Before we look at the NCAA tournament through the lens of the RotoViz March Madness Simulator, a couple of quick notes:
1) As Frank points out in his introduction to the app, college basketball is high variance. All predictions should be understood in that light and represent a great reason to experiment with the app itself.
2) Before breaking down the region using the Simulator, I’ve included a summary of competitive teams by Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings. These rankings are far more predictive than the seeds and help provide a framework for understanding the app’s projections.
3) There won’t be much discussion of 13-16 seeds because the app doesn’t like their chances. That doesn’t mean they can’t win or that they won’t eventually generate the best storylines of the tournament.
4) When I refer to measures of efficiency, I’m also referring to Pomeroy’s pace-neutral stats on offense, defense, tempo, and luck.
5) The app seems to favor offensively-oriented teams. This applies to both efficiency and tempo. And that means history tends to favor those teams. Regardless of one’s personal aesthetics, dominant strategies tend to work better. As Bill Walton loves to say, “offense wins championships.”
East squads in Top 60
(35) NC State
Many believe the Hoosiers are the best team in the tournament, and the committee suggested Miami was barely edged by the Zags for the final No. 1 seed. Therefore, it may come as a surprise that this is far and away the weakest bracket in the field. In fact, the East is so crappy that it raises legitimate issues of fairness. The pod system forces a ridiculously overrated Marquette onto the 3-line. To compare, the Midwest has nine teams with better per possession efficiency rankings, including a team that’s being made to compete in a play-in game!
Fresh off an implosion for the ages, Syracuse evidently earned the committee’s sympathy. Montana is 15-seed quality at best. Cal likely follows. (The East is the only bracket that offers an appealing 5-12 upset, although that owes more to UNLV’s inability to score than anything intriguing about the Golden Bears. No single digit seed is less efficient on offense than Nevada-Las Vegas.)
The Hurricanes will be underdogs against either Indiana or Syracuse, but they own the easiest path to the Elite Eight of any team in the tournament. Butler looms, but their struggles in the A-10 cast early season upsets over Indiana and Gonzaga in a fluky light. According to Pomeroy, they were the seventh luckiest team in the country. Even though Marquette qualifies as a dream draw, don’t expect Brad Stevens to work his magic again this season.
Upset Special: Cal over UNLV
Final Four Pick: Indiana