Bracket Analysis (02/03/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
A look at what the men's college basketball tournament could look like through 50,000 simulations of Bracketology.

We use Joe Lunardi's Bracketology to construct the 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

We settled the debate on the best conference in men's hoops, now we take a look at a few mid-majors (teams outside the so-called “Power Conferences”) that might justify an at-large bid.

Saint Mary's

The best of the West…Coast Conference is the Gaels. Saint Mary's is an offensive force to be reckoned with. Randy Bennett's squad is top five in offensive efficiency (tops in the nation in field goal percentage and deadly from beyond the arc – 43.6 percent as a team). The knock on the Gaels, a weak schedule with few quality wins.

Still, this is a top 25 club that has a 1.1 percent chance (better than blue bloods Kentucky and Michigan) to win the NCAA Tournament. Saint Mary's already has a win over Gonzaga, if they can do it again in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas they won't need an at-large bid.


Does Valpo have another memorable run in it when March rolls around? Bryce Drew's team is in the driver's seat to win the Horizon League. The Crusaders are a top 25 team in our Power Rankings. If the tournament started today, Valpo would be a Cinderella (a double-digit seed) that could make some noise. The Crusaders have better than a one-in-five chance of reaching the Sweet 16.

Wichita State

The Shockers had a rough start to the season. Fred Van Vleet suffered a hamstring injury that prevented him from playing in key nonconference games against USC, Alabama and Iowa (all losses). Since that three game losing streak (and the return of Van Vleet) Wichita State has gone 14-1 and a perfect 10-0 in conference play.

When healthy, Gregg Marshall's team is a top 15 unit. The Shockers are very balanced – top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If Wichita State doesn't earn an at-large bid a run through Arch Madness shouldn't be too difficult to secure another trip to the Big Dance.


The award for the best bench in college basketball goes to…

Never change, Monmouth bench.

The bench mob is fantastic but the basketball they are celebrating is pretty good too. The Hawks have wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown. Monmouth made the most of its nonconference schedule and just needs to take care of business in the MAAC to secure its first tourney bid since 2006.

Combined these four mid-majors have a 3.0 percent chance to win the NCAA Tournament. That doesn't sound like much but in a year with no dominant team these small schools would be the tenth most likely champion. 2016 could be the year of the mid-major, at the very least Saint Mary, Valpo, Wichita State and Monmouth will make it interesting.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (30.6%)

Final Four Sleeper: Louisville (10.9%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Gonzaga (14.2% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 23.2%

First Round Upset: #9 South Carolina over #8 Colorado (52.1%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #7 Texas over #10 Gonzaga (53.8%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Iowa (38.8%)

Final Four Sleeper: Duke (14.4%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Valpo (21.4% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.7%

First Round Upset: #9 UConn over #8 Pittsburgh (59.5%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #11 Valpo over #6 Indiana (50.8%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: UNC (37.6%)

Final Four Sleeper: Baylor (7.5%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Saint Joe's (11.6% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 23.5%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Florida over #9 VCU (54.9%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Oklahoma (37.0%)

Final Four Sleeper: Wichita State (8.1%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Arkansas-LR (22.9% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 28.6%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Notre Dame over #9 Saint Mary's (50.6%)