Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 NCAA Tournament: Elite 8 Breakdown

While most people are probably filling out brackets and formulating Final Four selections in anticipation of tomorrow's tournament action, I've shifted all of my focus towards forecasting the Elite 8.

I'm participating in an Elite 8 selection contest, in which each entrant must select the final eight teams (two from each region) remaining in the tourney, and thus it doesn't make sense for me to analyze each individual bracket matchup or try to pick the potential champion. I just wanted to clarify that before diving into the Elite 8 discussion.

This is one of the better combinations I could come up with after looking at the matchups, but there are some teams I don't have much confidence in (i.e. Cuse, Creighton, Duke) yet they end up in most of my preliminary E8 projections.

South: Florida, Syracuse

It's tough for me to put Kansas into the E8 due to the uncertainty surrounding Embiid. I'm also not a Bill Self fan when it comes to in-game coaching. UCLA is another team I considered, but I just figured Florida would be 3 or 4-point faves if they met in the S16. I'm not sold on Syracuse at all, but I don't feel comfortable putting Kansas or Ohio St. in my E8. I thought about New Mexico, but I haven't seen them play much, and thus don't know if they would be able to handle the 2-3 zone.

Midwest: Louisville, Duke

This region is absolutely stacked. It's tough for me to put Wichita St. into the E8 considering they might have to navigate past Kentucky and Louisville to get there. I also figured Louisville would be favored over Wichita in a potential S16 matchup, and with the way the bracket is set up, I can't pick them both. Duke is a jump-shooting team that is soft on the interior which is obviously a concern. I narrowed it down to either Duke or Michigan, and went with Duke because I thought they would be short favorites if they met in the S16.

East: Michigan St., Villanova

Think the bracket sets up well for Nova and I like their chances against either UConn or Saint Joe's. I would make Nova small faves over Iowa St. on a neutral court, and that's basically the reason I have them in as of now. I feel like a potential Michigan St.-Virginia would be close to a PK, but the numbers show Michigan St. has a slightly better chance of getting to the final eight so I went with them.

West: Arizona, Creighton

This is definitely the weakest region IMO. I'm nervous about a potential Arizona-OK St. meeting in the round of 32, but it's tough for me to pick anyone else besides Zona to come out of that part of the region. As for the other section of the West region, I narrowed it down to either Creighton or Wisconsin. Creighton makes me a nervous because they rely so much on the 3 ball (although they do have a plethora of excellent shooters). I've watched this team closely throughout the year and they just aren't the same team away from home. Wisconsin hasn't fared well historically in the NCAA tournament, but their team appears to be structured differently than in previous years (much more offensive-oriented), which kind of throws me off.

Here's a breakdown showing each contender's chances of making the Elite 8, which is based off of projected point spreads and basic probability theory.


Elite 8 Chances

Team Region Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 E8 Chance
Florida South 0.98 0.67 0.62 40.7%
Louisville Midwest 0.93 0.72 0.60 40.2%
Arizona West 0.98 0.62 0.62 37.7%
Michigan St. East 0.92 0.65 0.52 31.1%
Villanova East 0.93 0.62 0.52 30.0%
Duke Midwest 0.92 0.62 0.52 29.7%
Creighton West 0.92 0.62 0.52 29.7%
Virginia East 0.96 0.62 0.48 28.3%
Michigan Midwest 0.94 0.62 0.48 28.0%
Wisconsin West 0.92 0.58 0.48 25.6%
Syracuse South 0.90 0.55 0.50 24.8%
Kansas South 0.90 0.54 0.50 24.3%
Iowa St. East 0.78 0.60 0.48 22.5%
Wichita St. Midwest 0.97 0.55 0.40 21.3%
San Diego St. West 0.76 0.58 0.35 15.5%
Ohio St. South 0.72 0.45 0.47 15.2%
UCLA South 0.85 0.52 0.33 14.7%
VCU South 0.74 0.48 0.30 10.5%
Uconn East 0.65 0.38 0.42 10.4%
North Carolina East 0.63 0.40 0.38 9.6%
Saint Louis Midwest 0.60 0.28 0.32 5.4%

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