Simulations Reveal Potential 16-Team NCAA Tournament Winner

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Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Kansas Jayhawks holds the Big 12 Championship Trophy

Mar 16, 2020, 09:38 AM EDT
  • The NCAA considered holding a 16-team tournament to determine the men's basketball national champion.
  • Using the Action Network simulations, we determine which team would have cut down the nets.

The NCAA Tournament has been canceled because of the Coronavirus outbreak. But even so, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball Dan Gavitt said the organization considered playing a 16-team tournament.

The plan was to have the selection committee pick the top 16 teams in the country. Teams would be selected regardless of conference and Gavitt believed eight or nine of the 32 Division I conferences could have been represented.

However, it was decided that it was not feasible to hold a shortened tournament as it would put people at risk.

But which team would have cut down the nets in a 16-team tournament?

To find out we simulated a potential 16-team NCAA Tournament 10,000 times using our Bracket Simulator. The model uses power ratings from Sean Koerner to run the simulations.

To build our bracket we will use the top teams in the AP Top 25. As Gavitt said, the committee would have selected the top 16 teams in the nation, which likely would have mirrored the polls.  Here is what our bracket looks like:

  • No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Seton Hall
  • No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 15 Louisville
  • No. 3 Dayton vs. No. 14 BYU
  • No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 Oregon
  • No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Maryland
  • No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 Villanova
  • No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Duke
  • No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Michigan State

Nine conferences are represented in this setup and eight regular season champions are participating.

After 10,000 simulations, Kansas is the most likely team to win this tournament. Bill Self’s team has a 50.4% chance to reach the Final Four and win the national championship 20.5% of the time – this would be the Jayhawks fourth national title.

The other top contenders with a chance of winning our mini March Madness are Duke (17.8%), Gonzaga (15.0%), Baylor (7.8%), Michigan State (6.7%), Dayton (6.2%), Creighton (5.9%) and Maryland (5.5%). Every other team has less than a 4% chance.

The most likely Final Four consists of No. 1 Kansas against No. 5 Baylor and No. 3 Dayton against No. 10 Duke. The most likely championship game would be Kansas vs. Duke — a rematch of the 1991 tournament final (Duke won 72-65).

In this title matchup, we project Kansas to be a 1-point favorite. As the line indicates, this game is a toss-up. The Jayhawks win the game 50.4% of the time, according to our model.

Before March Madness was canceled, KU was favored to win the NCAA Tournament. Our model and power ratings agree that Kansas was the best team in the country this season.

Without an NCAA Tournament to play, fans in Lawrence will have to settle for a hypothetical championship.

Here are each team’s chance to advance to the Final Four and win the national championship in our 16-team tournament:

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