Our NCAA Tourney Simulations Rank Top 5 Cinderellas, Sleepers and Busts

Our NCAA Tourney Simulations Rank Top 5 Cinderellas, Sleepers and Busts article feature image

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The field of 68 is set. We’ve simulated the NCAA Tournament 10,000 times to determine the most likely champion, as well as the teams that can make or break your bracket. Here are the top-five Cinderellas, Sleepers and Busts you need to know before filling out your bracket.



Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight appearance as a No. 10 seed comes to mind when you think of a Cinderella run. Which team will wear the glass slipper this year? These are Cinderella teams (double-digit seeds) with the best chances to reach the Sweet 16:

  1. Loyola Chicago, 11-seed (18.4% chance to reach Sweet 16)
  2. Butler, 10-seed (16.8%)
  3. Davidson, 12-seed (14.0%)
  4. Texas, 10-seed (13.9%)
  5. New Mexico State, 12-seed (13.3%)

Can these programs advance to the second weekend of the tournament? Each has shown an ability to play with the best teams in the country this season. Loyola Chicago upset No. 5 Florida, Butler beat No. 1 Villanova, Davidson upended a ranked Rhode Island twice, Texas bested five top-25 opponents, and New Mexico State, in its only contest with a top-10 team, won against No. 6 Miami.



If you are going to win your bracket pool, you need to pick teams others are avoiding. Here are teams seeded fifth or worse with the best chances to reach the Final Four:

  1. Ohio State, 5-seed (8.7% chance to reach Final Four)
  2. West Virginia, 5-seed (8.0%)
  3. Houston, 6-seed (6.2%)
  4. Kentucky, 5-seed (6.0%)
  5. Clemson, 5-seed (5.8%)

One of the biggest mistakes casual fans make when filling out a bracket is buying into the March Madness hype. Upsets occur, but after the opening weekend, the chalk (best teams) usually advances. Only four teams seeded 10th or worse have reached the final weekend of the tournament. If you want to build a contrarian bracket, don’t get crazy, instead consider these sleeper teams that rank in KenPom’s top 20.



Which teams will bust your bracket? These are the squads seeded fourth or better that have the worst odds to reach the Final Four:

  1. Wichita State, 4-seed (4.9% chance to reach Final Four)
  2. Arizona, 4-seed (5.1%)
  3. Auburn, 4-seed (6.6%)
  4. Tennessee, 3-seed (8.9%)
  5. Texas Tech, 3-seed (9.7%)

Since 2001-02, no title team ranked worse than 39th offensively or 18th defensively from an efficiency standpoint. You need balance to win a championship. All of these squads rank outside the top 40 on offense or top 20 on defense except Tennessee (40th offense, fourth defense). However, the Vols have a difficult path to the title, needing to get past Virginia (the most likely champion), Cincinnati, Arizona and Kentucky in the South region.

Pictured: Butler senior Kelan Martin

Photo via Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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