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The 2013 NCAA TournamentDid everybody have a good Selection Sunday? Hopefully you did, and now you’re ready to jump into the brackets. And just like last year, Minitab is here to help you along! But first we have to wait for EPSN to stop yelling about who the  68th best team in the country is. I mean, honestly, you think they would have learned their lesson two years ago when they were adamant about what a travesty it was that VCU got an at-large bid. You know, the same VCU team that then went to the final four. Maybe next year Virginia should try not losing to Delaware at home. Oh, what’s that? Dick Vitale finally stopped complaining? Okay, we’re good to go!

In case you’re wondering where the following numbers come from, last year I spent not one, but two blog posts creating a regression model that calculates the probability of Team 1 beating Team 2 given the two teams' rankings. Of course, the model is only as good as the data you put into it. So last week I determined which NCAA ranking system is the most accurate. The winner was the Jeff Sagarin NCAA basketball ratings. Now that all the hard statistical work is behind us, let’s break down the bracket!

First Four

Team 1

Team 2

Favorite

North Carolina A&T

Liberty

North Carolina A&T (57%)

Long Island

James Madison

Long Island (51%)

St. Mary’s

Middle Tennessee St

St. Mary’s (58%)

La Salle

Boise St

La Salle (52%)

It looks like we’re set for a lot of close games in Dayton. The 16 seeds are playing for the right to get slaughtered by a 1 seed. But the other teams are playing for more. In each of the last two years, a team playing in the First Four has gone on to beat their next opponent (VCU in 2011 and South Florida in 2012). This year the best candidate is St. Mary’s. The Sagarin Ratings have St. Mary’s ranked at 28, meaning they are severely underseeded. And keep in mind this team hasn’t lost to a team not named “Gonzaga” since December. If they can get past Middle Tennessee St, they’ll have a great shot against Memphis in the next round.

Midwest: First Round

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Louisville

North Carolina A&T

Louisville (98%)

Colorado St

Missouri

Missouri (65%)

Oklahoma St

Oregon

Oklahoma St (67%)

St. Louis

New Mexico St

St. Louis (78%)

Memphis

St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s (53%)

Michigan St

Valparaiso

Michigan St (80%)

Creighton

Cincinnati

Creighton (64%)

Duke

Albany

Duke (93%)

In these tables, I’ll highlight cases where the statistics say that the lower seed should actually be favored over the higher seed (although I’m not counting games between the 8-9 seeds). This is why St. Mary’s is in red above. If they can beat Middle Tennessee St, the model actually likes them to beat Memphis, too. Memphis would be a slight favorite over Middle Tennessee St (55%), but that game would be close. Case in point, Memphis will be on upset alert from the outset. Don’t pick them to go far in your bracket.  

There doesn’t look to be much in the way of upsets after St. Mary’s, though. Oregon has a 1-in-3 chance of beating Oklahoma St, so if you must pick another upset here, that’s your best bet. Valparaiso is actually a very strong 14 seed. However, they were unlucky in being paired with Michigan St, who is a very strong 3 seed. That severely hurt Valpo’s chances of pulling the upset.

Missouri is actually a pretty big favorite over the 8 seed Colorado St. This is because the Sagarin Ratings have the Cowboys ranked #18, which is pretty high for a 9 seed. Because everybody in your pool will most likely be split 50/50 on this game (since it’s an 8/9 game), pick the Tigers and gain an edge over the brackets who picked Colorado St. And as you’ll see, this will be a common theme in every 8/9 game.

Creighton is in the same boat as Missouri. They are a 7 seed, but the Sagarin Rankings have them as the 17th best team in the country. They have a good shot at advancing in the tournament.

Midwest: Future Rounds

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Louisville

Missouri

Louisville (80%)

St. Louis

Oklahoma St

St. Louis (52%)

Michigan St

Memphis

Michigan St (70%)

Duke

Creighton

Duke (63%)

Louisville

Saint Louis

Louisville (80%)

Duke

Michigan St

Duke (53%)

Louisville

Duke

Louisville (72%)

Duke

Saint Louis

Duke (62%)

The final Sagarin Ratings before the tournament have Louisville as the #1 team, so you’re going to see them heavily favored in all of these games. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking they are a lock for the Final Four. Missouri is actually a very underrated 9 seed that can challenge Louisville. Saint Louis and Oklahoma St are both quality teams, and Duke and Michigan St are the 2nd strongest 2 and 3 seeds in the field. If Louisville has to play Missouri, Saint Louis, and Duke, their chances of going to the final four are: .98 * .80 * .80 * .72 = 45%. So over half of the time, we would expect them not to make the final four. Kentucky got a much more favorable draw last year as the overall 1 seed.

If St. Louis and Oklahoma St meet in the 2nd round, that game will pretty much be a coin flip. But we saw in the first round that Oklahoma St has a better chance of being upset. So the smart thing to do here would be to take St. Louis into the Sweet Sixteen. Or, if you’re like my wife, you could decide that the St. Louis’s mascot is hilarious and awesome, and use that as your reasoning to take them to the Final Four.

Michigan St will most likely have an easier 2nd round game than Duke. They would be a heavy favorite over Memphis, and if they meet St. Mary’s in this game, they’d still win 67% of the time. Duke on the other hand, has a totally loseable game against Creighton (should the two meet). Creighton is one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country. If they’re hitting their shots, they could give Duke an early exit.

Overall, Louisville is the favorite to win the Midwest. But their path won’t be easy. Duke and Michigan St are both good enough to get to the Final Four, and St. Louis and Oklahoma St aren’t terrible long shots.

West: First Round

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Gonzaga

Southern

Gonzaga (96%)

Pittsburgh

Wichita St

Pittsburgh (71%)

Wisconsin

Ole Miss

Wisconsin (70%)

Kansas St

La Salle

Kansas St (67%)

Arizona

Belmont

Arizona (65%)

New Mexico

Harvard

New Mexico (79%)

Notre Dame

Iowa St

Notre Dame (56%)

Ohio St

Iona

Ohio St (88%)

At first glance it doesn’t appear that there are any good chances for upsets in the first round here. Not counting Notre Dame (who is a 7 seed), all of the higher seeds have at least a 65% chance of advancing. However, there is another way to look at it. What is the probability of all of the 1 through 6 seeds advancing? The answer is: .96 * .70 * .67 * .65 * .79 * .88 = 20%. So there is an 80% chance that at least one upset happens here. It’s trying to decide where it will occur that’s the hard part!

Of all the underdogs, Ole Miss is ranked the highest (31), according to Sagarin. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is the strongest 5 seed in the field, ranked 8th! The next best underdog is Belmont, ranked 46th. The statistics don’t like Belmont quite as much as they have the last two years (they were favored against Georgetown last year), but maybe that means they're due to finally pull an upset in the tournament. La Salle has a puncher's chance against Kansas St (Boise St’s chances would be about the same) because the Wildcats are the most overrated 4 seed in the tournament (ranked 26th). But La Salle is ranked 57 and Boise St is 63! That doesn’t instill much confidence in an upset!

West: Future Rounds

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Gonzaga

Pitt

Gonzaga (59%)

Wisconsin

Kansas St

Wisconsin (67%)

New Mexico

Arizona

Arizona (52%)

Ohio St

Notre Dame

Ohio St (70%)

Gonzaga

Wisconsin

Gonzaga (56%)

Ohio St

Arizona

Ohio St (66%)

Gonzaga

Ohio St

Gonzaga (52%)

Ohio St

Wisconsin

Ohio St (54%)

Poor Gonzaga! This is probably their best team ever, and they got one of the worst draws a 1 seed has ever had. If you look at the probabilities, you’ll see that they’re favored in every possible matchup. But the probabilities are all in the 50s! Pittsburgh is ranked #10 in the Sagarin Ratings, which means they are probably the best 8 seed in the history of the tournament. Wisconsin is ranked 8th, making them the highest ranked 5 seed in the field, and Ohio St is 6th, making them the highest ranked 2 seed. If Gonzaga has to play each of those teams, their chances of making the Final Four are only 16%!

Ohio St actually has a better chance as the 2 seed. While Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin are beating each other up in the upper part of the region, they have a pretty easy route through the bottom. They’ll be heavily favored over either New Mexico or Arizona should they play one of them in the Sweet Sixteen. And while they would be a small underdog to Gonzaga in the regional finals, there is a good chance Gonzaga never even gets there. Don’t be surprised if there is a rematch of the Big 10 championship game between Ohio St and Wisconsin in the regional finals here.

One last thing about this region. The statistics say that Arizona would actually be favored in a second round game against New Mexico. But before you pick the upset, remember that Arizona is more likely to lose in the first round. Since they have an easier first round opponent, New Mexico is actually the safer pick here.

South: First Round

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Kansas

Western Kentucky

Kansas (96%)

North Carolina

Villanova

North Carolina (63%)

VCU

Akron

VCU (70%)

Michigan

South Dakota St

Michigan (83%)

UCLA

Minnesota

Minnesota (58%)

Florida

Northwestern St

Florida (95%)

San Diego St

Oklahoma

San Diego St (55%)

Georgetown

Florida Gulf Coast

Georgetown (87%)

The first game that jumps out here is the 6-11 game between UCLA and Minnesota. The statistics say that the Minnesota should actually be favored as the 11 seed. And keep in mind that the statistics don’t know that UCLA guard Jordan Adams broke his foot last Friday and won’t be playing in this game. So Minnesota’s chances are actually even better than listed here. This is an upset you should pick.

Speaking of players missing the tournament, Akron was a team I was watching all season as a potential Cinderella. At one point they had won 19 straight games and were dominating the MAC. But then their starting point guard, Alex Abreu, was arrested on drug charges and suspended from the team. Akron was still able to win their conference tournament without him, but now they face a VCU team that full court presses for the entire game. It’s a terrible matchup for a team that just lost their point guard. So the statistics here actually underestimate VCU’s chances of winning. I would avoid picking Akron.

