Top seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s demons now that the team is currently at full strength? Our model believes so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent probability of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent probability of accomplishing what is the program’s first national title match.
Together with De’Andre Hunter, that was not on the court this past year during UVA’s historical loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers have been dominant on both ends — the sole team standing in the top five in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Once again, Tony Bennett’s package line defense is suffocating most every offensive opportunity and successfully turning games into stone fights. But this year’s team is even better on the offensive end and should breeze to the Elite Eight, in which it could meet Tennessee. Due to Grant Williams along with the superbly appointed Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are enjoying their best basketball in program history. We provide them a 22 percent likelihood of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to select the team that has won two of the previous three national titles? Maybe not. But this has not been the same team that coach Jay Wright advised 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 their 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 names — and had among the 20 best offenses in the country according to KenPom (powered through an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings believe that they’re the fourth-best team in the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of making it back to the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Do not wager on: No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost made the Final Four final season, however they may find it tougher this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation based on Pomeroy’s evaluations ), but its offense is more prone to struggles — and could 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 places them opposite the Wisconsin-Oregon winner in Round two, could limit their capability to progress deep into a second consecutive tournament.
Cinderella see: No. 12 Oregon. In accordance with our model, the Ducks have the best Sweet 16 odds (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed at the championship, over twice that of some other offender. Oregon struggled to string together wins for most of the regular season, and its chances seemed sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was lost for the season with a foot injury in January. But the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games heading into the championship, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mould as K-State — great defense using a defendant crime — but that is telling, given that the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. If 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 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 past two seasons, collecting two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the very best crime of Barnes’s coaching career — and we’re talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! Much of that offensive potency could be traced to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, that ranks in the 97th percentile in scoring efficacy, according to data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams possesses an old-man match you may find in a local 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 efficacy and shoots an adjusted field-goal proportion of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets in the waning minutes of matches, also, as he ranks from the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficiency.
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)