Its Crowded At The Top Of The NCAA Tournament

7Dayton4135363446442838 Our ratings also account for injuries and travel distance — playing in a familiar gym an hour from campus is a big advantage compared to traveling across the country. And once the tournament begins, the ratings will be updated to reflect the results of previous tournament games. If a No. 2 seed needs overtime to defeat a No. 15 seed, for instance, it can be an inauspicious sign for their prospects down the road.Let’s take a quick tour of the four regions — starting with Villanova and the East. 15Jax. State6362646264686166 3Florida State2219182119171035 1Villanova12212114 13Vermont4551514549505353 RANK AMONG 68 TOURNAMENT TEAMS 8Arkansas3237374037273141 9Seton Hall2845444747333430 SEEDTEAMELOPOMSAGBPILRMCMOORNCAAPRE 11Xavier463932333631417 How the teams compare: Midwest region 16South Dakota St.5865636565626445 7Michigan1221222021222733 12UNC-Wilmington4249495144524947 SEEDTEAMELOPOMSAGBPILRMCMOORNCAAPRE RANK AMONG 68 TOURNAMENT TEAMS 16New Orleans6564676868676768 2Arizona51921242021611 11USC4850465052464534 1UNC63334436 2Louisville10665113812 15North Dakota6263616066596261 4West Virginia13547371517 12Nevada3446454242474752 6Cincinnati2122201518182225 6Creighton2527272727292418 5Virginia207741010177 3Oregon8161313162495 13E. Tenn. St.5252525250535257 5Iowa State1517152315112021 4Florida1691089141429 How the teams compare: West region 11Rhode Island3036403141284420 9Michigan St.4440353839383510 16Texas Southern6766666362646360 8Miami2732282840363023 RANK AMONG 68 TOURNAMENT TEAMS 14FGCU5955555356555656 14Iona6157575855545848 13Bucknell5353535451515154 As a Michigan native, I’m a firm believer that Midwest is best, but that doesn’t extend to this year’s tournament, where the region is a bit lackluster. Kansas — with a 28-4 record from a very good Big 12 conference — might seem like a no-brainer No. 1 seed. But other than Elo, the computer ratings are a bit down on the Jayhawks, noting that they won many games by narrow margins that could reflect luck as much as clutch performance. Still, they’re the favorite here. Louisville is a perfectly adequate No. 2 seed, but they have to survive a difficult Round of 32 game — both No. 7 Michigan and No. 10 Oklahoma State are underseeded. And the regional finals will be played in Kansas City, advantaging KU.A lot of people are also pointing toward Kansas’s Round of 32 matchup — against either No. 8 Miami or No. 9 Michigan State — as a difficult spot. But as much as it pains me to say this as an East Lansingite, I’m not sure this is Michigan State’s year. They’ve won only five road or neutral-site games all year, and while a lot of credit should be given to the Spartans for how many tough teams they scheduled, they also didn’t come away with a lot of wins. Then again, Tom Izzo has made a fool of everyone else’s best-laid plans and projections in the past.No. 3 seed Oregon is another case of a team that might seem to be underseeded but probably isn’t. They lost senior forward Chris Boucher to an ACL tear in the Pac-12 tournament, substantially weakening their front-court depth. 3Baylor1913161717201228 11Kansas State5129313228344636 ELO = FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating; POM = Ken Pomeroy; SAG = Jeff Sagarin “predictor” rating; BPI = ESPN’s basketball power index; MOOR = Sonny Moore power ratings; NCAA = Selection committee’s 68-team “S-Curve”; PRE = Composite of preseason rankings 1Gonzaga711212412 FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions are up and ready for your perusal. But while we’re really excited about the tournament, we have to say this is not a year in which we’re going to be able to help you all that much, at least in the Elite Eight and beyond.That’s because there’s as much parity in the tournament as there’s ever been — not necessarily from the very top of the field to the very bottom, but certainly among a group of No. 1 and No. 2 seeds that aren’t all that easy to distinguish from one another. Meanwhile, the blue bloods have to navigate a minefield of underseeded teams such as Wichita State and SMU, with some having more perilous paths than others.The one team that potentially stood out from the pack — defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova — has been undermined by a difficult draw. While the Wildcats are still the nominal favorite to win the tournament, they have only a 15 percent chance of doing so, which is tied for the lowest probability for a frontrunner in our seven years of making tournament predictions.1Fourth-seeded Louisville also had a 15 percent chance in 2014.Our methodology for making these projections is exactly the same as it was last year. They’re based on a blend of six computer rankings: FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Jeff Sagarin’s “predictor” ratings, ESPN’s BPI, Joel Sokol’s LRMC ratings and Sonny Moore’s computer power ratings. We also use two human-generated rating systems: the selection committee’s 68-team “S-Curve” and a composite of preseason ratings from coaches and media polls. The preseason ratings have some predictive power when used carefully, serving as a hedge against teams that may have overachieved or underachieved relative to their talent level and are due to revert to the mean.VIDEO: A No. 16 seed will win, but don’t bet on it ELO = FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating; POM = Ken Pomeroy; SAG = Jeff Sagarin “predictor” rating; BPI = ESPN’s basketball power index; MOOR = Sonny Moore power ratings; NCAA = Selection committee’s 68-team “S-Curve”; PRE = Composite of preseason rankings 10Okla. State2924232626253744 5Notre Dame1725242223191931 11Wake Forest4330333029324349 4Butler2326262524231327 14Kent St.5759585858575759 In contrast to recent seasons, when the committee was often forced to ship in teams from the eastern half of the country to claim the top two seeds in the