Pool Strategy

2016 Tournament Overview

South

The first round favorites look pretty safe in the South, with the notable exceptions of Arizona as a tossup against the Vanderbilt/Wichita State winner, and Connecticut as a clear upset winner against the “favored” 8-seeded Colorado. From there the bottom half of this bracket is up for grabs, and Maryland/California should be close as well.

Kansas is as close to a favorite as there is in this tournament, but they were paired against a brutally strong #2 in Villanova. Either is a very reasonable pick to win the region.

West

Once again our model shows the #9 seed as the clearly better team, Cincinnati over St. Joe’s. We also show the #10 seed VCU as an expected upset. If you’re looking for a #12 seed Cinderella, Yale could surprise against Baylor. In the second round, top-seed Oregon is a tossup to beat the 8/9 winner and if they do they’ll likely fall in the next game.

This region is as wide open as it gets. We’ve got Oklahoma as the most likely team to advance, but Duke, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, and even the top seed Oregon are all very reasonable picks.

East

The two clearest first round upset chances here are the 11-seeded Michigan/Tulsa winner against 6-seed Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh against 7-seed Wisconsin. 2-seed Xavier is in trouble in the 2nd round against the Pittsburgh/Wisconsin winner.

North Carolina and West Virginia are most likely to win this region, though the Kentucky/Indiana winner could give UNC a scare.

Midwest

We like Gonzaga to exceed their seed and upset 6-seed Seton Hall, and even though Syracuse is getting a lot of heat for getting in the tournament, our model has them upsetting 7-seed Dayton.

We like Michigan State to win this region over Virginia with Purdue as a potential darkhorse.

Final Four

Our model has no clear favorite, with Michigan State, Kansas, and Virginia as the top of a bunched pack. Villanova, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Carolina all have reasonable chances to win the championship this year.

So who do you pick? Any of those are fine choices. This isn’t a bad year to try a #2 seed in Michigan State in many pools. If you need a deep longshot, 5-seed Purdue is the most likely high-seed to surprise.



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2016 Odds of Advancing

Here are our odds of each team advancing through each round of the 2016 men’s tournament.

South
First Round Second Round Regional Semifinals Regional Champion
Kansas 97.9%
Austin Peay 2.1%
Kansas 70.5%
Connecticut 25.2%
Colorado 4.2%
Kansas 50.3%
Maryland 20.8%
Connecticut 14.0%
California 11.6%
Hawaii 1.6%
Colorado 1.3%
Kansas 31.7%
Villanova 20.7%
Miami (Fla.) 11.8%
Maryland 9.6%
Connecticut 6.4%
Iowa 5.9%
California 4.6%
Arizona 4.6%
Vanderbilt/WichitaSt 3.7%
Connecticut 74.0%
Colorado 26.0%
Maryland 84.4%
South Dakota State 15.6%
Maryland 52.6%
California 34.5%
Hawaii 9.1%
South Dakota State 3.8%
California 70.3%
Hawaii 29.7%
Arizona 51.8%
Vanderbilt/WichitaSt 48.2%
Miami (Fla.) 50.9%
Arizona 25.1%
Vanderbilt/WichitaSt 22.5%
Buffalo 1.4%
Villanova 38.6%
Miami (Fla.) 25.2%
Iowa 14.5%
Arizona 10.9%
Vanderbilt/WichitaSt 9.5%
Temple 1.0%
Miami (Fla.) 89.5%
Buffalo 10.5%
Iowa 76.1%
Temple 23.9%
Villanova 63.6%
Iowa 30.7%
Temple 4.6%
North Carolina-Asheville 1.1%
Villanova 93.0%
North Carolina-Asheville 7.0%

West
First Round Second Round Regional Semifinals Regional Champion
Oregon 96.6%
HolyCross/Southern 3.4%
Oregon 50.5%
Cincinnati 41.3%
Saint Joseph’s 8.1%
Duke 27.8%
Oregon 25.6%
Cincinnati 22.7%
Baylor 16.3%
Yale 4.3%
Saint Joseph’s 2.4%
Oklahoma 23.9%
Duke 15.6%
Oregon 13.1%
Texas A&M 13.0%
Cincinnati 12.5%
Baylor 8.3%
Texas 6.5%
Virginia Commonwealth 3.4%
Yale 1.6%
Cincinnati 74.2%
Saint Joseph’s 25.8%
Baylor 65.3%
Yale 34.7%
Duke 50.5%
Baylor 32.9%
Yale 12.6%
North Carolina-Wilmington 4.0%
Duke 83.3%
North Carolina-Wilmington 16.7%
Texas 70.8%
Northern Iowa 29.2%
Texas A&M 54.7%
Texas 34.7%
Northern Iowa 8.8%
Green Bay 1.8%
Oklahoma 42.2%
Texas A&M 27.2%
Texas 15.5%
Virginia Commonwealth 9.6%
Oregon State 2.4%
Northern Iowa 2.3%
Texas A&M 89.4%
Green Bay 10.6%
Virginia Commonwealth 65.1%
Oregon State 34.9%
Oklahoma 66.5%
Virginia Commonwealth 22.5%
Oregon State 8.2%
Cal State Bakersfield 2.8%
Oklahoma 89.4%
Cal State Bakersfield 10.6%

