Bracket Analysis (3/9/17)

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 8, 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's our last update of Bracketology simulations before Selection Sunday. As power conferences progress through their 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% 16.4%
2 13.2% 15.5%
3 10.3% 12.0%
4 9.1% 7.4%
5 7.9% 7.2%
6 6.0% 6.9%
7 4.5% 5.8%
8 3.9% 4.6%
9 3.2% 3.2%
10 2.8% 3.1%

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

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 true tournament favorites.

The next pretty clearly defined tier includes five teams this week - Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, West Virginia and Baylor - including some of the most high profile programs in the country. They are also some of the best defensive teams in the country and you know what "they" say about defense and championships.

After another drop-off, Duke, SMU, Oregon, Florida, Purdue and UCLA 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 around a 1% chance at a title includes Virginia, Florida State, Wichita State, Arizona, Saint Mary's Iowa State, Cincinnati and Butler. If looking for non-traditional powers that can make a Final Four run, this is your group.

South Region

Most Likely Final Four team: UNC (38.9%)

Final Four Sleeper: West Virginia (18.5%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Syracuse (19.9% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 30.3%

First Round Upset: #9 Arkansas over #8 Dayton (52.4%) and #11 Syracuse over #6 Minnesota (54.2%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to above, #7 Creighton over #10 Michigan State (65.9%)

West Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Gonzaga (38.7%)

Final Four Sleeper: SMU (14.0%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Marquette (17.3% to make to Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 22.2%

First Round Upset: #10 Marquette over #7 South Carolina (50.6%) and #9 Northwestern over #8 Virginia Tech (52.5%)

Closest First Round Game: In addition to above, #6 Iowa State vs winner of #11 Wake Forest/Illinois State (69.9%)

East Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Villanova (42.0%)

Final Four Sleeper: Florida (13.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Seton Hall (7.8% to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 26.1%

First Round Upset: #9 Michigan over #8 MIami (FL) (65.7%)

Closest First Round Game: #7 Maryland over #10 Seton Hall (55.4%)

Midwest Region

Most Likely Final Four team: Louisville (27.1%)

Final Four Sleeper: Purdue (11.7%)

Cinderella (double-digit seeds going deep): Vanderbilt (7.5% likely to make Sweet 16)

Chance NCAA Champion is from Region: 21.4%

First Round Upset: None -

Closest First Round Game: #7 Oklahoma State over #10 Providence (65.5%)