March Madness is designed to give the favorites the best chance of winning the tournament, but even then, the favorites only have a 20 to 25 percent chance of winning the championship. Even though the favorites are three to four times more likely to lose early in the tournament than to win it all, there are usually one or two favorites in the Final Four. This year, the best teams in college basketball aren’t very dominant, which means a lot of March Madness predictions are going to be wrong.
Since the best teams in college basketball this season aren’t as good as the top teams from previous seasons, this year’s March Madness has the potential to be the most upset-filled tournament, which is a good thing for fans that enjoy seeing underdogs win.
According to a variety of metrics used to predict a team’s success in the NCAA tournament, Michigan State is considered to be the best team in the country. Although there are other indicators pointing to North Carolina, Villanova, and Kansas as the best teams.
Assuming Michigan State is the best team, they are the weakest top-ranked team in recent tournament history. According to statistics, the 2005-2006 Duke Blue Devils are the only team with a lower power rating going into the tournament in the past 10 years.
Using Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball ratings, Virginia has the best chance of winning the tournament at 12 percent. The 12 percent probability of Virginia winning the tournament is lower than the 20-25 percent top seeds usually have of winning the tournament.
Villanova comes in with the second-best chance of winning the tournament at 11.7 percent, and Michigan State is third in Pomeroy’s ratings with a 10.4 percent chance of winning the tournament.
If Pomeroy’s rating is used to determine the top seeds in the tournament, Michigan State might not earn a #1 seed in the tournament.
The March Madness seeding bracket was re-simulated after the top teams were assigned the typical strength suggested by the Pomeroy rankings to determine how much better the teams would be if they were as strong as they would be in an ordinary season.
The new reconfiguration showed that if Michigan State were as strong as the average top seed, the team would win this year’s tournament a little less than 17 percent of the time, which is significantly better than the 10 percent chance that they currently have.
If Villanova were as strong as the average top seed, the team would win this year’s tournament 18 percent of the time, which is also better than the 11.7 percent chance the team currently has.
The total win probability of the top three teams in Pomeroy’s ratings is 14 percentage points lower than it would be in most seasons. The reason for the drop in win probability is because there was so much parity in college basketball this year because the top teams aren’t as good as they usually are.
Thanks to the parity displayed this year, the rest of the field has a better win probability than they usually do, which means there will be a lot of upsets to look forward to this year.