Bracket Analysis (03/02/16)

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

It has already been a wild 2015-16 season. Six schools have been ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, one off the record set in 1982-83. 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 six tournaments (2010 to 2015) 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 2016 champions.

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

Rank Average Team 2016 Team
1 21.4% 16.7%
2 13.2% 13.9%
3 10.3% 11.3%
4 9.1% 10.3%
5 7.9% 8.1%
6 6.0% 7.8%
7 4.5% 4.9%
8 3.9% 4.5%
9 3.2% 2.8%
10 2.8% 2.7%

Michigan State is currently the most likely champion ten days from Selection Sunday. The Spartans have a 16.7 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 83.0 percent likely to win the tournament.

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

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Virginia (31.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: Iowa State (12.1%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Saint Mary's (22.0% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 31.9%

First Round Upset: #10 Cincinnati over #7 Dayton (59.3%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #6 Texas over #11 Saint Mary's (54.5%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Oklahoma (28.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: Kentucky (19.9%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Valparaiso (12.0% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 23.4%

First Round Upset: #9 Vanderbilt over #8 Texas Tech (56.3%)

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

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (45.7%)

Final Four Sleeper: Arizona (11.2%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Yale (13.7% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 20.5%

First Round Upset: #9 USC over #8 Pittsburgh (54.5%)

Closest First Round Game: #7 Seton Hall over #10 VCU (54.5%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Kansas (32.2%)

Final Four Sleeper: Duke (16.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): UConn (12.9% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 24.2%

First Round Upset: #9 Syracuse over #8 Colorado (60.4%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to the game above, #7 Wichita State over #10 UConn (66.4%)