2009 NCAA Final Four Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2009 NCAA Final Four Preview

Results of 10,000 simulations of the rest of the NCAA Tournament
By Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
March 30th, 2009

So far, so (pretty) good for the WhatIfSports.com Bracket Preview computer that simulated the NCAA Tournament 10,000 times. The WhatIfSports bracket accurately predicted six of the original most likely Elite Eight teams (just missed Missouri and Michigan State) and two of Final Four teams (UConn and UNC) to currently rank in the 84th percentile in FOXSports.com's Bracket Challenge game. Better yet, both championship game participants (UConn and UNC) and the champion (UNC) remain, giving Bracket Preview a good chance to finish in the 90th percentile or above for the third straight season (it finished in the 99.85th percentile last season).

Who does the computer like the rest of the way?

Well, not much has changed from the original projections. WhatIfSports.com again used its acclaimed college basketball simulation technology to forecast the future by simulating the Final Four of the 2008 NCAA Menís Basketball Tournament 10,000 times. North Carolina is still the prohibitive favorite to first knock off Villanova and then to defeat UConn and claim this yearís NCAA Tournament Championship.

This week, not only do we have results of the simulations at BracketPreview.com, but we also have boxscores, play-by-play, game recaps and stats from each of the three games. A brief synopsis of the results is below. We strongly encourage readers to visit BracketPreview.com to see the most in-depth Final Four breakdown around.

North Carolina, which has been the favorite all along, has the highest chance of winning the tournament at 50.6%. Just more than half of the 10,000 simulations of the rest of the tournament conclude with the Tar Heels winning. In their upcoming game, UNC advances past the surprising Villanova Wildcats 78.4% of the time by an average score of 89-80. Villanova is athletic enough to run with North Carolina, but cannot match the Tar Heels depth inside and runs into foul trouble. While Reggie Redding and Scottie Reynolds are good defenders, Ty Lawson has another gear that no one else in the country can reach. Despite the fact that they come from the Big East, the Wildcats actually play a style more reminiscent of a team like Duke out of the ACC. Villanova may have defeated Duke easily in the Sweet 16, but its style is a type of game with which UNC is familiar and matches up well.

In the other National Semifinal, UConn out-muscles and out-lasts the "home-team" Michigan State Spartans to win 76.4% of the time by an average score of 76-70. With the score in the upper-70s, UConn is able to get MSU out of its comfort zone. These two teams are actually fairly similar statistically and in their mentalities, but UConn is just slightly more talented at each position. Goran Suton may enter this game as one of the hottest players in the tournament, but now he faces Hasheem Thabeet. Whether Suton tries to pull Thabeet away from the basket or go at him down low, Suton will likely not succeed on Saturday as he did in the tournament thus far. UConn's inside presence on defense could force Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen to carry the offense from the outside. Neither player shoots better than 40% from the field. Michigan State is probably one good outside threat away from making this a game.

In the championship game, North Carolina comes out on top by a razor-thin average score of 83-82. Both teams are experienced and have McDonald's All-Americans at each position. North Carolina ultimately wins more often than not because it has the best player on the floor in Ty Lawson. UConn may be able to neutralize Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and/or Danny Green, but not Lawson. When healthy, Lawson is an unstoppable force that can carry his team to victory

After the Tar Heels, UConn is next with a 36.9% championship chance. The Huskies are followed by Villanova (8.0%) and then Michigan State (4.5%). The average score in a Huskies vs. Wildcat championship is UConn winning 75-70. UNC vs. Michigan State sees UNC winning 88-77. And Villanova would win it all over MSU 76-73.

Paul Bessire is the Senior Quantitative Analyst and Product Manager for WhatIfSports.com. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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