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

East Region (NYC)

The bracket:

The odds, per Bart Torvik:

The storylines:

  • Dayton vs. San Diego State! The two best stories of the 2019-20 season are in the same region and could face off in the Elite Eight for the right to go to the Final Four.
  • Dayton vs. Ohio State! My inkling is that this is apparently a rivalry, and that Dayton fans do care about it while Ohio State fans very much would like to pretend they don’t. Anyway, this is the likely Sweet Sixteen matchup.
  • Overachievers and underachievers. Can Seton Hall build on what’s been an absolute dream season? What about Stephen F. Austin? On the flip side, how good do you feel if you’re a USC fan coming into this? What about Michigan, which feels like it lived 17 different lives during the season?

Round of 64

(1) Dayton over (16) UC Santa Barbara. Again, this breaks the 5% threshold, and actually registers as our most competitive 1/16 game. If these four 1/16 matchups came to fruition, three would register among the 20 most competitive 1/16 matchups of the last 20 years. The most similar mark in my head is 2012, the year UNC Asheville nearly toppled Syracuse. As usual with how these go, I’d imagine one 1 seed wins by single digits, another wins by 15 or less, and the other two win blowouts.

(9) Oklahoma over (8) Colorado. The very slight favorite.

(5) Butler over (12) Stephen F. Austin. No 5 seed at 76% or better to win has lost, going 16-0. I’d love to see SFA do it, and this was their most advantageous possible matchup, but they don’t match up well in metrics.

(4) Ohio State over (13) Vermont. Not easy, as Ohio State doesn’t top the 80% number I’m looking for to avoid upsets. All 4 seeds at 79% or below are 32-16 since 2000, which means that one of Kentucky, Ohio State, or Louisville is likely to end up losing. That said, it’s a risk I’m willing to take in avoiding picking it.

(6) Michigan over (11) Cincinnati. It’s kind of an upset when 6 seeds do win. 6 seeds at 63% or better to win in the first round are 26-7, so I’d ride with the Wolverines.

(3) Seton Hall over (14) Bradley. Tempting! Seton Hall is the most vulnerable 3 seed by a solid margin, but only three 3 seeds above 80% have lost (53-3; all others 19-5), and if you’re picking 14 seeds in the first place, you’re putting a lot on the line for fairly limited rewards.

(7) Houston over (10) USC. This is one of the easiest non 1-3 seed picks in the entire bracket. Houston would be one of the six largest 7 seed favorites in the last 20 years of the Tournament, and every team at 70% or higher previously has won at least one game. In fact, 7 seeds at 60% or better are 27-5.

(2) San Diego State over (15) Ohio. Wouldn’t really expect this one to be competitive, but you never know.

Round of 32

(9) Oklahoma over (1) Dayton. Upset! Would I actually pick this? Probably not, but who cares, we’re all in our rooms and bored. Dayton, sitting at just 66% for the Sweet Sixteen, fails to meet our 70%+ threshold for making it. Teams below 70% are just 18 for 25 in escaping the first weekend – still good, but not elite levels. There’s only been 16 1 seeds below 67% to make it in the last 20 years, and they’re just 11 for 16, with only two of them making the Final Four. Eight of the 16 failed to make the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, the only 9 seeds you should ever pick are ones that have 15% or better odds of making the Sweet Sixteen; they’re just 4 for 16, but again, we’ll play the odds here and hope it works.

(4) Ohio State over (5) Butler. Better team, easier pick. 4 seeds at 53% or better to make the Sweet Sixteen are 15 for 17.

(6) Michigan over (3) Seton Hall. 3 seeds at 52% or lower to make the Sweet Sixteen are just 18 of 44 in doing so (all others 29 of 36). Meanwhile, you’d bet on any 6 seed at 34% or better to make it, and Michigan sits at 37%. Ride with the Blue.

(2) San Diego State over (7) Houston. This was really tough, but I sided with SDSU after some deliberation. 2 seeds with 63% or better odds to make the Sweet Sixteen are 30 of 36 in doing so (all others 18 of 44). SDSU isn’t quite there, but they are very close. Meanwhile, Houston just barely missed the 30% threshold to make it. In my head, this is the 2020 version of San Diego State’s overtime escape against Temple in 2011.

Sweet Sixteen

(4) Ohio State over (9) Oklahoma. There’s not really much consistency for the 9 seeds that get to the second weekend, but 4 seeds with 25% or better odds of making the Sweet Sixteen are 6 for 15 in making it (all others 4 for 65). We’re rolling with OSU.

(2) San Diego State over (6) Michigan. This was tough, but again, we’ll say the Aztecs survive. 2 seeds with at least a 40% shot of making the Elite Eight are 23 for 34; 6 seeds, for my money, need to be at 17% or better. Michigan fell just short. Again, SDSU wins on a late runner or in OT or something. This is real Choose Your Own Adventure stuff.

Elite Eight

(2) San Diego State over (4) Ohio State. I’m not in love with this, to be honest, but I’ll go with it. There’s not really any straight-forward reasoning as to why 4 seeds make the Final Four; generally, they make the Final Four when everything on the bottom half of the bracket implodes and they’re playing someone other than a 2 seed. That hasn’t happened here. San Diego State doesn’t quite meet the 25% barrier of what I want in a 2 seed, but they come so close that I’m fine with it.

Final tally: 0 Round of 64 upsets, 1 Round of 32.

NEXT PAGE: Final Four and some discussions

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