Bracket Analysis (2/9/17)

By Paul Bessire
A look at what the men's college basketball tournament could look like through 50,000 simulations of Bracketology.

We use Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology to construct the bracket as of Feburary 9, 2017.

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

It has already been a wild 2016-17 season. We saw three of the top four teams in the AP Poll lose in the same Tuesday night in late January and just last weekend, six top ten teams went down in action. In a season that has been as unpredictable as this one, how wide open is the NCAA tournament going to be?

To answer that question we looked back at the last seven tournaments on (2010 to 2016) we simulated and averaged the probability for each of the top ten teams to cut down the nets. Then we compared that average to the ten most likely 2017 champions as of right now.

How much of a difference is there heading into March Madness?

Title Chances Rank Average 2010-2016 2017 Simulations
1 21.4% 17.9%
2 13.2% 17.6%
3 10.3% 12.0%
4 9.1% 10.9%
5 7.9% 6.3%
6 6.0% 5.1%
7 4.5% 5.1%
8 3.9% 4.9%
9 3.2% 3.3%
10 2.8% 3.1%

Undefeated Gonzaga is currently the most likely champion in early February. It should be noted that Gonzaga has never been the most likely champion in any interation of this weekly (February - March) exercise over the last eight years. The Zags have a 17.9 percent chance to win it all. The average favorite in the last six years has had better than a 20 percent chance to win before the tournament started.

While it is true that the most likely favorite will not be as strong as the top teams in the past, to say the tournament is wide open is misleading. On average, the ten most likely champions have won 82.1 percent of all simulations. This year's top teams are 86.2 percent likely to win the tournament. More notably, the top four teams in win chances - Gonzaga, Virginia, Villanova and Louisville - total 58.4% of all championships as comapred to 54.0% normally. And it's not like those four teams all have easy paths; Gonzaga and Virginia play each other in the West with the winner of that game being 35%+ likely to win the title.

March will be mad, as it always is, but the tournament isn't wide open. There just is no one dominant team.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: UNC (27.3%)

Final Four Sleeper: Kentucky (25.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): TCU (9.6% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 15.1%

First Round Upset: #9 VCU over #8 Virginia Tech (55.6%)

Closest First Round Game: #7 Northwestern over #10 TCU (53.2%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Gonzaga (36.8%)

Final Four Sleeper: Virginia (35.1%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Wichita State (29.86% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 42.7%

First Round Upset: #10 Wichita State over #7 Notre Dame (56.3%), #9 Marquette over #8 USC (59.6%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the games above, #6 Butler over #11 Miami (67.6%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (40.9%)

Final Four Sleeper: Purdue (15.5%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Minnesota (11.1% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 18.7%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Oklahoma State over #9 Dayton (57.1%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Louisville (33.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: SMU (4.0%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Wake Forest (7.5% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.2%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Michigan State over #9 Arkansas (51.5%)