Need help with your bracket? If the Whatifsports.com computer is right, Kansas will defeat Memphis to claim this year’s NCAA Tournament Championship. In fact, the computer makes the selection committee look brilliant, giving the four top seeds the best chance to make the Final Four in each region. This prediction is definitely not boring though as upsets abound and the potential for a Cinderella (or a few) clearly exists.
WhatIfSports.com used its acclaimed college basketball simulation technology to attempt to forecast the future by simulating the entire 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 10,000 times.
Results of these simulations can be found at BracketPreview.com and in the widget that can be found here. The widget allows you to pick your bracket based on the simulations. The most likely occurrence is already loaded, but if you want to change an outcome, the rest of the bracket will update accordingly with the new most likely teams advancing based on your changes. Just click on a region to get started.
This analysis allows the site to determine exactly how great of a chance a team has of reaching any level in the tournament. In 2005, for instance, WhatIfSports.com gave George Mason a 0.7% chance of making the Final Four. That may not sound very high, but that means that they were able to make that incredible run 70 times.
According to the computer output, the teams with the highest likelihood of being this year’s George Mason (a double-digit seed that makes the Final Four) are 10-seeds Saint Mary's (6.3% chance of making the Final Four) and Davidson (4.2%), Baylor (3.1%), Arizona (2.6%), Kansas State (1.7%) and 12-seed Western Kentucky (1.6%). Davidson even wins 1.0% of the championships, with Baylor, Saint Mary's and Arizona on the board with titles as well.
This tournament is all about the first round and that is where we see the most upsets. Assuming Mount St. Mary's gets by 20-loss Coppin State, every 16-seed has at least a 1.1% chance of pulling off the first ever upset of a top-seed. There are three likely first round upsets in the Midwest Region including Kent State over UNLV, Kansas State over USC and Davidson over Gonzaga. Even Siena has a 41.3% chance against Vanderbilt and CS-Fullerton wins almost a third of the time against Wisconsin. After the vaunted KU Jayhawks, the Midwest is up-for-grabs. Other likely upsets outside of the Midwest are Texas A&M over BYU, Saint Mary's over Miami and Baylor over Purdue. The 5-seeds are actually very strong this season, with three of the four in the Sweet 16; but, the most likely 5 vs. 12 upset is Western Kentucky getting by Drake 37.7% of the time.
Assuming it gets by Kentucky, Marquette actually has a very good chance of making a surprising run. The computer puts the Golden Eagles' chance at reaching the Elite Eight at 19.3%, higher than Michigan State and Pittsburgh in its own region. Similarly seeded teams who could surprise are West Virginia (16.2% chance of making Elite Eight) and Mississippi State (13.5%).
Ultimately though, the WhatIfSports.com bracket concludes with the better seeded teams on top. Kansas has the highest chance of winning the tournament at 31.6%. After the Jayhawks, only two teams, Memphis (11.1%) and UNC (10.5%) are in the double-digit perentages. The top three teams are followed by two more East Region teams in Tennessee (6.2%) and Louisville (5.4%) and then UConn (5.3%), UCLA (4.4%), Georgetown (4.3%) Xavier (3.0%) and Texas (2.8%). If Kansas slips at all, anyone could take it.
WhatIfSports.com's sports simulation capabilities include baseball, basketball, football, hockey and college football. Last season, the actual Final Four teams were among the top six most likely teams to get to that point according to Bracket Preview (using last year's pattern, after getting past Georgetown, UNC would win it all over UCLA, which faces Texas in the Final Four).
Will the computer be right? Will anyone be right this year? Who knows? But that is what makes this the Madness.