silliness? Here’s the truth: So long as Oklahoma State has Cade Cunningham on its side, it has a shot. The history of No. 1 picks in the postseason is absurd.

In a good way.

I combed through history over the last 20 years to find out exactly how teams who had the No. 1 pick in the draft fared in the Big Dance, thanks to some motivation from my pal Bryan Metcalf. And let me caution you before proceeding: Please be sure you are sitting down.

Prettay, prettay good, yeah? Couple of title runner-ups, an NCAA champion, multiple Elite Eights and Sweet 16s. The overwhelming majority of teams who had the No. 1 pick and made the NCAA Tournament won multiple games, and the two who lost in the first round were big men (Deandre Ayton and Anthony Bennett).

Hey, maybe this thing doesn’t materialize, and OSU flops in the postseason. We’re talking about 40-minute contests where anything can happen. But history is on OSU’s side here that should engender some very real, totally rational (!) optimism that March this year for OSU might be a special one.

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