It’s March, which only means one thing. BRACKETS! An estimated 40 million Americans fill out brackets each year, part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament. 68 schools are invited to take part in what is arguably one of the most exciting and talked about collegiate sporting events.
Filling out brackets can be fun, exciting, annoying, stressful and downright gut-wrenching. Depending on how much money you wage on your brackets could dictate which of the above feelings you have. Don’t worry though as we’re here to help… as best as we can.
Let’s start with the two brackets we have published (which you can find on our Instagram/Twitter accounts). We have laid out two separate brackets: 1) Non-Money 2) Safer.
The ‘Non-Money’ bracket is recommended for anyone entering a pool with little-to-no money being wagered. Our ‘Safer’ bracket is recommended for anyone entering a large money pool or placing a large wage in a small pool. Either way we recommend you find a comfortable balance between the two that is more so based on your own opinion.
The first and most important thing that stands out in both of our brackets is the winner. Both brackets have Villanova as the uncrowned champion in the 2018 college basketball season. According to DRatings.com, Villanova was crowned a champion over 17% of the time in 1,000 ran simulations. That is the highest percentage of any other school in the field, not to mention they have been considered to have one of the ‘easiest’ paths to the final four (we know NO path is easy).
Also something to note is that Virginia is the runner-up in both of our brackets, as they have the second highest chance of winning the tournament at 14%. Things get interesting in the West and Midwest regions however, with Michigan, Kansas, North Carolina and Michigan State all reaching the Final Four in one of the two brackets we have. Duke has a high chance of winning the tournament, but their possible run-ins with Michigan State, Kansas and even the Rhode Island/Oklahoma winner worry us.
Duke’s defense is also very inconsistent, but it’s worth noting they have a very high chance of winning the entire tournament. Interestingly enough Xavier is not in either of our Final Four selections. In a wide open region and with almost nobody picking Xavier to win, they might be worth a look. If you’re trying to separate yourself from the rest of your pool and want to take a chance on winning, Xavier is a good way to go.
Tennessee and Cincinnati are very unpredictable as to who will reach the Elite Eight, but it seems both are poised to make a Sweet 16 appearance at worse. Texas has a better chance to upset Cincinnati, so we selected them over Nevada in both brackets. Loyola-Chicago seems as sure of an upset pick if there was one to occur in the South Region, as both Arizona and Kentucky have very low chances of losing their first round game.
Kentucky does play a team that plays a slow pace, and thrives in it. If Kentucky can’t figure out their half-court offense then they will lose to Davidson. Another compelling upset in a different region is South Dakota State over Ohio State, along with North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) over Gonzaga. Our ‘Safer” bracket has Ohio State and Gonzaga surviving, but both South Dakota State and UNCG have an over 20% chance of advancing which is very high for a 12 and 13 seed.
San Diego State also has a very good chance of upsetting Houston, with a whopping 40% chance of advancing for an 11-seed. Texas A&M and Providence is a toss up, and we believe the seedings for both schools should be swapped. Therefore, we have Providence actually advancing in our ‘Safer’ bracket, while we have Texas A&M advancing in our ‘Non-Money’ bracket. The game location is in Charlotte, North Carolina – which should favor the Atlantic coast team from Rhode Island.
The West region seems to be a place where upset city is a very possible reality, including a number one seed Xavier reaching the Final Four (crazy to think that’s an upset, but it is).
Kansas and Villanova are both Elite Eight contenders in our brackets, with Kansas’ result dictated by the possible Duke-Michigan State game. Duke and Michigan State have some of the lowest odds to be upset early in the tournament, while Kansas might have to get past a sharp Auburn team. Even if New Mexico State upsets Clemson (which we don’t have happening in either bracket), Auburn and Kansas should be safe bets to reach the Sweet 16 along with Michigan State and Duke. The dilemma comes after that.
The East is interesting after Villanova, as to who might face the odds on favorite to win the tournament. Purdue is the safe pick to reach Villanova in an Elite Eight battle, but computer probabilities have Florida as a good upset pick to reach. We understand Florida is a reach, but they have beaten many top seeded teams this season (scored over 100 against Gonzaga), and could potentially play an injured Texas Tech team if Stephen F. Austin doesn’t finish the job in their own backyard.e
Butler is also interesting coming from the East, but they have a tough first round game against Arkansas. If Butler can get by the Razorbacks in round one, they have a 17.9% chance to beat Purdue – which is larger than it seems. Butler also has beaten many good teams this season, including Villanova who happens to be the one seed and overall favorite. If you want to go against the grain, perhaps Butler vs Florida in the Sweet 16 is the way you should go?
One thing we know for certain, and that’s nobody will have a happy bracket. There have been so many unpredictable outcomes already this season, and this could easily be one of the toughest brackets in recent memory to fill out. So crazy that a 16-seed could beat a one? No way… but maybe. Keep in mind that a 16-seed has never beaten a number one seed, although Pennsylvania is considered the strongest 16-seed in tournament history. Oh, they also play a seven loss one seeded team – which is a tied record for most losses by a one seed in the tournament. Hmmm.
Enjoy the madness!
Favorites to win (in order):
- Michigan State
- North Carolina
- Texas Tech
- Ohio State
- Wichita State
- West Virginia