5 Most Likely (Not 1 Seed) Final Four Teams
Are you that guy who picks chalk? Shame on you. Upset picks are half the fun of a bracket. Even if your bracket isn't statistically optimized, having potential bragging rights when Butler goes to the Final Four may be even sweeter than your bracket pool.
Picking upsets doesn't have to be a crapshoot, though. What if I told you that there's a way you could grab those bragging rights and still win your pool? That's what we're here for: to give you that sweet, sweet power.
Let the power of Math flow through you as we break down the top five most likely Final Four teams outside the top seeds. We determined the odds for these teams through their efficiency, team pace, and overall consistency. But all you have to do is decide which one is best for you.
1. Florida Gators - 40.77% Chance
We wrote about why Florida should make a run earlier in the week, but now, the cat's out of the bag. Even the President has Florida in his Final Four, although that may just be because he has three swing states represented in Atlanta (always the politician).
But that's because it makes sense: as the only team in the top five percent of NCAA Division I squad in both offensive and defensive efficiency, the Gators have dominated competition this season. Per 100 possessions, the Gators have averaged 30.14 more points than they've allowed, even after adjusting for that weak SEC competition. The next closest team in their region would be Kansas, who sits nine points lower at a 21.01 scored/allowed disparity.
I'm not quite sure who's going to stand in their way. UCLA, without the one player on their team that had above a 110 offensive rating this season? Minnesota's No. 114 defense? Georgetown's No. 122 offense? That Kansas team that has a net point differential of nine fewer points per 100 possessions? Our odds don't see Florida as a majority favorite; too much can go wrong. But man, that path is smooth as silk.
2. Miami Hurricanes - 22.65% Chance
We're not ready to leave the state of Florida yet, even if we're talking about a markedly different scenario. The Miami Hurricanes aren't nearly the best team, but man, that path to the Final Four is like a stroll down South Beach.
Miami's been solid this year, but not spectacular. Sitting at No. 41 in offensive efficiency and No. 46 in defensive efficiency, the Hurricanes don't really have a particular weakness, but they don't have an overwhelming strength, either. The same could be said for the low game-to-game variability of their efficiencies: it's a great thing when they're playing lower seeds, but against the higher seeds, they don't have the ability to take their game to a higher level.
I guess it's a good thing that the bottom half of the East Region is less efficient than half the Spring Breakers Miami encounters this time of year. Marquette and efficient basketball doesn't seem to mix despite their best Big East season in years. The same could be said for Butler, who captured an 11-5 Atlantic 10 record but only sits No. 64 in offensive efficiency and No. 127 in defensive efficiency. Illinois or Colorado as an upset special? No, Colorado's No. 128 offense and Illinois' No. 159 defense don't appeal to me, either.
Miami seemingly has a cakewalk into the Elite 8, where they'd likely run smack dab into Indiana. One of our top overall teams in terms of metrics, the Hoosiers would surely be hard to beat. However, our odds give Miami a 38 percent chance of taking that one, and the two games that we consider the "strongest predictors" in terms of team efficiency and style of play saw the Miami-similar team take it.
3. Duke Blue Devils - 18.10% Chance
I'm kind of liking the basketball in the southeast right now. Even if I'm leaving Florida, there's another ACC squad that can provide some value. For those of you excited to be the villain in your bracket pool, the Dukies aren't a bad squad to ride.
With the seventh-most efficient offense in the country and a quick pace in the 81st percentile of all D-I squads, the Blue Devils are able to score with anybody. The question is: will their No. 68 defense and 96.20 points allowed per 100 possessions be enough to hold teams off from keeping pace?
Seven seed Creighton may have fourth-most efficient offense in the country, but their defense is noticeably less efficient than Duke's. Watch out for who controls the pace in this one: if Duke can force Creighton and their slow pace to run, they should find even more holes. Three seed Michigan State is actually fifth among Big Ten teams in terms of efficiency, and their No. 71 offense and low standard deviation of efficiency may mean they don't have the offense to keep up. And while Louisville is strong, they are sometimes inconsistent themselves (55th percentile of inconsistency) and prone to off games.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes - 16.90% Chance
It might seem odd to have the Big Ten Champs with only a 16.9 percent chance of making the Final Four, but Ohio State doesn't have that elite skill that Final Four teams usually have to push them over the top. The No. 34 offense in the country? That's awesome, but within their region alone, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Belmont, Arizona, Boise State, and Notre Dame all scored more points per possession. The No. 22 defense? That's even better, but Gonzaga, Southern (no, really), and Wisconsin top them there as well.
The only redeeming quality is that while the top half of the bracket is a murderer's row, the bottom half should allow them to skate through. Notre Dame or Iowa State? Neither one is in the top 40 percent of D-I teams in defensive efficiency. Three seed New Mexico may have a solid No. 33 defense, but their No. 96 offense and extremely high consistency rating (not allowing variation to get up to beat the top teams) makes them not as high of a threat. Six seed Arizona's No. 26 offensive efficiency and No. 54 defensive efficiency is solid, but like New Mexico, they have a high consistency rating. I'm not seeing too many true contenders.
That's why it may all come down to who Ohio State plays in the Elite 8; we give them a 37.42 percent chance of getting there. Our game simulator gives them a 37.6 percent chance of getting by Gonzaga, not the best odds in the world, but manageable as an upset pick. But if it were, say, Wisconsin, Ohio State would have a 52.3 percent chance of repeating the Big 10 Championship Game. Kansas State? Go ahead and increase the Buckeyes' win odds to 54.7 percent.
5. Georgetown Hoyas - 12.41% Chance
Barely beating out the Michigan State Spartans and their 12.27 percent Final Four odds, the Hoyas' Final Four chances are decidedly bleh for a two seed. But that's what happens when your offense is the least efficient part of D.C. (that's saying something), and the Committee rewards you with the toughest three seed in the entire country.
During this season, the Hoyas averaged 104.77 points per 100 possessions after adjusting for opponent strength. That doesn't sound half bad; I'd take scoring 1.04 points per possession in Big East play. However, you can't take that number in a vacuum: that average actually sits No. 122 in the country and No. 7 in the Big East alone; Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, and UConn all scored more points per possession.
While Georgetown's No. 8 in the country defense goes a long way towards making up that difference, the net difference between their points scored and points allowed per possession still sits sixth among teams in the South Region. Florida, Kansas, Michigan, VCU, and Akron all averaged better than Georgetown's .159 points gained per possession after adjusting for opponent strength.
In fact, there is only one reason that the Hoyas are on this top five list at all: ease of their section of the bracket. Notice a trend in those five teams that have Georgetown beat in net points per possession? Kansas, Michigan, VCU, and Akron are all on the top half of the South Region. In order to reach the Elite 8, Georgetown will solely need to take care of Florida... a team that our analytics give them a 27.6 percent chance of beating, but I digress. If you take Georgetown to the Final Four, then it's not a terrible option. There are just much better ones out there.
For full Final Four, Championship Game, and NCAA Title odds, make sure to check out our March Madness Team Rankings. Trust me, when you're crying over your Butler to the Final Four selection, you'll wish you had.