The 5 Closest Projected Games of the NCAA Tournament

When it comes to picking out winners in the round of 64, most of the time you can pencil the top seeds into the next round without much thought. Since 2000, 20 of the last 21 NCAA champions were a 3 seed or better. They're high seeds for a reason!

Once we get past those elite teams, though, things start to get a little more interesting as the seeding gap narrows. We all know to pick at least one 5/12 upset, and trying to choose between an 8 or 9 seed can feel like a coin flip.

But which of this year's matchups are actually projected to be the closest? Can we unearth any potential upsets or ways to be contrarian?

Using numberFire's model, let's take a look at the games in which the winner is projected for a win probability below 57%.

5. Michigan State (7) vs. Davidson (10)

The Michigan State Spartans enter their matchup with a 56.89% win probability over the Davidson Wildcats. The Spartans are only favored by one point on NCAAB odds.

These two teams are neck and neck in KenPom's rankings, with the Spartans at 40th and the Wildcats at... 41st.

According to, Michigan State is the more well-rounded squad, ranking top 40 in adjusted offense and nearly top 50 in adjusted defense. On the other hand, Davidson is all about scoring, boasting the country's 13th-best adjusted offense but just the 159th-best adjusted D.

Both teams also shoot the three well. The Spartans are 18th in three-point percentage while Davidson is 8th.

If we check out ESPN's "Who Picked Whom" data, the public is siding with the big name in Michigan State 60.9% of the time.

That said, it's worth noting that Michigan State didn't play its best basketball down the stretch and went 4-6 over their last 10 games. Going against the grain and siding with Davidson could be a wise move.

4. Seton Hall (8) vs. TCU (9)

Surprise, surprise -- an evenly matched 8/9 game!

Our model sees the Seton Hall Pirates having a 54.67% shot at defeating the TCU Horned Frogs.

Per KenPom, Seton Hall is the 35th-best team in the country and TCU is 38th. The Pirates are favored by a minuscule 0.5 points.

If that wasn't enough, the two teams are nearly identical on both offense and defense. They both have top-85 adjusted offenses and top-30 adjusted defenses, with TCU having a slight edge in both metrics.

These teams struggle to shoot the ball sometimes, though, as both have effective field goal percentages (eFG%) well outside the top 200.

As you might imagine from all this, the public is also split. The favored Pirates are getting picked in just 49.0% of ESPN brackets.

Ultimately, this could come down to whether the Horned Frogs can limit their turnovers. They rank just 337th out of 358 teams in turnover rate.

3. Boise State (8) vs. Memphis (9)

In this one, it's actually the lower-seeded Memphis Tigers who are favored by 2.5 points and projected to win 53.67% of the time over the Boise State Broncos.

The Broncos and Tigers are neighbors in KenPom's rankings, checking in at 26th and 28th, respectively. In numberFire's power rankings, the two teams are flipped, though, with Memphis at 24th and Boise State at 27th. It just goes to show what a toss-up this matchup is.

Both teams are top 25 in adjusted defense, but Memphis gets the edge on offense. The Tigers are 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency, while the Broncos are 70th.

On top of that, the Tigers played like a top-10 team over its last 10 games, per BartTorvik.

However, Memphis does have its share of weaknesses, ranking outside the top 250 in defensive rebounding rate and free throw attempt rate allowed. They also struggle with turning the ball over, coming in at an abysmal 352nd in turnover rate. Yikes!

And despite being the 9 seed, Memphis isn't sneaking up on anyone, as the public is siding with them at a 62.2% clip. Boise State might not be getting enough credit.

2. Ohio State (7) vs. Loyola Chicago (10)

This matchup is particularly intriguing because the lower-seeded Missouri Valley entry is favored over the Big Ten school.

numberFire's model gives Sister Jean's Loyola Chicago Ramblers a 52.01% likelihood of besting the Ohio State Buckeyes. KenPom has the Ramblers (24th) ranked above the Buckeyes (32nd), too.

Ohio State is still a slight favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook, though, albeit by just one point.

The Buckeyes have one of the country's top offenses, ranking 11th in adjusted offense. That includes top-25 marks in both eFG% and three-point percentage. However, they possess a more middle-of-the-road adjusted defense, ranking just outside the top 125.

Meanwhile, the Ramblers own a top-65 adjusted offense and top-30 adjusted defense. Although they struggle on the offensive glass (278th in offensive rebounding rate) and could turn the ball over less (178th in turnover rate), they boast the nation's 7th-best eFG% and 14th-best three-point percentage.

The public clearly hasn't forgotten about Loyola Chicago's recent tournament runs, as Ohio State is only getting picked 51.8% of the time. The Buckeyes weren't exactly crushing it entering the tournament, either, losing four of their last five games.

1. Colorado State (6) vs. Michigan (11)

That's right, a 6/11 matchup projects as the closest round of 64 game this year.

The Colorado State Rams are only showing a 50.41% win probability over the Michigan Wolverines. In fact, it's actually the Wolverines who are favored by 2.5 points.

Only two spots separate Colorado State and Michigan on both KenPom and our power rankings as roughly top-30 squads.

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the best spots to target for a first-round upset.

It looks like the word is getting out, too, as Michigan is being selected 55.3% of the time on ESPN.