With every passing day in March, college basketball heats up that much more. Basketball junkies like us only have 16 days left until the committee announces the field of 68.
However, we couldn’t wait that long to see who would win the tourney. We took Jerry Palm’s bracket predictions from yesterday and calculated the win probabilities for each team to advance through each round. These odds are based on our college basketball team rankings, which give a win probability for each game.
We show these numbers in our interactive bracket (click here to open it up in a new tab). To unveil the win probabilities for a team to advance, hover over the team name. To discover the odds that a team wins a game, hover over the circle for that game.
Last year, Amy Nelson of SB Nation made this awesome video about our analytics and this interactive visualization.
You should draw your own conclusion from this year’s numbers. These 3 things jumped out at us.
Florida has largest chance of winning the tourney
What? The Gator team that has dropped 3 games in a weak SEC conference? The team that’s only 11th in the AP poll has a 12.8% chance of winning the tourney?
Florida is the top team in our college basketball rankings. Despite being more than a point and half better than even Indiana, they have lost 5 games this year because of their love affair with the 3 point shot. Over 40% of their shots come from behind the arc. Most nights, they shoot pretty well, hitting 38.4% of their 3’s for the season. However, they can also die by the 3.
Florida’s chance at winning the tourney would be even higher had Palm not put them in the Region of Death. The East region has Duke, Michigan and Syracuse in addition to Florida, all top 10 teams in The Power Rank. The committee takes geography into account when determining the bracket. Since most of the best college basketball teams are east of the Mississippi River, the bracket has regions of vastly differing strength.
Pittsburgh in the West
If the East is the Region of Death, then the West is the Region of Eternal Life. Due to geography considerations, the West has Gonzaga, New Mexico and Arizona as the top 3 seeds. While our numbers love Gonzaga (#3), New Mexico and Arizona are 19th and 15th respectively. One would expect the worst 2 and 3 seed to have a rank of 8th and 12th.
This unbalanced bracket opens the door for Pittsburgh, the 5 seed in the West. After an uncharacteristically poor season last year, the Panthers have surged back on the national scene with coach Jamie Dixon. Ranked 12th in The Power Rank, they have a 10.9% chance of making the Final 4 out of the West. It’s not as high as Gonzaga’s 25.3% chance, but it’s higher than most “experts” will give them.
First round upsets
The Madness of March starts that first Thursday (or Friday on a weird year) of the tourney when higher seeded teams get upset by double digit seeded teams. In Palm’s bracket, Oregon and Butler look most vulnerable.
Oregon has been overrated all year, rising to 19th in the most recent AP poll but only 49th in The Power Rank. They got exposed last night at Colorado, losing by 23. Wichita State has a 55% chance of upsetting Oregon in the first round.
Most people remember Butler for their consecutive championship game appearances from a few years back. However, this year’s team doesn’t have the same defensive toughness as those teams. Middle Tennessee State, who was our highest ranked team not to make last year’s tourney, has a 51% chance of knocking off Butler in the first round.
What jumps out at you in our numbers? (Here’s that link to the interactive bracket again.) Let us know in the comments.
Thanks for reading.