Top seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise last year’s allies now that the group is currently at full strength? Our model thinks so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent probability of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of reaching what is the program’s first national title match.
With De’Andre Hunter, that wasn’t on the court this past year during UVA’s historic loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers have been dominant on both ends — the sole team ranking in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics. Once again, Tony Bennett’s package line defense is suffocating most every offensive opportunity and successfully turning games into rock fights. However, this year’s group is even better on the offensive end and should breeze into the Elite Eight, where it could meet Tennessee. Due to Grant Williams and the wonderfully named Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are enjoying their best basketball in history. We provide them a 22 percent probability of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to pick the team that has won just two of the past three national titles? Not. But this hasn’t been the same team 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 past week, capping a year in which they still won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament names — and still had one of the 20 best offenses in the country based on KenPom (powered by an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings believe they’re the fourth-best team in the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of making it back into the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Don’t bet : No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats nearly produced the Final Four last season, however they might find it tougher this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation according to Pomeroy’s ratings), but its crime is prone to struggles — and could 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 gives the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then puts them opposite the Wisconsin-Oregon winner at Round 2, could restrict their potential to advance deep into another successive tournament.
Cinderella see: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of any double-digit seed in the championship, over twice that of any other candidate. Oregon struggled to string together wins for most of the regular season, and its odds appeared sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was missing for the year with a foot injury in January. But the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games going into the championship, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon matches a similar mould as K-State — great defense using a defendant crime — but that is telling, given that the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. Should they meet in the Round of 32, we provide Oregon a 47 percent chance at the upset.
Player to watch: Grant Williams, Tennessee
The junior has come a very long way from being”just a fat boy with some skill.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC over the past two seasons, amassing two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might only feature the very best crime of Barnes’s training career — and we’re talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! A lot of the offensive potency could be tracked to Williams, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, that positions in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, based on information courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man game you might find at a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive attack that manifests mostly in post-ups, where he positions in the 98th percentile in scoring efficiency and shoots an adjusted field-goal proportion of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets from the waning moments of matches, also, as he positions 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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