Bracket Analysis (02/10/16)

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

There is a new No. 1 in college basketball, again. Six schools have held the top spot in the AP Poll already this season, one off the record with more than a month to play before Selection Sunday. The carousel keeps spinning in a year with no dominant team.

Despite the turnover at the top and a seemingly wide-open field, the NCAA Tournament is going to be all chalk. In the most recent Bracketology, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Villanova and Iowa are No. 1 seeds and are the most likely teams to reach the Final Four. Here is why each is a legitimate threat to cut down the nets in Houston.


Why will the Sooners win March Madness? Two words: Buddy Hield. The favorite (even money) to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award – Hield leads one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The senior has a chance to become the first player to finish a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 50 percent behind the arc and 90 percent from the charity stripe.

Boomer Sooner has a 10 percent chance to win out and a 59 percent chance to win the Big 12, which would go a long way to securing the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are still one of the four best teams in the country despite recent struggles (back-to-back losses followed by a narrow win over Boston College) and Roy Williams collapsing on the sideline. UNC is tops in the ACC and is the most likely team to win the conference (48 percent). North Carolina is a longshot to win out (4 percent chance), but they don't need to in order to lock up a top seed. The Heels are 4th in offensive efficiency against a top 35 schedule. Come tourney time, Marcus Paige will have likely found his stroke and a Final Four appearance for North Carolina (the first in seven years) will not surprise anyone.


Nova is No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll for the first time. The Wildcats have won 13 of their last 14 games, have wins over five teams in the top 50 of our Power Rankings and are overpowering defensively. Unlike the other potential top seeds, Jay Wright's squad is top five in defensive efficiency allowing just 61.0 points per game (8th in the nation).

Nova has won back-to-back Big East regular season titles and is in the driver's seat to do so again (61 percent chance). However, the Wildcats have lost in the Round of 32 in each of the last two years. A strong defensive effort, plus a favorable path to the Final Four will see Wright's team get over the hump and make a deep tournament run.


The Hawkeyes are for real and continue to show up the competition. Iowa has won 12 of their past 13 games by being one of the most balanced teams in the country. Fran McCaffery's bunch is the only team in the nation to be top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Their four losses are to schools all in our top 40 and by a combined 16 points.

With seven conference games remaining, Iowa has a better than one-in-five chance of winning out. As the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings, Iowa is the most likely team to win it all. The Hawkeyes are the only team with better than a 15 percent chance to be left standing after the Big Dance.

All four current No. 1 seeds have greater than a 30 percent chance to reach the Final Four. If this were to happen it would be just the second time (first was 2008) in NCAA history that the four top seeds reached the Final Four. Combined, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Villanova and Iowa have a 46.3 percent chance to win March Madness.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Iowa (39.1%)

Final Four Sleeper: Iowa State (11.6%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): VCU (12.7% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 30.5%

First Round Upset: #10 VCU over #7 Utah (56.8%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #8 Gonzaga over #9 Pittsburgh (56.5%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: North Carolina (31.9%)

Final Four Sleeper: Oregon (20.4%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): San Diego State (15.5% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 19.2%

First Round Upset: #10 Valpo over #7 South Carolina (65.8%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #6 Providence over #11 Monmouth (51.8%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (35.4%)

Final Four Sleeper: Notre Dame (10.3%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Arkansas-LR (10.5% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.0%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #5 Purdue over #12 Arkansas-LR (68.3%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Oklahoma (31.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: Duke (14.1%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Butler (9.1% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 26.4%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #5 Arizona over #12 Play-in (66.1%)