10,000 More Simulations: The Biggest Winners After the Round of 64
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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About six months ago, I took a trip to Vegas with a couple of my college friends. For a couple of them, it was their first time in Vegas, and by the end of the weekend, they were in love with speculating on sports and playing craps. So much so, in fact, that one bought the felt from an old craps table online and another handy friend built a table.
We decided Saturday would be a fun night to have a bunch of degenerates over, play craps, and watch the NCAA Tournament. It was the perfect setting to watch a No. 16 seed take down a No. 1 seed, although I’ll admit I’m still jealous some of my fellow Action Networkers were actually in Vegas to witness one of the greatest sports moments of our lives.
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Anyway, the field has shifted quite a bit, so it’s only natural that we would re-simulate the tournament and see which teams have moved the most in terms of Sweet 16, Final Four, and championship odds. Without further ado, here are the updated probabilities for those futures:
But more importantly, here’s a table that shows how much of a boost each team’s projections got, when compared to the pre-tournament simulations:
Sweet 16 Movers
The biggest movers in our projections to make the Sweet 16 are Kansas State (+78.5%), West Virginia (+43.2%), Kentucky (+36.5%), and Syracuse (+36.5%). The first makes sense, as Kansas State now gets a No. 16 seed in UMBC instead of the top overall seed in Virginia. That South region overall is completely busted now, obviously, as both Virginia and the four seed in Arizona are out. Kentucky is the favorite to make the Elite 8, and the Wildcats won’t even have to face a team higher than No. 9 seed to do it.
West Virginia avoids a tough matchup against 4-seed Wichita State, which lost to 13-seed Marshall. The Mountaineers are still big dogs to make it to the Final Four, as they’ll likely match up against the now-favorite Villanova Wildcats, but they do have the highest odds of any team in the tournament to make the Sweet 16 at 91.0 percent. Syracuse might be the most surprising mover, but it’s because the initial simulations were done before their play-in game. They had just a 4.6 percent chance to get past Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State, but now only the Spartans stand in their way of Sweet 16 glory.
Final Four Favorites
Villanova now has the highest odds of making the Final Four at a whopping 44.7 percent, but the biggest movers are Kentucky (+16.2%), Cincinnati (+12.7%), Kansas State (+10.1%), and Tennessee (+8.5%).
The first makes sense: John Calipari’s squad can let the lower part of the South go to war against each other, and it will only have to beat one excellent team — likely Tennessee or Cincinnati — to make it to San Antonio. The Bearcats are big winners in probability as well, as they’re now the odds-on favorite to come out of the East. They were likely one of the toughest 2-seeds anyway — they rank fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Efficiency Margin metric — and the only two teams above them in that stat are Villanova and Duke, both of whom are on the opposite side of the bracket. Purdue is fifth behind them (also on the other side and it just lost center Isaac Haas for the year) and Michigan State is sixth. The Spartans and Blue Devils will have to battle it out for the possible chance at taking down 1-seed Kansas in the Midwest.
Per our simulations, the most likely Final Four is now Cincinnati, North Carolina, Villanova, and Duke.
The four teams with the biggest net change in championship odds are Cincinnati (+3.6%), Kentucky (+2.5%), Duke (+2.0%), and Villanova (+1.9%).
Interestingly, there is only one large loser in the simulations — well, other than Virginia and all the other teams that lost — and that’s the Tar Heels. Our sims show UNC with a net decrease of -7.2 percent odds to make the Sweet 16, -3.9 percent odds to make the Final Four, and -0.3 percent odds to win the title. My theory is that our sims were bullish on them matching up against Virginia in a possible Final Four matchup, and the West hasn’t really changed. On the Buffet podcast this week, Stuckey and I predicted that the West would be the most chalky region, and that’s held serve: Missouri as the 8 seed was the only lower-seeded to go down. The Heels still have Michigan, Gonzaga, and 1-seed Xavier in their path to San Antonio.
Regardless, the biggest winners of the first two days of the tournament have to be Cincinnati, which is now the clear favorite to come out of the South — and, honestly, probably the left side of the bracket, as the Bearcats would likely be favored even in a Final Four matchup against Xavier — and Nova, which now boasts the highest odds to win the title at 19.0 percent. And that’s probably even a bit low, as our simulations can’t account for Purdue’s injury situation.
If you’re looking to put down some futures bets, those are the squads to target. At least until more madness strikes this weekend.
Top photo: Cincinnati’s Trevor Moore; credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports