No. 1 seeds Virginia and Xavier, gone. No. 2 seeds North Carolina and Cincinnati, sent packing. No. 3 seeds Michigan State and Tennessee, thanks for playing. A chaotic first weekend in the NCAA Tournament has delivered an unpredictable Sweet 16. The probability of these exact teams making it past the Round of 32 was approximately 88,000,000 to 1 before March Madness began.
Now that the bracket has changed, will the madness continue or will the elite squads remaining in the field dominate? To find out, we re-simulated the NCAA Tournament 10,000 times using our Bracket Simulator to see which teams have improved the most in terms of Final Four and championship odds. Here are the updated probabilities ahead of the Sweet 16:
Here is a table that shows how much each team’s projections have changed compared to the pre-tournament simulations:
San Antonio Bound
Duke and Villanova were in our most likely Final Four before the Big Dance began and remain strong favorites to reach the final weekend of the tournament. The Blue Devils have the highest odds of making the Final Four at 55.1% followed by Villanova at 46.2% and then two of our biggest winners after the Round of 32 in Kentucky (40.5%) and Gonzaga (36.4%).
That makes sense; the Wildcats’ path to the Final Four has gotten much easier. What once looked like daunting gauntlet that included Arizona, Virginia and Cincinnati has devolved to a Sweet 16 matchup against Kansas State and then an Elite Eight showdown with the Loyola-Chicago-Nevada winner. Gonzaga also benefited from some upsets in its region. No. 1 seed Xavier went down to Florida State and No. 2 seed North Carolina was embarrassed by Texas A&M. Kentucky and Gonzaga are now the highest-rated teams in their respective regions using KenPom.com’s Adjusted Efficiency Margin.
How long can Cinderella keep dancing? No. 11 seeds Loyola-Chicago and Syracuse are the last double-digit seeds remaining in the tournament. Neither is projected to win its Sweet 16 matchup as the Ramblers have a 44.2% chance to defeat Nevada and the Orange have a 17.2% chance to topple Duke — the worst odds to win in the next round.
We’re Going to the Ship
The tournament remains wide open. Duke is the most likely team to cut down the nets in San Antonio with a 22.0% chance of winning the championship. Villanova has a 21.0% chance of winning, which would give the Wildcats a second title in three years. After the Dukies and Nova, no other team has double-digit odds to win it all, down from three teams with better than a 10.0% chance before the first game tipped.
After Duke, Kentucky’s title odds have improved the most. Again, what appeared to be a difficult path to the Final Four has become a relative cakewalk. However, before Big Blue Nation makes room in the rafters for another banner, Kentucky (7.2%) has only the sixth-best odds of winning the championship. Why? In the model, the Wildcats would be underdogs to both Gonzaga and Michigan — their most likely opponents in the Final Four — as well as to Duke and Villanova in a potential title game.
Pictured Duke forward Marvin Bagley III
Photo via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports