So far, so (pretty) good for the WhatIfSports.com computer that simulated the NCAA Tournament 10,000 times. Seven of the original most likely Elite Eight teams (just missed Georgetown) and all of the Final Four remain in WhatIfSports' bracket. In fact, of the Sweet 16 teams remaining, only Western Kentucky, which was given a 12.2% chance of reaching this level, should be considered a surprise (and that still happened 1,220 times). Even double-digit seeds Villanova and Davidson were given about a one-in-four shot at the Sweet 16 - the same chance that any team would have if all teams were considered equal. In the first round, this analysis was correct about teams like Texas A&M, Davidson and Kansas State; while other "upsets" like Siena (41.3%) over Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky (37.7%) over Drake and Villanova (36.0%) over Clemson were all still considered rather likely.
What is the computer saying now?
WhatIfSports.com again used its acclaimed college basketball simulation technology to attempt to forecast the future by simulating the rest of the 2008 NCAA Menís Basketball Tournament 10,000 times. Kansas is still the prohibitive favorite to defeat Memphis and claim this yearís NCAA Tournament Championship. In fact, the computer makes the selection committee look brilliant, giving the top seed the best chance to make the Final Four in each region. A couple very close games in the upcoming round though, will definitely keep this tournament interesting throughout.
Results of the simulations can be found at BracketPreview.com and in the widget below. The widget is already loaded with the most likely occurrence from the Sweet 16 forward; but, if you want to change an outcome, the rest of the bracket will update accordingly with the new most likely teams advancing based on your changes. Just click on a region to get started.
This analysis allows the site to determine exactly how great of a chance a team has of reaching any level in the tournament. In 2006, for instance, WhatIfSports.com gave George Mason a 0.7% chance of making the Final Four. That may not sound very high, but that means that they were able to make that incredible run 70 times.
We already know that Davidson, Western Kentucky and Villanova are the only double-digit seeds still alive in the tournament. According to the computer output, Davidson has the highest likelihood of being this yearís George Mason and making the Final Four at 14.4%. In fact, the 10th seeded Wildcats are actually slightly favored to advance past Wisconsin and earn a spot in the Elite 8. Western Kentucky has just a 7.7% chance of reaching San Antonio (24.0% chance of beating UCLA), while, with Kansas looming and the Davidson/Wisconsin winner after that, Villanova is the least likely team in the Sweet 16 to make the Elite 8 or Final Four at 8.2% and 2.2% respectively. That means, from this point on, Villanova is almost three times more likely to make the Final Four than George Mason was to make its incredible run two seasons ago.
Davidson is not the only Sweet 16 upset being predicted. At 52.6% and a projected score of 71-70, the Davidson/Wisconsin game should be one to watch, but it's not as dead even or intriguing as the Louisville/Tennessee game. Admittedly, Louisville has looked far better than the Volunteers thus far, but Tennessee did finish with the nation's best RPI and a better record against a tougher schedule. The results of this game are about as close as it gets with Louisville coming out on top 50.4% of the time. The winner of this game actually advances to the Final Four 51.8% of the time (though UNC is the most likely to do so from the East). Interestingly, if it gets by the Cardinals and UNC/Washington St. winner, Tennessee has a slightly better chance of winning it all than Louisville. With three of the top six teams remaining, including the best two non-number one seeds, the East is still very top heavy.
Ultimately though, the WhatIfSports.com bracket concludes with the better seeded teams on top. Kansas has the highest chance of winning the tournament at 37.5%. After the Jayhawks, only two teams, Memphis (13.6%) and UNC (10.7%) are in the double-digit percentages. UCLA, which had previously been the seventh best team in the tournament with only a 4.4% chance of winning it all, sees its road clear up quite a bit and championship chances improve to 8.9%. The top four teams are followed by Tennessee (6.1%) and Louisville (6.0%) and then Xavier (4.7%), Davidson (2.9%), Texas (2.7%), West Virginia (2.0%) and Michigan State (1.7%). Getting all the way to and winning a championship depends quite a bit on who a team plays along the way, so things get much better for other teams like Wisconsin and Stanford if they can get through the next round or two. If Kansas slips (like they have been prone to doing since Danny Manning), anyone could take it.
Next Monday, Bracket Preview will have Final Four boxscores, recaps and plenty of stats. Don't forget to come back and check those out. Enjoy the Madness!
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