Best seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s allies now that the team is at full strength? Our version believes so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of accomplishing what would be the program’s first national title game.
With De’Andre Hunter, who was not on the court last year through UVA’s historic loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers have been dominant on both ends — the sole team ranking in the top five in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Yet more, Tony Bennett’s pack line defense is suffocating most offensive chance and successfully turning games into stone fights. But this year’s team is better on the offensive end and should breeze to the Elite Eight, where it might meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams along with the superbly appointed Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are enjoying their very best basketball in history. We provide them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four pick: No. 6 Villanova. Is it”sneaky” to select the team that has won two of the previous three national titles? Maybe not. But this hasn’t been the same group that coach Jay Wright advised to these championships. After dropping a ton of its best players from last year’s title-winning team, 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 last week, capping a season in which they still won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament titles — and still had one of the 20 best offenses in the nation according to KenPom (powered by an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings think that they’re the fourth-best team in the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of making it back to the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Don’t bet : No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost produced the Final Four final season, but they might find it harder this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation based on Pomeroy’s evaluations ), but its offense is more prone to battles — and could be down its second-leading scorer, forward Dean Wade, who missed the team’s Big 12 championship loss to Iowa State with a foot injury. A brutal draw that provides the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then places them opposite the Wisconsin-Oregon winner at Round two, could restrict their capability to advance deep into another successive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed at the championship, over double that of some other offender. Oregon struggled to string together wins for most of the regular season, and its own odds appeared sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was missing for the season with a foot injury in January. However, the Ducks have rallied to win eight consecutive games going into the championship, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mould as K-State — great defense using a suspect crime — but that’s telling, since the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. If 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 very long way from being”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, amassing two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might only feature the very best crime of Barnes’s training career — and we’re talking about a man who coached Kevin Durant! A lot of that offensive potency can be traced to Williams, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, who positions in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, according to data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man match you may find in a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive assault that manifests mostly in post-ups, where he ranks in the 98th percentile in scoring efficiency and shoots a adjusted field-goal proportion of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets in the waning minutes of matches, too, as he positions 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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