Gonzaga Earns Toughest Draw Among 1-Seeds in NCAA Tournament

Gonzaga Earns Toughest Draw Among 1-Seeds in NCAA Tournament article feature image

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Rui Hachimura

  • The 1-seeds in the 2019 NCAA Tournament are Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga.
  • Using The Action Network simulations we determine which 1-seed got the easiest and toughest draws.

Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga are the top seeds in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, all of which were fairly expected choices after conference tournaments played out. But with the entire field having been set on Sunday, which 1-seed got the toughest draw?

To answer that question, we used the Action Network Bracket Simulator to run 10,000 simulations on a neutral court of every 1-seed against each 2-seed, 3-seed and 4-seed in every region.

Public perception is that the Midwest, with North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas — the blue bloods of college basketball — plus a fringe top-10 team in Houston, is the most difficult. But the numbers disagree.

The most difficult region based on average win probability of the No. 1 seeds is the West, featuring Michigan, Texas Tech and Florida State as the 2-, 3- and 4-seeds, respectively (sorry, Gonzaga). That threesome ranks in the top 16 in Sean Koerner’s power rankings and has the highest average KenPom ranking based on adjusted efficiency. On average, the 1-seeds would be favored by 6.6 points over the top seeds from the West — a full point less than the next best region.

The easiest region is the East (because of course Duke gets the best draw). On average, the 1-seeds beat every top team in the East region 72.1% of the time compared to just 66.9% against the teams in the West. Against the East’s top teams, the 1-seeds would be favored by 8.1 points on average.

Path and seed in the tournament are important. According the simulations, Duke is the most likely champion, thanks in part to the draw it received. But that doesn’t mean the Blue Devils won’t get upset (they have a history of disappointing) or that the Zags, playing in the strong West region, can’t cruise to the Final Four.

Here is each 1-seed’s projected win probability against all 2, 3, and 4 seeds.

Curious which team would win a hypothetical national championship matchup between Duke and Kentucky? We’ve got you covered. Use the Matchup Tool in our Bracket Simulator to simulate any potential tournament game to see each team’s probability of winning straight up as well as a projected spread.

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