South: Future Rounds

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Kansas

North Carolina

Kansas (72%)

Michigan

VCU

Michigan (59%)

Florida

Minnesota

Florida (81%)

Georgetown

San Diego St

Georgetown (66%)

Kansas

Michigan

Kansas (63%)

Georgetown

Florida

Florida (72%)

Kansas

Florida

Florida (58%)

Kansas

Georgetown

Kansas (64%)

If you’re looking for a lower seed to pick for the Final Four, the South is your region. The Sagarin Ratings have Florida as the #2 team, so the model will favor them in every possible matchup. The reason they are ranked #2 with so many losses is because Florida is 0-5 in games decided by 2 possessions or less. They're a very talented team that got unlucky in a handful of games. If that luck changes in the tournament, they will be headed to the Final Four.

If you don’t want to pick Florida, Kansas is the next best bet. Sagarin has them ranked 4th, so they are definitely good enough to win this region. They will face some tough teams, though. One of them will be the winner of Michigan and VCU. Assuming they both win their first game, the winner of that game will definitely be able to give Kansas a run for their money.

One team I would stay away from is Georgetown. They are ranked 12th, so they’re slightly overrated as a 2 seed. And they’ll most likely have to go through both Florida and Kansas to get to the Final Four, where they’d be heavy underdogs in both games. They would even be an underdog to Michigan, and only a slight favorite to VCU. And if that weren’t bad enough, San Diego St has a 1 in 3 shot of beating them in the second round!

So your best bet here is to pick either Florida or Kansas. If you really want a long shot, either Michigan or VCU could make a run.

East: First Round

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Indiana

Long Island

Indiana (95%)

NC State

Temple

NC State (67%)

UNLV

California

UNLV (58%)

Syracuse

Montana

Syracuse (88%)

Butler

Bucknell

Butler (58%)

Marquette

Davidson

Marquette (68%)

Illinois

Colorado

Illinois (54%)

Miami

Pacific

Miami (87%)

And we’ve saved the best region for last! Now, the teams I highlighted in the table are all the higher seeds, but I wanted to point them out because the probabilities are all low. California has the best chance of any 12 seed of beating a 5 (and that happens every year!). And Butler has a mere 58% chance of beating Bucknell. Marquette’s probability is higher, but a 14 seed getting a 1 in 3 shot to beat a 3 seed is pretty big. If you want to pick a region to go crazy, this is where you want to do it.

East: Future Rounds

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Indiana

NC State

Indiana (76%)

Syracuse

UNLV

Syracuse (69%)

Marquette

Butler

Marquette (65%)

Miami

Illinois

Miami (68%)

Indiana

Syracuse

Indiana (69%)

Miami

Marquette

Miami (58%)

Indiana

Miami

Indiana (70%)

Miami

Syracuse

Syracuse (51%)

This region is Indiana’s for the taking. Ranked 3rd in the Sagarin Ratings, they have the easiest path to the Final Four. No other team in their region is ranked in the top 10, with Syracuse being the highest at 13. So a possible matchup between Indiana and Syracuse would be the hardest game Indiana would have to play, and we see that they would win 69% of the time. Compare that to Louisville, whose second-round game might be against a team ranked 15!

There was a lot of talk about Miami not getting a 1 seed during Selection Sunday. But honestly, they should be happy they got a 2! Despite being the weakest 2 seed in the field, they are favored in each potential game before the regional final. That’s because Marquette is the weakest 3 seed, and Butler is a very weak 6. So again, if you want to go crazy with upsets somewhere, the bottom half of this region is where you want to do it. And just to let you know, Davidson would be only about a 1-point underdog to Butler in a potential second round game, and they would be favored against Bucknell.

Final Four

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Favorite

Louisville

Gonzaga

Louisville (68%)

Louisville

Ohio St

Louisville (70%)

Gonzaga

Duke

Gonzaga (54%)

Ohio St

Duke

Ohio St (52%)

Indiana

Kansas

Indiana (54%)

Indiana

Florida

Florida (55%)

Kansas

Miami

Kansas (67%)

Miami

Florida

Florida (74%)

Louisville

Kansas

Louisville (65%)

Louisville

Florida

Louisville (58%)

Louisville

Indiana

Louisville (62%)

Being the #1 ranked team, Louisville is obviously the favorite in every matchup here. I’ve seen a lot of experts pick Miami to get to the Final Four. If they do, they’ll be big underdogs if they have to face either Florida or Kansas. All of the other matchups are basically coin flips. So who to pick? Here is my thinking:

Nobody has a region full of easier teams than Indiana. This doesn’t guarantee them anything, but I like their chances of getting to the final four more than anybody else. They would be underdogs to Florida and Louisville, but there is no guarantee they will have to play either of those teams. And they would be favored against everybody else. And from a non-statistical standpoint, did you know that Tom Crean is married to the sister of John and Jim Harbaugh? You know, the same two coaches that just squared off in the Super Bowl. This may very well be the year of the Harbaughs! You know CBS is dying to play up that story if Indiana gets to the Final Four. The stats like Indiana, and I think karma will too. Look for the year of the Harbaughs to continue as Indiana cuts down the nets in Atlanta!

My Bracket

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