There’s a problem with the typical 2017 NCAA tournament predictions.
Over on my interactive visual, I’ve posted the probabilities for each team to advance through each round of the tournament. These are based on my team rankings, which take margin of victory in games and adjust for strength of schedule.
The results are off this year. According to these points based analytics, Gonzaga has a 31.5% chance to win the tourney. The Zags are a fantastic basketball team that should have a top win probability, but almost 1 in 3 is too high.
In a similar manner, West Virginia sits at 3rd in my team rankings. The Mountaineers, another team that looks better in points based metrics than their true skill level, have a 6.6% win probability, fourth highest in the nation.
The points based analytics have the opposite problem with Duke and Kentucky. These traditional powers started the season in the top 5 of the preseason AP poll, but disappointed for most of the season.
These two teams have only performed to preseason expectation the past two weeks. But based on my teams rankings, both have less than a 5% chance to win the tournament.
To get a different estimate of team strength for the 2017 tournament, let’s look to the markets. I take the closing point spread in each game and adjust for strength of schedule with my algorithm.
Games later in the season get more weight, and these numbers have a more subjective component since they consider the collective wisdom of those willing to put money on the games.
Let’s look at the top 25 teams by these market rankings.
1. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have been on top of these rankings most of the season.
They get a benefit from playing a higher pace. More possessions in a game implies a higher point spread against an average team.
But a higher pace doesn’t explain all of this top ranking. The markets believe in this Roy Williams team.
Gonzaga played a weak schedule in the West Coast Conference the past two months. However, the markets closed at large enough spreads that the Zags get ranked 3rd in the nation.
Based on a rank of 3rd here and 1st in my team rankings, Gonzaga should be considered a top contender to win the 2017 NCAA tournament.
Duke has been all over the place this season. They were as high as 4th in these market rankings when the team rankings had them at 14th.
As Duke surged this past week, they’ve dropped to 6th in the market rankings but have moved up to 7th in the team rankings.
The algorithm puts more weight on their most recent game with North Carolina, in which Duke closed as a 4 point underdog. This could explain their drop in the market rankings the past week.
In general, these market rankings are slower to react to a team that suddenly plays well. The markets didn’t react much after Duke’s win over North Carolina, as Duke was a 4.5 point favorite over Notre Dame in the ACC final. This is roughly the same as when Duke was a 1 point favorite at Notre Dame earlier this year, as home court advantage is 3.5 points.
9. West Virginia
While the Mountaineers are 3rd in the team rankings, they only drop to 9th in the market rankings. Let’s not completely ignore this team, although they would face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
13. Wichita State
15. Florida State
The Badgers were as high as 9th in these market rankings in early February before struggling to close out the season. They’ve dropped to 17th in these market rankings.
Wisconsin has a talented team with Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, two players that started on their Final Four team in 2015. And Ethan Happ is probably their best player.
Wisconsin would face Villanova in the Round of 32, and my numbers would make the 1 seed Villanova only a 4.5 point favorite.
19. St. Mary’s
23. Notre Dame
Markets have been a few points higher on this team than points based metrics the past two months. A rank of 24th is a fair overall assessment of this team.
25. Miami (FL)
How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool
It’s been an odd year in college basketball. Points based team rankings don’t capture the full story for the top contenders to win the 2017 NCAA tournament.
Market rankings, which take closing point spreads from the markets and adjust for strength of schedule, provide a different perspective on how to view the top teams.
While you have access to the market rankings here, I combine them with other metrics to calculate my win probabilities for members of The Power Rank. Members also get my complete bracket advice with how to apply contrarian thinking to win medium sized pools.
To learn more, click here.
robert eggers says
It is big mistake to not have Iowa State in top 25.
Dr. Ed Feng says
It wasn’t me that didn’t have ISU, it’s the markets. And they’re 26th.
Great insight. Bought your book last year and it helped immensely. Current ESPN pick numbers suggests that Gonzaga might be the contrarian champion. Am I on track thinking this?
So, Gonzaga looks like the best contrarian value champs in 2017?!
bob m says
also a sleeper Notre Dame a favorable bracket that west vs Duke in ACC Duke shot astounding 72% 2pt ND out rebounded on O Boards not a bad pick at fake dreaded 5 in EAST according to Dr. WISC and Marquette aren best plays 1st rd east