How the stats would’ve picked this year’s (theoretical) 2020 NCAA Tournament

West Region (Los Angeles, CA)

The bracket:

The odds, per Bart Torvik:


  • Can Gonzaga do it? They got rewarded with the second overall seed…and a very wide-open region. This is maybe the best chance they’ve had yet to win a title, yet they received what looks like a brutal draw.
  • What about the others? Who even knows? Villanova has the fourth-best odds to make it out despite being the 2 seed. Duke is second-best, but was a brutal watch down the stretch. Louisville? Wisconsin? Texas Tech?
  • Upsets? Maybe not in the first round, but definitely in the Round of 32.

Round of 64

(11) Wichita State over (11) Xavier. Wichita would’ve been a slight favorite.

(1) Gonzaga over (16) Boston University. Something tells me that Boston would have kept this one close for a while. The general threshold for “why is this so close with ten minutes left?” in the 1/16 era has been the 16 seed having at least a 5% shot to win, and Boston’s right on it.

(8) Providence over (9) Florida. Trusting Providence always feels like fool’s gold, but betting on Mike White is worse. KenPom says to pick Florida, but either winner is a big underdog in the next round.

(5) Wisconsin over (12) Liberty. 5 seeds with 70% or better odds to make the Round of 32 are 26 of 31 in doing so (all others 23 of 49).

(4) Louisville over (13) New Mexico State. 4 seeds at 75% or higher to win their first game are 51-3, though I don’t doubt NMSU would have taken this to overtime or something before yet again blowing it. Stop teasing me.

(11) Wichita State over (6) Penn State. Let’s look at the stats again from earlier: bet against any 6 seed that’s at 54% or worse to win (4 for 20 in doing so; all others 42 of 60), and bet on any 6 seed that’s at 63% or better to win (26 of 33 in winning; all others 20 for 47). Penn is in the murky middle there, but closer to the side you don’t want to be on. I’m riding with the fact that 11 seeds have a winning record when they have a 37% or higher shot of winning; plus, I wouldn’t have picked Penn past the Round of 32 anyway.

(3) Duke over (14) Northern Colorado. I’m sad about this one. I loved few teams more than NoCo this year, but they drew the worst possible 3 seed matchup. 3 seeds at 80% or better to win their Round of 64 game are 53-3.

(10) Texas Tech over (7) Illinois. 10 seeds favored to win are 19-5, and by Ken’s numbers, Texas Tech actually would’ve breached the 57% threshold, where 10 seeds are 12-0. Easy pick for me.

(2) Villanova over (15) Winthrop. Nothing either way here, though it’s worth noting 2 seeds at 89.5% or better to win are 52-1, with 2011-12 Missouri as the lone exception.

Round of 32

(1) Gonzaga over (8) Providence. Not fun, obviously. 1 seeds with less than 70% odds to make the Sweet Sixteen are 18 of 25 in making it (all others 49 for 55), and just 2 of the 25 (2003 Texas, 2018 Kansas) have made the Final Four. (That’ll come up later.) But we’re going to ride with the theory that Gonzaga’s just better.

(4) Louisville over (5) Wisconsin. 4 seeds that enter with 47.5% or better odds of making the Sweet Sixteen are 24 of 29 in doing so (all others 15 of 51).

(3) Duke over (11) Wichita State. 3 seeds that are 57% or better to make Sweet Sixteen: 20 for 26 (76.9%).

(10) Texas Tech over (2) Villanova. Told you upsets were coming! 2 seeds with 52% or worse odds to make the Sweet Sixteen are just 1 of 13 in doing so (all others 47 of 67). Meanwhile, 10 seeds at 25% or better are 8 for 12. Take the Red Raiders!

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Gonzaga over (4) Louisville. This was mighty tempting, but we’re riding with 1 seeds being 47 for 61 when at 44% or higher odds to make the Elite Eight. 4 seeds really need to be at 25% or higher for you to feel okay about a pick, and Louisville sat at around 21-22% depending on the simulation.

(3) Duke over (10) Texas Tech. We’re avoiding the potential Elite Eight rematch from 2019 because Duke met our 31% or higher goal for 3 seeds at 35-38% and because it’s super risky to pick a 10 seed past the Sweet Sixteen.

Elite Eight

(3) Duke over (1) Gonzaga. Sucks! Big! But we have good reasons. 1 seeds below 33% to make the Final Four are just 3 for 37 in doing so, and Gonzaga’s below that threshold. Duke, meanwhile, was at 18% on Torvik and 21% on KenPom. Both are above our 15% threshold.

Final tally: 1 Round of 64 upset, 1 Round of 32 upset.

NEXT PAGE: South Region

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