Best seed outlook: Can No. 1 Virginia exorcise last year’s allies now that the team is currently at full strength? Our version thinks so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent probability of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of accomplishing what would be the program’s first national title game.
With De’Andre Hunter, who wasn’t on the court last year during UVA’s historic loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers were dominant on both ends — the only team standing in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics. Once more, Tony Bennett’s pack line defense is suffocating most offensive chance and successfully turning games into rock fights. But this year’s group is better on the offensive end and should breeze to the Elite Eight, in which it could meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams along with the superbly appointed Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their very best basketball in program history. We give them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Is it”sneaky” to pick the team that has won two of the previous three national titles? Maybe not. But this hasn’t been the same group that coach Jay Wright advised to these championships. After dropping a ton of its best players from last year’s title-winning team, the Wildcats had an up-and-down year and lost five of the final eight regular-season Big East games. But they also got hot over the last week, capping off a year in which they won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament names — and still had one of the 20 best offenses in the nation according to KenPom (powered by an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings think that they’re the fourth-best team at the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of earning it back into the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Do not wager on: No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost made the Final Four final season, however they may find it tougher this time around. K-State has an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation according to Pomeroy’s ratings), but its offense is prone to battles — and may be down its second-leading scorer, forward Dean Wade, who missed the team’s Big 12 tournament loss to Iowa State with a foot injury. A barbarous draw that provides the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then puts them contrary to the Wisconsin-Oregon winner at Round two, could restrict their capability to advance deep into another consecutive tournament.
Cinderella see: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of any double-digit seed at the championship, over double that of any other offender. Oregon struggled to string together wins for most of the regular season, and its own chances seemed sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was lost for the year with a foot injury in January. However, the Ducks have rallied to win eight consecutive games going into the tournament, including a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mold as K-State — great defense with a defendant offense — but that’s telling, since the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. Should they fulfill in the Round of 32, we give Oregon a 47 percent chance at the upset.
Player to watch: Grant Williams, Tennessee
The junior has come a long way from being”just a fat boy with some ability.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC within the past two seasons, amassing two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the best offense of Barnes’s training career — and we’re talking about a man who coached Kevin Durant! Much of the offensive potency could be traced to Williams, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, who ranks in the 97th percentile in scoring efficacy, according to information courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man game you may find in a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive assault that manifests primarily in post-ups, where he positions in the 98th percentile in scoring efficiency and shoots a adjusted field-goal percentage of 56.1. He can find the Volunteers buckets from the waning minutes of games, also, as he ranks in the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficacy.
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Oklahoma over No. 8 Ole Miss (53 percent); No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin (45 percent); No. 10 Iowa over No. 7 Cincinnati (34 percent)
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