EAST REGION (Newark)
Top seed: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are the number one overall seed in the tournament, but the committee did them no favors with a stacked bracket awaiting them. They are grouped with the best 4-seed in Kentucky and the best 7-seed in Washington as well as national powers North Carolina and Syracuse. Despite the strong competition, Ohio State is still the clear favorite in the East and has played some of the most consistent basketball of any team in the country. It has a 28.42 percent chance of advancing to Houston, third best among the top seeds.
The Huskies played erratic basketball this season finishing third in the Pac-10, but have the talent level of a top 4-seed. That bears out in the simulations as they have an 8.43 percent chance of winning the region which is better than all but the top 16 overall seeds. If Washington can get by North Carolina in the third round, it would be favored against both 3-seed Syracuse and 6-seed Xavier.
Team to avoid: West Virginia
The Mountaineers have the most losses of any 5-seed in the tournament (11) and finished 7th in the Big East. While they are still a strong team, the tough bracket makes it unlikely for them to advance deep into the tournament. They are just the eighth most likely team to win the East (3.86 percent) behind even 8-seed George Mason
Mighty mid-major: George Mason
While the Patriots didn’t win the Colonial tournament, they did win the regular season title by a full two games and had won 16 straight games before losing to VCU. They are 61 percent favorites to win in the second round against Villanova.
WEST REGION (Anaheim)
Top seed: Duke
While Duke might have preferred to stay out East like its rival North Carolina got to do as a 2-seed, the road to the Final Four is relatively simple. Neither Tennessee nor Michigan is a tough challenge in the third round. What the Blue Devils would really like to do is avoid Texas. They are just 57 percent likely to beat the 4th-seeded Long Horns compared to over 69 percent against 5th-seeded Arizona. The possibility of a virtual road game versus SDSU in Anaheim looms in the regional final, but Duke is still 30.7 percent likely to reach Houston.
Team to avoid: Arizona
The Pac-10 regular season champions enjoyed a big bounce back year led by Derrick Williams and Coach Sean Miller. Their stay in the tournament may not last very long however as the Wild Cats are projected to have just a 36 percent chance of beating Texas to advance to the Sweet 16. If they were to win that game, they would be even bigger underdogs against Duke.
The Owls land here by virtue of an overwhelmingly easy first round opponent in Penn State. While Washington is the strongest 7-seed, Temple has the weakest opponent and is thus most likely to win its first game (66.5 percent). Penn State actually has a worse projected outlook than both 13-seed Oakland and 14-seed Bucknell. That combined with a relatively strong showing for the Owls against 2-seed SDSU (44 percent) gives Temple a better chance of winning the regional than both Arizona and Cincinnati.
Mighty mid-major: Temple
For all of the reasons stated above.
SOUTHEAST REGION (New Orleans)
Top seed: Pittsburgh
This could finally be the year for Pitt. Despite all the regular season success in the past decade under Jamie Dixon and Ben Howland, the Panthers haven’t made the Final Four since 1941. While many analysts consider the Southeast to be the easiest region, our simulations simply believe that it is completely wide open. More teams could plausibly advance here than in any other leaving Pitt the least likely one-seed to make it to Houston at 25.4 percent. The Panthers should be cheering for Florida as they are four percent more likely to beat the Gators.
Team to avoid: St. John’s
While the Johnnies ran off a string of impressive wins in the Big East, they did also have a stretch where they lose five of six and closed losing two of their final four games. They will also be without D.J. Kennedy who is injured, and he leaves Dwight Hardy without much help on the wing. St. John’s has a smaller probability of advancing to the Sweet 16 (17.7 percent) than both 8-seed Butler and 9-seed Old Dominion.
Underseeded: Old Dominion
The Monarchs have the best chance of beating a top seed (38.6 percent) than any other 8 or 9-seed in the tournament. They enter the tournament having won 9 straight, and are the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. If Old Dominion can get Pitt in a slowdown slugfest, it would be very interesting to see if its rebounding strength would still manifest itself against a bigger more athletic opponent.
Mighty mid-major: BYU
While the Cougars are hardly a mid-major, they are still the second most likely team to advance out of this region at 18 percent. Imagine if they still had Brandon Davies to go along with Jimmer Fredette. BYU benefits from St. John’s losing D.J. Kennedy, and a weak 2-seed in Florida. The Cougars are forecasted to win 58 percent of simulations against the Gators.
SOUTHWEST REGION (San Antonio)
Top seed: Kansas
Rock chalk Jayhawk: Kansas is the tournament favorite at 10.15 percent to win it all, the only team in double-digit percentage-wise. KU is also the most likely team to reach each successive round. Last year’s loss to Northern Illinois proved that being the pre-tournament favorite means little, but it would take another massive upset for this team to not reach at least the regional final. And if talented freshman Josh Selby can find his misplaced offense, this team would be all the more dangerous.
Team to avoid: Vanderbilt
Vandy finished with seven losses in the SEC and enter the tournament having lost four of its last seven games. The Commodores are the least likely 5-seed to even win a game and advance to each successive round. They are projected as underdogs to Richmond with the Spiders winning 58 percent of simulations.
While the Hoyas didn’t actually deserve a higher seed after losing four games in a row, they are capable of much more. Point guard Chris Wright got hurt early in the 2nd half against Cincinnati, the first loss in this current slide. Without Wright, Georgetown’s offense ground to a complete halt. But now Wright is back and if he is healthy his team can present problems for both Purdue and Notre Dame. Georgetown should be wary however of a potential game vs. 11-seed USC which first must beat VCU to enter the tournament proper.
Mighty mid-major: Richmond
While Richmond is the 12-seed, you wouldn’t know it by looking at its second round simulation. The Spiders are the favorite against Vanderbilt and by a sizable margin as well winning 58 percent of the time. They were thought to be a lock for an at-large, but the fact they were seeded 12th showed that they did have to win the A-10 tournament. Unluckily for Vandy, the Spiders are much better than their seed indicates.