West, this year’s bracket features two geographically appropriate representatives in No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Arizona. That’s important to keep in mind, because travel can be a big factor in the West region, with teams potentially flying a long way to play games in an unfamiliar time zone.Otherwise, the West is a bit … weird. For one thing, Gonzaga — with a 32-1 record largely assembled outside a top conference — isn’t an easy team to get a handle on. A few of the computer ratings have the ‘Zags as the No. 1 overall team, while the committee’s rankings — and Elo — are more skeptical of them because they beat up on middling opposition. No. 2 Arizona, meanwhile, isn’t well liked by the computers, with its strength of schedule not as good as you’d expect from a 30-4 Pac-12 champion. Michigan State, whom the Wildcats beat to start their season, was Arizona’s best nonconference win.West Virginia, the No. 4 seed, is another highly divisive team. They lost eight games but those losses came by an average of just 4.6 points, so the computer formulas think they’re badly underseeded. It’s a tough break for the Mountaineers to not only have drawn Gonzaga in the Round of 16 but also to have to fly across the country to play the game.The West also features a number of potential spoilers from strong academic schools — Northwestern, Princeton, Vanderbilt — that will probably create a lot of buzz if they win. (All those Northwestern journalism grads won’t hurt.) None of those teams are especially underseeded, however. A better dark-horse pick is No. 7 St. Mary’s, which could give Arizona fits in the Round of 32.Check out our March Madness predictions. ELO = FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating; POM = Ken Pomeroy; SAG = Jeff Sagarin “predictor” rating; BPI = ESPN’s basketball power index; MOOR = Sonny Moore power ratings; NCAA = Selection committee’s 68-team “S-Curve”; PRE = Composite of preseason rankings 2Duke412868671 9Vanderbilt3934383631393326 How the teams compare: South region 5Minnesota3333343635351855 SEEDTEAMELOPOMSAGBPILRMCMOORNCAAPRE 9Virginia Tech3741424543373642 13Winthrop5456565557565458 11Providence4047474848424237 15N. Kentucky6060596360605963 16UC-Davis6468656767666562 10Wichita St.11811155123824 16NC Central6661626161656667 UNC and Kentucky are the top two seeds in the South — and are a tossup to advance from the region according to our forecast (each one has a 30 percent chance). Working in the Tar Heels’ favor: they played one of the toughest schedules in memory, rank slightly ahead of Kentucky in most of the computer rankings (although not in Elo) and are on the opposite side of the bracket from Wichita State, which was ridiculously underseeded. (The Shockers ranked in the top 10 overall according to two computer rankings, LRMC and Pomeroy, and yet they are just a No. 10 seed in their region according to the committee.) Helping Kentucky: the Wildcats are a bit healthier than UNC, come in hotter (having won 11 games in a row and the SEC tournament), might have a bit more top-level talent (as reflected in their preseason ranking) and the location of the regional final, in Memphis, could be slightly favorable to them.If it’s not UNC or Kentucky, the obvious alternative to emerge from the South is No. 3 UCLA, but the various computer rankings are not as bullish on the Pac-12 as the conventional wisdom seems to be. The South also features perhaps the best bet for a 5-vs-12 upset: No. 12 Middle Tennessee, which knocked off Michigan State last year, has a roughly 50-50 shot of beating No. 5 Minnesota, according to our forecast. 3UCLA1418141413161115 15Troy5558605759586065 How the teams compare: East region ELO = FiveThirtyEight’s Elo rating; POM = Ken Pomeroy; SAG = Jeff Sagarin “predictor” rating; BPI = ESPN’s basketball power index; MOOR = Sonny Moore power ratings; NCAA = Selection committee’s 68-team “S-Curve”; PRE = Composite of preseason rankings 4Purdue1815121112131614 12Mid. Tenn.3843484032484851 6Maryland4942414245412319 RANK AMONG 68 TOURNAMENT TEAMS 7St. Mary’s2414251225262516 14NM State5654545554635550 SEEDTEAMELOPOMSAGBPILRMCMOORNCAAPRE 7South Carolina5031303834452639 6SMU911191914152122 Villanova, the selection committee’s top seed, also ranks well according to the six computer systems, all of which place it first or second overall. But it got absolutely no help from the committee, who stuffed the East region with tough teams. Duke — which began as the preseason No. 1, slumped in the middle of the season, and then recovered to win the ACC tournament this weekend — engenders some disagreement among the various ratings systems but is no pushover as No. 2 seed, to say the least. That sets up a possible grudge match between Villanova and Duke, the past two tournament champions, in the East regional final at Madison Square Garden.But Villanova has their work cut out to get there. Wisconsin, the No. 8 seed and ‘Nova’s potential opponent in the Round of 32, should have been seeded several slots higher according to the computers and has a history of tough postseason play. No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Virginia also get a lot more respect from the computers than they did from the committee, with blemished win-loss records masking difficult schedules and strong defenses.On Duke’s side of the bracket, No. 6 SMU could be a tough out and is about even-money in its potential Round of 32 matchup against No. 3 Baylor. But if you’re looking for a first-round upset, there aren’t any slam-dunk candidates. No. 7 South Carolina is probably no better a team than No. 10 Marquette, but they have the advantage of playing a de facto home game in Greenville, S.C. 12Princeton3548504853495043 2Kentucky345106553 8Wisconsin26231718229299 8Northwestern4738394233433240 1Kansas210997822 10VCU3644433538404032 10Marquette3128292830303946

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