Bracket Analysis (2/23/17)

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 20, 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% 22.0%
2 13.2% 17.4%
3 10.3% 10.4%
4 9.1% 7.4%
5 7.9% 6.3%
6 6.0% 6.0%
7 4.5% 5.4%
8 3.9% 4.9%
9 3.2% 3.6%
10 2.8% 2.6%

That's almost exactly the same as the average bracket. Eerily smilar.

The most notable news items from this week's update are the continued fall of Virginia the improvement of the rise of the blue bloods.

Two weeks ago, Virginia, which continues to lead all DI college basketball programs in defensive efficiency, looked like a clear contender, ranking second among all teams with a 17.6% chance to win it all. Despite no major injuries or roster changes, Virginia has lost four straight games and five of the last six. Tony Bennett's squad has deterioated offensively and no longer looks like one of the elite. The Cavaliers now only have a 3.3% chance to make the Final Four.

Meanwhile (even including Duke's loss to Syracuse), traditional powers Duke, Kentucky, UNC, Kansas and UCLA have each increased championship chances. Two weeks ago, those schools were collectively 17.9% likely to win the championship (which was also exactly the same as tournament leader Gonzaga). Now, such teams are 29.5% likely to cut down the nets at the end. That may be great for ratings, yet it could make differentiating with brackets difficult.

Undefeated Gonzaga is currently the most likely champion in mid-February. It should be noted that, prior to this year, 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 22.0 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.

March will be mad, as it always is, but the tournament isn't wide open. It's just really, really normal.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: UNC (36.8%)

Final Four Sleeper: SMU (3.2%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Cal (10.7% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 19.5%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #7 Xavier over #10 Cal (55.0%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Gonzaga (49.7%)

Final Four Sleeper: West Virginia (20.2%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Kansas State (16.4% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 32.4%

First Round Upset: #9 MIami (FL) over #8 Dayton (53.4%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #6 Creighton over #11 Kansas State (59.8%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (40.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: Purdue (11.3%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Georgia Tech/Marquette Winner (5.0% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 32.7%

First Round Upset: #9 Michigan over #8 VCU (61.4%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to above, #5 Cincinnati over #12 TCU (74.7%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Louisville (32.6%)

Final Four Sleeper: Wichita State (10.5%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Virginia Tech (12.6% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 15.1%

First Round Upset: #9 Wichita State over #8 Minnesota (77.8%)

Closest First Round Game: #6 Maryland over #11 Middle Tennessee State (59.6%)