Bracket Analysis (1-11-2013)

Last Updated: 8/19/2014 10:03 PM ET

Director of Reseach and Analytics, John Ewing, takes a look at what the men's college basketball tournament could look like through 50,000 simulations of Bracketology. Follow John on Twitter @JohnEwing for more notes from his analysis and to let him know what else you may like to see with these projections. College basketball picks in the last month are 66-40 (62% ATS) and 38-27 (59% O/U. Subscribe to the Predictalator's pick information.

Bracket Odds, Predictalated Bracket, Bracket Analysis

Conference play has started; indubitably, league play will shake up the Top 25 (Like Oregon’s upset over #4 Arizona, Arizona was only favored by 1 point on the road so it was not that much of an upset.) and those teams currently projected to make the tournament in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. March Madness begins on Tuesday, March 19th; the countdown is on! The tournament is still ten weeks away but it is not too early to see who wins.

We use Joe Lunardi's Bracketology to construct our bracket.

See: How it Works, a Tournament Summary and Regional Previews: South, West, East and Midwest.

How it Works
The Predictalator uses current rosters and strength-of-schedule and pace-adjusted team and player stats (weighted slightly more toward recent games), to play, one possession at a time, every game 50,000 times before it's actually played. For this analysis, we are tracking how likely a team is to make it to any level of the NCAA tournament. Each tournament is played individually, with the team that wins the game in that instance advancing. See the Bracket Odds and Predictalated Bracket.

Tournament Summary

Indiana, currently a #2 seed, ranked #5 in the AP Poll but #1 in our Power Rankings, is the most likely team to win the National Championship. This would be the Hoosiers first title since Bob Knight was roaming the sideline in 1987 and their sixth title overall. At 14.1% to win the tournament, Indiana is not nearly as significant a favorite to win as Kentucky was a year ago for us. Kentucky was predicted to win 21.4% of the time; even the second most favored team last year, Ohio State, was more likely to win (18.4%) than Indiana is this year.

Compared to last year, the 2013 tournament appears more open. Last season Kentucky and Ohio State won almost 40% of all tournaments while no other team even broke the 10% mark. This year four teams have legitimate shots at winning it all: Indiana (14.1%), Louisville (13.2%), Duke (10.3%), and Kansas (10.3%) while two other teams Florida (9.0%) and Michigan (8.5%) have an outside shot. Due to seeding the most likely Final Four would consist of Louisville, and three Big Ten schools in Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan.

In 2011, all 16 teams seeded 1-4 in the brackets were at least 50% likely to make the Sweet 16. As the bracket is currently constructed, Gonzaga (48.4%), NC State (46.1%), Missouri (41.4%), Notre Dame (38.4%), and Illinois (25.2%) are all less than 50% likely to win two games in the tournament. By the second weekend we could lose a #2, #3, and three #4 seeds. Belmont, a #12 seed, is our most likely Cinderella story reaching the Sweet 16 31.7% of the time.

There are just five predicted upsets in the first round with three of them occurring in the East region. Still, there are a total of ten games in which the favored team wins 60% of the time or less making for some very interesting matchups. 

Conference Breakdown

Big East – 7 teams, Big Ten – 7 teams, ACC – 6 teams, Mountain West – 6 teams, Big 12 – 5 teams, Atlantic 10 – 4 teams, Pac-12 – 4 teams, SEC – 4 teams, Missouri Valley – 2 teams, and Ohio Valley – 2 teams

Below are teams considered in Bracketology to be On the Bubble or part of the First Four Out. Next to each team is our overall ranking plus where they rate offensively and defensively.

On the Bubble Overall Offense Defense
Colorado State 43 20 117
Wisconsin 21 31 18
Ole Miss 47 79 41
Saint Louis 50 95 31
First Four Out Overall Offense Defense
Iowa State 34 26 70
California 36 51 49
Stanford 40 104 24
Iowa 48 50 48
Next Four Out Overall Offense Defense
Florida State 46 69 56
BYU 39 81 25
Saint Joseph’s 53 28 77
Illinois State 63 54 97

South Region

This is a top heavy region with Louisville and Kansas (#3 and #2 respectively in our Power Rankings). The Cardinals win the region 36.2% of the time. They are followed by Kansas (29.4%), Creighton (13.7%), and then no other team wins greater than 4% of the time.

Most Likely Final Four team: Louisville (36.2%) 

Final Four Sleeper: Creighton (13.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Belmont (31.7% to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 29.4%

Three Most Important Players: Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Jeff Withey (Kansas), and Doug McDermott (Creighton)

First Round Upset: #12 Belmont over #5 New Mexico (50.8%)

Closest First Round Game: #12 Belmont over #5 New Mexico (50.8%)

West Region

We will call this the Power Region (6 teams in our top 20), including heavy hitters Arizona, Michigan St, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Gonzaga. The irony is that while this is a very strong region no team is favored to win it all by more than 5%. Minnesota wins the region 20.7% of the time, followed by Gonzaga (17.2%), Michigan State (14.4) and Kentucky (13.7%).

Most Likely Final Four team: Minnesota (20.7%) 

Final Four Sleeper: Michigan State (14.4%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Maryland (13.5% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 16%

Three Most Important Players: Andrew Hollins (Minnesota), Keith Appling (Michigan State), and Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Oklahoma State over #9 Temple (53%)

East Region

Duke and Indiana, two of the greatest college basketball programs in history, are the two most likely teams to meet in the regional final. We give Indiana (preseason #1 and #1 in our Power Rankings) the slight edge over Duke. Indiana reaches the Final Four 36% of the time. Duke follows close behind at 28.6% and then #4 seed Ohio State wins the region 10.2% of the time.

Most Likely Final Four team: Indiana (36%) 

Final Four Sleeper: Pittsburgh (7.0%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Middle Tennessee State (17.9% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 30%

Three Most Important Players: Cody Zeller (Indiana), Mason Plumlee (Duke), and Phil Pressey (Missouri)

First Round Upset: #12 Middle Tennessee State over #5 Butler (51.9%)

Closest First Round Game: #10 UNC over #7 San Diego State (50.1%)

Midwest Region

A soft region, led by Michigan and Syracuse, two teams that we would project as weak #2 seeds. Florida, #3 seed, is more likely to win it all if they made the Final Four than either Michigan or Syracuse. Even though this is a weaker region, Michigan still wins the region 26.9% of the time. They are followed by Florida (25.7%), Syracuse (17.2%), and NC State (8.3%).

Most Likely Final Four team: Michigan (26.9%) 

Final Four Sleeper: NC State (8.3%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Bucknell (17.5% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.6%

Three Most Important Players: Trey Burke (Michigan), C.J. Fair (Syracuse), and C.J. Leslie (NC State)

First Round Upset: #10 Virginia over #7 Colorado (56.6%)

Closest First Round Game: #10 Virginia over #7 Colorado (56.6%)