East
First Round Second Round Regional Semifinals Regional Champion
North Carolina 95.3%
FGCU/F Dickinson 4.7%
North Carolina 71.9%
Providence 14.1%
Southern California 13.4%
North Carolina 40.3%
Indiana 26.9%
Kentucky 23.3%
Providence 4.3%
Southern California 4.0%
North Carolina 23.9%
West Virginia 22.8%
Indiana 15.0%
Kentucky 12.8%
Xavier 9.0%
Wisconsin 3.8%
Pittsburgh 3.3%
Michigan/Tulsa 3.2%
Notre Dame 2.9%
Providence 1.4%
Southern California 1.3%
Providence 50.8%
Southern California 49.2%
Indiana 87.9%
Chattanooga 12.1%
Indiana 49.9%
Kentucky 44.1%
Stony Brook 3.9%
Chattanooga 2.1%
Kentucky 82.3%
Stony Brook 17.7%
Michigan/Tulsa 50.8%
Notre Dame 49.2%
West Virginia 58.9%
Michigan/Tulsa 18.3%
Notre Dame 17.4%
Stephen F. Austin 5.3%
West Virginia 40.2%
Xavier 21.5%
Wisconsin 10.3%
Pittsburgh 9.3%
Michigan/Tulsa 8.7%
Notre Dame 8.2%
Stephen F. Austin 1.6%
West Virginia 83.5%
Stephen F. Austin 16.5%
Wisconsin 51.3%
Pittsburgh 48.7%
Xavier 48.2%
Wisconsin 25.7%
Pittsburgh 23.9%
Weber State 2.1%
Xavier 86.9%
Weber State 13.1%

Midwest
First Round Second Round Regional Semifinals Regional Champion
Virginia 98.9%
Hampton 1.1%
Virginia 75.2%
Butler 14.3%
Texas Tech 10.4%
Virginia 45.2%
Purdue 32.9%
Iowa State 11.3%
Butler 5.1%
Texas Tech 3.3%
Arkansas-Little Rock 1.4%
Michigan State 37.3%
Virginia 24.7%
Purdue 17.6%
Iowa State 4.2%
Gonzaga 3.7%
Utah 3.7%
Seton Hall 2.9%
Syracuse 1.9%
Butler 1.6%
Butler 54.8%
Texas Tech 45.2%
Purdue 82.6%
Arkansas-Little Rock 17.4%
Purdue 59.7%
Iowa State 29.6%
Arkansas-Little Rock 6.5%
Iona 4.2%
Iowa State 76.4%
Iona 23.6%
Gonzaga 52.3%
Seton Hall 47.7%
Utah 37.5%
Gonzaga 31.3%
Seton Hall 27.5%
Fresno State 3.7%
Michigan State 59.7%
Utah 11.1%
Gonzaga 10.2%
Seton Hall 8.5%
Syracuse 6.2%
Dayton 3.6%
Utah 79.7%
Fresno State 20.3%
Syracuse 55.9%
Dayton 44.1%
Michigan State 76.9%
Syracuse 13.2%
Dayton 8.8%
Middle Tennessee 1.1%
Michigan State 94.5%
Middle Tennessee 5.5%

Final Four
Semifinals National Championship Game
Kansas 21.4%
Villanova 12.8%
Oklahoma 11.5%
Duke 7.1%
Miami (Fla.) 6.5%
Cincinnati 5.6%
Oregon 5.4%
Texas A&M 5.1%
Maryland 4.9%
Baylor 3.4%
Connecticut 3.2%
Iowa 2.8%
Arizona 2.2%
Texas 2.2%
California 2.1%
Vanderbilt/WichitaSt 1.7%
Michigan State 16.2%
Kansas 12.2%
Virginia 8.9%
Villanova 6.5%
West Virginia 6.3%
Purdue 6.0%
North Carolina 6.0%
Oklahoma 5.2%
Indiana 3.3%
Duke 3.0%
Miami (Fla.) 2.8%
Kentucky 2.7%
Cincinnati 2.4%
Oregon 2.0%
Maryland 2.0%
Texas A&M 1.8%
Xavier 1.3%
Connecticut 1.3%
Baylor 1.3%
Iowa 1.1%
Michigan State 25.1%
Virginia 14.9%
West Virginia 11.1%
North Carolina 11.1%
Purdue 10.4%
Indiana 6.5%
Kentucky 5.4%
Xavier 3.1%
Iowa State 1.7%
Gonzaga 1.5%
Utah 1.4%
Wisconsin 1.2%
Seton Hall 1.1%

