I went to a game last night just for fun. The teams are irrelevant for the purpose of this conversation; suffice to say that both were middling, neither has a shot at the NCAA tournament and none of it has implications of national merit. But man, it’s almost March and it’s college basketball, it was a blast! 15,590 fans just having a great time sending off the seniors and hoping for a shift in fortunes during the Conference Tournament.
The beauty of CBB is that anyone can be a Cinderella. As I watched the event, the home team played the best game of their season. They were balanced on offense, they shutdown the other team’s two main threats. They rebounded well, controlled their turnovers and staved off multiple run attempts of their foe. At one point they were up by 21 and I thought to myself, “Man, if they play like this, who knows, three good games in the conference tourney and they could slip into an automatic bid.” I was impressed and drinking the Kool-aid.
Welcome to week 15 of the college basketball season. 15 is really not terribly significant, but two weeks ago was. So let’s go in the way back machine, speed it up to 86 mph and look at the AP standings from week 13. Then let’s figure out why this ranking is important.
I’ve gathered bracket probabilities from other websites to compare with my model’s results. Here are the numbers from those models as well as a composite (average of all the models) probability for every team reaching each round. Apologies to the other play-in teams, but I assumed Rutgers, Indiana, Texas A&M-CC, and Wright State win their First Four games.
I’ll show the numbers in a few different looks – Champs, First Round Upsets, Bracket Busters, Cinderellas, Busts, Dark Horse Final Four, and a composite for All Teams/All Rounds – get your scrolling fingers ready!
I was able to find predictions at the following websites:
An early exit for a top seed is losing in the first weekend of the tournament, or in other words failing to reach the Sweet 16.
Only 67% of 1-3 seeds reach the Sweet 16, so this happens often enough that you should at least consider it while making your picks. This year, we once again have 2 top-seeded teams that are likely not going to survive the first weekend (greater than 50% chance). Here are the most likely top-seeded teams to make an early exit.
A dark horse Final Four team is a 5+ seed that reaches the Final Four.
Even though 83% of all Final Four teams have been seeded 1-4, 10 of the last 11 tournaments have had at least 1 5+ seed in the Final Four. The following teams have the best chances among this year’s “longshots.”
Bracket Buster definition: a 6+ seeded team that reaches the Elite 8.
Most bracket fillers conservatively stick to the highest seeds when picking their Elite 8 teams, and rightly so – about 81% of all Elite 8 teams were 1-5 seeds. So when a 6+ seed reaches the Elite 8, most people’s brackets are busted.
Last tournament, there were three bracket busters! Here are this year’s most likely bracket busters (teams with at least a 8% chance):
Let’s call a Cinderella team a double-digit seed that reaches the Sweet 16. This means they would pull off at least one but probably two upsets in the first weekend and have glory and praise heaped upon them for the next week before they play in the Sweet 16. Almost every year, we see at least one Cinderella. Only the 1995 and 2007 tournaments didn’t have one. Last year we had four!
Correctly identify a Cinderella team in your bracket, and you’ll not only look like a genius, but also increase your chances of winning your bracket pool. Here are this year’s most likely Cinderellas (i.e. teams with at least a 15% chance of reaching the Sweet 16):
It sure is fun to correctly pick the inevitable First Round upsets. This year, both 10-Loyola-Chicago and 10-Miami are favorites to win their First Round games.
10-seeds have some very strong model results, translating to a 95% chance that we’ll see multiple 10-seeds advancing to the Second Round. Chances are looking good for multiple 11-6 upsets, too – about 50% chance we’ll see more than 1. Last year we only had one 12-5 upset, and this year there’s about a 74% chance we’ll have at least 1, but the likelihood of more than that is only around 33%.
Here are the double-digit teams with at least a 20% chance to win their First Round game.
Win your bracket pool by using simulation results from BracketResearch.com’s computer model that amazingly predicts NCAA Tournament outcomes.
The East Region is home to the double digit seed with the highest Final Four probability. It’s only 4%, but 10-San Francisco has best chances of a Final Four run of any double-digit seed in the bracket.