Best seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise last year’s allies now that the group is currently at full strength? Our version thinks so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of reaching what is the program’s first national title match.
With De’Andre Hunter, who wasn’t on the court this past year during UVA’s historical loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers were dominant on both ends — the sole team standing in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics. Yet again, Tony Bennett’s pack line defense is suffocating most offensive chance and successfully turning games into stone fights. However, this year’s team is better on the offensive end and ought to breeze into the Elite Eight, in which it could meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams and the wonderfully named Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are enjoying their best basketball in program history. We give them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four pick: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to pick the team that has won just two of the past three national titles? Maybe not. But this has not been the exact same team that coach Jay Wright advised to these championships. After dropping 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 last week, capping off a year where they won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament titles — and still had one of the 20 best offenses in the country based on KenPom (powered by an absurd number of 3-pointers). Our power ratings think that they’re the fourth-best team at 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.
Do not bet : No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost made the Final Four last season, however they may find it tougher this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation based on Pomeroy’s ratings), but its offense is prone to struggles — and may 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 barbarous draw that gives the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then puts them contrary to the Wisconsin-Oregon winner in Round 2, could restrict their potential to progress deep into another consecutive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 odds (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed at the championship, more than twice that of any other offender. Oregon struggled to string together wins for most of the regular season, and its own chances seemed sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was lost for the season with a foot injury in January. However, the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games heading into the championship, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon matches a similar mould as K-State — excellent defense using a defendant offense — but that is 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 give 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 skill.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC over the previous two seasons, amassing two consecutive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the very best offense of Barnes’s coaching career — and we’re talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! Much of that offensive potency could be tracked to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, that positions in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, according to data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man match you might find in a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive attack that manifests primarily in post-ups, where he positions in the 98th percentile in scoring efficacy and shoots an adjusted field-goal percentage of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets from the waning moments of matches, 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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