These predictions were made using a Monte Carlo simulation that simulated the tournament 1 million times using the BracketAdvice ratings to predict game outcomes.



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What does seed number tell us?

Here’s how NCAA men’s college basketball Division I tournament teams have performed by seed, going back to 1985 (the first year of the 64-team bracket).


SeedWins per Round
Round 1Round 2Sweet 16Elite EightFinal FourNational Championship
1 120 (100.0%)104 (86.7%)82 (68.3%)48 (40.0%)27 (22.5%)18 (15.0%)
2 113 (94.2%)77 (64.2%)56 (46.7%)26 (21.7%)12 (10.0%)4 (3.3%)
3 102 (85.0%)60 (50.0%)30 (25.0%)14 (11.7%)9 (7.5%)4 (3.3%)
4 95 (79.2%)54 (45.0%)19 (15.8%)13 (10.8%)3 (2.5%)1 (0.8%)
5 76 (63.3%)39 (32.5%)8 (6.7%)6 (5.0%)3 (2.5%) 
6 79 (65.8%)41 (34.2%)13 (10.8%)3 (2.5%)2 (1.7%)1 (0.8%)
7 73 (60.8%)20 (16.7%)8 (6.7%)1 (0.8%)1 (0.8%)1 (0.8%)
8 59 (49.2%)11 (9.2%)8 (6.7%)5 (4.2%)3 (2.5%)1 (0.8%)
9 61 (50.8%)5 (4.2%)2 (1.7%)1 (0.8%)  
10 47 (39.2%)23 (19.2%)7 (5.8%)   
11 41 (34.2%)17 (14.2%)6 (5.0%)3 (2.5%)  
12 44 (36.7%)20 (16.7%)1 (0.8%)   
13 25 (20.8%)6 (5.0%)    
14 18 (15.0%)2 (1.7%)    
15 7 (5.8%)1 (0.8%)    
16       

The 5, 6, and 7 seeds are virtually identical in the first round

Think of a bell curve with the top seeds and bottom seeds on either extreme. This leaves a fat middle section of teams that are very similar. 5, 6, and 7 seeds have won 76, 79, and 73 of their first round games respectively, making them indistinguishable based on seed alone.

Even though 5 and 12 seeds seem pretty far apart, they’re both in the fat middle of the bell curve. Much ado is made each year when a 12 seed upsets a 5 seed, but we shouldn’t think of it as particularly remarkable — it happens more than a third of the time and at about the same rate 10s upset 7s.

8 vs 9 is a toss-up in the first round but 8s have legs

In the first round, 9 seeds have actually won marginally more than half the time (61-59). In the second round, however, 8 seeds upset the 1 seeds much more frequently than 9 seeds (11 vs. 5 times). 8 seeds progress very well from there, taking advantage of a 1 seed’s relatively easy path to the Final Four.

Why this discrepancy, given that 8 and 9 seeds are so similar in every other way? Perhaps there’s a psychological factor — the 9 seeds have already exceeded expectations by notching an upset, whereas the 8 seeds were “supposed” to win and haven’t proven themselves yet. Perhaps this is just statistical noise, given the relative rarity of upsets over a 1 seed in the second round (13.3%). It’s worth keeping an eye on.

3 and 4 seeds have trouble making the Sweet 16

The 3 and 4 seeds do very well in the first round, winning about 80% or more of the time. But the second round is a different story, where they win barely half the games in which they appear — their win percentages drop to 58.8% and 56.8% respectively.

Seeds don’t matter past the Elite Eight

There’s a point somewhere around the 3rd round where seeds cease to matter. You’ll notice that the number of wins for each team is roughly half in each succeeding round after about the 3rd round.

…but 1 seeds win championship games

The one clear exception to this rule is 1 seeds in championship games. Of the 27 times a 1 seed has made it to the championship game, 18 times (66.7%) they have won. Note that this includes five championship matchups that pitted a 1 seed against another 1 seed — excluding these, 1 seeds have won 13 of 17 matchups against other seeds.



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