Top seed outlook: Can No. 1 Virginia exorcise last year’s demons now that the group is at full strength? Our model thinks so. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent probability of accomplishing what is the program’s first national title match.
Together with De’Andre Hunter, that wasn’t on the court this past year through UVA’s historical loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers were dominant on both ends — the only team ranking in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Once more, Tony Bennett’s pack line shield is suffocating most every offensive opportunity and successfully turning games into rock fights. But this year’s team is even better on the offensive end and ought to breeze to the Elite Eight, in which it might meet Tennessee. Due to Grant Williams and the superbly appointed Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their best basketball in history. We provide them a 22 percent likelihood of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to select the team that’s won just two of the past three national titles? Maybe not. But this has not been the exact same team that coach Jay Wright guided to these championships. After dropping a ton of its best players from last year’s title-winning group, the Wildcats had an up-and-down season and lost five of their final eight regular-season Big East games. However they also got hot over the past week, capping a year in which they won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament names — and had among the 20 best offenses in the nation according to KenPom (powered by an absurd number 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 to the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Do not bet : No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats nearly 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 more prone to struggles — and could be down its second-leading scorer, forward Dean Wade, who missed the team’s Big 12 championship 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 in Round 2, could restrict their capability to progress deep into a second consecutive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. In accordance with our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 odds (24 percent) of any double-digit seed in the tournament, over twice that of any other offender. Oregon struggled to string together wins for the majority of the regular season, and its odds 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, such as a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mould as K-State — great defense using a suspect 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 very long way from being”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 consecutive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might only feature the very best crime of Barnes’s coaching career — and we are talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! Much of the offensive potency can be traced to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, who ranks in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, according to data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams possesses 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 ranks in the 98th percentile in scoring efficacy and shoots an adjusted field-goal percentage of 56.1. He can find the Volunteers buckets from the waning moments of matches, also, as he positions in the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficiency.
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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