Bracket Analysis (3/02/17)

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 March 2, 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

We have made it to March. There will only be one more update of this content before Selection Sunday. As we head into the conference tournaments, let's revisit some analysis we have been doing each week:

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% 17.5%
2 13.2% 15.9%
3 10.3% 12.2%
4 9.1% 9.0%
5 7.9% 5.9%
6 6.0% 5.5%
7 4.5% 5.4%
8 3.9% 3.3%
9 3.2% 3.1%
10 2.8% 2.8%

That's not as eerily similar as the last two weeks of this exercise, but it's still pretty close. There are still ten teams with around a 3% chance to win the championship and that top ten is roughly 80% likely to do so. The difference that we are seeing this week is fairly common when looking at one season instead of an aggregate of many seasons. Tiers are pretty evident.

Though Gonzaga, which recently lost to BYU as 20.5 point favorites, is not as strong of a favorite as it has been in the past month, the team still leads all 68 teams in championship chances. Whereas, Gonzaga was in a class unto itself for a month, there are two other teams - Villanova and UNC (last year's championship game participants) - that can join Gonzaga in a tier of favorites.

The next pretty clearly defined tier includes four teams - three of which were referenced in the "Blue Bloods" section last week. Kentucky borders on the top and second tiers, while Kansas, Louisville and West Virginia (not a Blue Blood) are all interchangeable in the numbers (they are also three of the best defensive teams in the country and you know what "they" say about defense and championships).

After another drop-off, Baylor, Florida, Oregon, UCLA, Purdue and Duke form the next tier of non-dominant teams that still have a realistic chance to win it all. And lastly, the final tier of teams that still have a 1%+ chance at a title includes Saint Mary's, Virginia, SMU, Butler, FSU, Wichita State and Arizona. If looking for non-traditional powers that can make a Final Four run, this is your group (Arizona falling to a three seed and placed in same region as Kentucky and Kansas has cut the team's chances of making a Final Four by more than 50% from last week).

Though by most metrics, this tournament looks pretty normal, if the bracket holds up the way that Joe Lunardi has presented here, there would be ZERO projected first round upsets (in which the better seed would be an underdog going into the game). Upsets will happen, but do not expect to see as much chaos early as usual.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: UNC (37.1%)

Final Four Sleeper: Saint Mary's (10.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Northwestern (9.8% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 22.2%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #7 South Carolina over #10 Northwestern (57.6%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Gonzaga (48.3%)

Final Four Sleeper: Purdue (14.0%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Syracuse (13.0% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 25.0%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #7 Maryland over #10 Syracuse (53.5%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (38.5%)

Final Four Sleeper: West Virginia (16.4%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Cal (7.1% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 32.1%

First Round Upset: None

Closest First Round Game: #8 Dayton over #9 Arkansas (55.8%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Kentucky (34.1%)

Final Four Sleeper: Duke (12.1%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Seton Hall/Marquette Winner (14.8% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 20.5%

First Round Upset: None - NO FIRST ROUND UPSETS

Closest First Round Game: #6 Minnesota over #10 Virginia Tech (53.8%)