Best seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s demons now that the group is at full strength? Our version thinks. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of accomplishing what is the program’s first national title match.
With De’Andre Hunter, that was not on the court last year through UVA’s historic loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers were dominant on both ends — the only team standing in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Once more, Tony Bennett’s pack line shield is suffocating most offensive chance and successfully turning games into stone fights. But this year’s team is better on the offensive end and should breeze into the Elite Eight, where it could meet Tennessee. Due to Grant Williams along with the wonderfully named Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their best basketball in history. We provide them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to select the team that has won just two of the previous three national titles? Not. But this hasn’t been the same team that coach Jay Wright guided to these championships. After losing a ton of its best players from last year’s title-winning group, the Wildcats had an up-and-down season and lost five of the final eight regular-season Big East games. But they also got hot over the past week, capping off a year in which they won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament titles — and had one of the 20 best offenses in the nation according to KenPom (powered through an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings think that they’re the fourth-best team at the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of earning it back into the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Don’t bet on: No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost produced the Final Four last season, but they might find it tougher this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the country based on Pomeroy’s ratings), but its crime is more prone to struggles — and may be down its second-leading scorer, forward Dean Wade, who missed the team’s Big 12 tournament loss to Iowa State with a foot injury. A barbarous draw that provides the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then puts them contrary to the Wisconsin-Oregon winner in Round 2, could restrict their potential to advance deep into another successive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed at the tournament, more than twice that of some other candidate. Oregon struggled to string together wins for the majority of the regular season, and its own odds seemed sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was missing for the season with a foot injury in January. But the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games going into the tournament, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mold as K-State — great defense using a defendant crime — but that’s telling, given that the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. Should they meet in the Round of 32, we provide Oregon a 47 percent chance at the upset.
Player to watch: Grant Williams, Tennessee
The junior has come a very long way from being”a fat boy with some ability.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC over the previous two seasons, amassing two consecutive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the best crime of Barnes’s training career — and we’re talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! A lot of the offensive potency can be traced to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, that positions in the 97th percentile in scoring efficacy, according to information courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man game you might find at a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive attack that manifests mostly in post-ups, where he positions in the 98th percentile in scoring efficiency and shoots a adjusted field-goal percentage of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets from the waning moments of matches, also, as he positions in the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficacy.
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Oklahoma over No. 8 Ole Miss (53 percent); No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin (45 percent); No. 10 Iowa over No. 7 Cincinnati (34 percent)