Top seed outlook: Can No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s demons now that the group is currently at full strength? Our model believes. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent probability of accomplishing what is the program’s first national title game.
Together with De’Andre Hunter, who wasn’t on the court this past year through UVA’s historic loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers have been dominant on both ends — the only team ranking in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Once again, Tony Bennett’s package line defense is suffocating most every offensive chance and successfully turning games into rock fights. However, this year’s team is better on the offensive end and ought to breeze into the Elite Eight, where it might meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams and the wonderfully named Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their very best basketball in history. We provide them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to pick the team that has won two of the past three national titles? Not. But this has not been the exact same group that coach Jay Wright guided 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 a year in which they won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament names — and had among the 20 best offenses in the nation based on KenPom (powered by 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 earning it back into the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Don’t bet : No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats nearly made the Final Four last season, however they might find it harder this time around. K-State has an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation based on Pomeroy’s ratings), but its crime is more prone to battles — 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 brutal draw that gives the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then places them opposite the Wisconsin-Oregon winner at Round 2, could restrict their potential to advance deep into a second consecutive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed at the championship, more than twice that of any other candidate. Oregon struggled to string together wins for the majority of the regular season, and its own chances appeared sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was lost for the year with a foot injury in January. But the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games heading into the tournament, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon matches a similar mould as K-State — great defense with a defendant crime — but that’s telling, given that the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. Should they fulfill 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”just a fat boy with some ability.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC over the previous two seasons, collecting two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the very best offense of Barnes’s training career — and we’re talking about a man who coached Kevin Durant! Much of the offensive potency could be tracked to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, who ranks in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, based on data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man match you might find at a local YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive attack that manifests primarily in post-ups, where he ranks in the 98th percentile in scoring efficacy and shoots an adjusted field-goal proportion of 56.1. He can find the Volunteers buckets from the waning minutes of games, also, as he ranks from the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficacy.
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)
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