Bracket Analysis (02/17/16)

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.



For this week's analysis, we use Joe Lunardi's ESPN Bracketology to construct the bracket, while we use simulations of the rest of the season to project the likelihood of a team making the tournament (through a combination of chances of qualifying automatically with a conference win and making it as an at-large).

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

Selection Sunday is less than a month away, which means fringe teams are running out of time. Teams on the bubble need to start making moves if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

Here's a look at the teams currently on the bubble and their projected chance of dancing when March Madness rolls around based on 50,000 simulations of the rest of the 2015-16 season.

Last Four Byes

The good news, all four of these teams are currently in Joe Lunardi's bracket. The bad news, each team is a No. 9 seed or worse. Syracuse is the only team with better than a one-in-five chance of making it to the Sweet 16 in our simulations of this bracket. The Orange, Wisconsin and Seton Hall all currently project as having greater than a 50 percent chance of remaining in the bracket when Selection Sunday rolls around.

Pittsburgh is the most likely team from this group to fall out of the tournament. The Panthers have a Top 20 offense, but rank just 47th overall in our Power Rankings overall. It is becoming harder to make a case for Pittsburgh to receive an at-large bid with a 7-6 record in ACC play and six losses in the team's last ten games. In our projections, Pitt's most likely final regular season record is 20-11.

Team Projected Record Auto Bid Chances Chances of Tournament
Syracuse 20.2 - 10.8 1.3% 67.6%
Wisconsin 18.7 - 12.3 2.0% 53.9%
Seton Hall 20.9 - 9.1 4.7% 58.6%
Pittsburgh 20.4 - 10.6 0.8% 36.2%

Last Four In

Breathe easy, Saint Mary's and Cincinnati. Both programs are on Joe Lunardi's bubble, yet rank inside our Top 35 overall and have nearly a 90 percent chance of staying on the right side of the bubble according to our rest of season analysis. The Gaels can score on anyone, ranking 16th in offensive efficiency. The Bearcats get it done on the other end of the court. Cincinnati is in the Top 15 in defensive efficiency.

Florida State has dropped back-to-back games and will struggle to get to 20 wins with five regular season contests remaining (including matchups against Duke and Notre Dame). Vanderbilt is a longshot to make the tournament with 11 losses already on the season. Aside from winning the conference tournament, the Commodores last chance to impress the committee is a home game against Kentucky – Vandy is a projected underdog in that game.

Team Projected Record Auto Bid Chances Chances of Tournament
Vanderbilt 17.8 - 13.2 6.7% 7.7%
Cincinnati 21.8 - 9.2 27.9% 89.8%
Saint Mary's 23.8 - 5.2 34.4% 89.5%
Florida State 18.6 - 11.4 0.5% 40.0%

First Four Out

Here is where things start to get ugly. Not only are these teams not in the most recent iteration of Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, there isn't much chance that we hear their names called on Selection Sunday (especially as an at-large participant).

Butler could be the exception. The Bulldogs ran through the non-conference schedule with wins over Cincinnati and Purdue (both in our Top 35 overall). However, the Big East has been a different animal. Seven of Butler's eight losses have come in conference play. Five of those losses were against ranked teams; there is no shame in that but they still count as missed opportunities. If the Bulldogs are going to return to the tournament as an at-large (they have went dancing in seven of the last nine years) a win at Villanova this Saturday is almost a must.

Both Washington and Clemson appear to only have a legitimate chance at the NCAA Tournament by winning their conferences.

Team Projected Record Auto Bid Chances Chances of Tournament
Alabama 18.0 - 12.0 1.3% 14.0%
Washington 17.6 - 12.4 1.4% 1.4%
Butler 20.1 - 9.9 5.7% 46.5%
Clemson 17.8 - 12.2 0.6% 0.6%

Next Out

None of these teams are in the Top 50 of our Power Rankings. Given their records and lack of marquee wins, it is hard to see how any of them get over the hump. Tulsa could do it. The Golden Hurricane have an 18 percent chance to win out and a 15% chance to win the AAC tournament. Either happening should put Frank Haith's team in (yes, Haith could benefit from SMU's violations under Larry Brown while Haith's old teams serve punishments, in part, due to his actions).

Team
Projected Record
Auto Bid Chances Chances of Tournament
Texas Tech 17.6 - 12.4 0.7% 0.8%
Tulsa 19.7 - 10.3 15.2% 42.0%
St. Bonaventure 21.4 -8.6 11.7% 33.3%
Oregon State 18.1 - 11.9 0.7% 12.6%


Tournament Sleepers

Of those not in Joe Lunardi's bracket or mentioned above, these are the next four most likely teams to make the NCAA Tournament based on our rest of season analysis. None of them are more than 50% likely to make and much of their likelihood to make the tournament stems from a relatively high chance to win a conference tournament.

Team
Projected Record
Auto Bid Chances Chances of Tournament
Bakersfield 20.9 - 8.1 49.9% 49.9%
Princeton 21.9 - 6.1 43.1% 43.1%
BYU 22.2 - 8.8 17.4% 42.0%
James Madison 22.1 - 8.9 25.6% 38.3%

Also, here are all of the teams that are currently in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology bracket who do not project as more than 50% likely to make the tournament (in descending order by Lunardi's projected seed): Bucknell (22%), Montana (25%), Norfolk State (26.5%), North Florida (29%), Wagner (37%), Texas Southern (38%), Belmont (35%), UNC Asheville (39%), UAB (39%), South Dakota State (45%), Florida State (40%), Vanderbilt (8%), Temple (25%), Pitt (36%) and Colorado (43%). Every team seeded 1-7 is at least 53% likely to make it in.
South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Virginia (36.6%)

Final Four Sleeper: Notre Dame (17.8%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): VCU (11.3% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 26.6%

First Round Upset: #10 VCU over #7 South Carolina (57.6%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #9 Gonzaga over #8 California (51.8%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Michigan State (30.3%)

Final Four Sleeper: Iowa State (14.2%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Syracuse (24.3% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.6%

First Round Upset: #10 Syracuse over #7 LSU (58.3%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #5 Purdue over #12 Play-in (65.8%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Kansas (30.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: Duke (19.3%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Seton Hall (15.0% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 25.4%

First Round Upset: #9 Wisconsin over #8 Colorado (63.8%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #6 Baylor over #11 Seton Hall (57.4%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (37.9%)

Final Four Sleeper: Kentucky (16.9%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): St. Joe's (21.9% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 23.8%

First Round Upset: #10 St. Joe's over #7 Providence (59.6%)

Closest First Round Game: #6 Utah over #11 Pittsburgh (55.5%)