This brutal region has 6 of the top 13 teams in the BracketAdvice Ratings.
The first round looks relatively upset free, with the exception of 10-seed Marquette as a good bet to advance. Wisconsin has the best chance of the 8 seeds in any region to advance. In the second round, our model has Virginia as a clear favorite to advance, and Baylor has a fight on its hands against SMU to reach the Sweet 16.
Villanova is the clear favorite to emerge from the gauntlet of excellent teams in the East, with Duke and Virginia as plausible spoilers.
Xavier is well positioned to win a 1st round game, and is the highest seed (11) we have listed as the favorite in their first round game. Congratulations to Northwestern for making the field, we have them basically as a tossup to win their first ever NCAA game.
Our model has St. Mary’s as a very strong team and even lists them as a favorite over Pac-10 champ Arizona. Gonzaga has as clear a path as any team in any region to the Final Four, if they can get past a likely matchup against an underrated West Virginia squad in the Elite Eight.
This region might provide the best first round games to watch. The 8 Miami / 9 Michigan State, 7 Michigan / 10 Oklahoma State, and the 6 Creighton / 11 Rhode Island games should all be close.
The model likes 2-seed Louisville as a favorite over top seed Kansas, with Oregon and Purdue as potential spoilers.
The most “shocking” result here according to BracketAdvice is Wichita State getting a 10 seed. We have them not just advancing in the first round against overmatched Dayton, but as a tossup to beat perennial powerhouse Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Watch out for 12 seed Middle Tennessee State against 5 seed Minnesota, this may be the most likely 12 seed to win their first round game.
We have North Carolina most likely advancing against the Wichita State / Kentucky winner.
The bracket is left-heavy this year, with the tough East and West regions clearly stronger than Midwest and South. The “real” championship might be played in the semifinals — we have Gonzaga and Villanova as the top two teams and they’d play each other first. The right half of the bracket is more of a tossup, with Louisville and UNC as the most likely opponents.
BracketAdvice has Gonzaga as a clear favorite over Villanova to advance to and win the 2017 NCAA Championship, even though the teams are pretty evenly matched, because of the relative strength of Villanova’s regional opponents.