Top seed outlook: Can No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s allies now that the team is at full strength? Our model believes. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent probability 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 was not on the court this past year during UVA’s historical loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers have been dominant on both ends — the sole team ranking in the top five in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. Once again, Tony Bennett’s package line shield is suffocating most offensive chance and successfully turning games into stone fights. But this year’s group is better on the offensive end and ought to breeze to the Elite Eight, where it might meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams along with the wonderfully named Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their best basketball in program history. We provide them a 22 percent likelihood of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four pick: No. 6 Villanova. Can it be”sneaky” to select the team that has won just two of the previous three national titles? Maybe not. But this has not been the same group that coach Jay Wright advised to these championships. After losing 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. However they also got hot over the last week, capping off a season where they still won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament names — and had one of the 20 greatest offenses in the country according to 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 percent chance of making it back to the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Don’t wager on: No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost produced the Final Four final season, however they might find it tougher this time around. K-State has an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the country according to Pomeroy’s evaluations ), but its crime 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 brutal 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 limit their capability to progress deep into a second successive tournament.
Cinderella watch: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 odds (24 percent) of any double-digit seed at the championship, more than double that of some other candidate. Oregon struggled to string together wins for the majority of the regular season, and its own chances appeared sunk after 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was missing for the season with a foot injury in January. However, the Ducks have rallied to win eight straight games heading into the tournament, including a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mould as K-State — great defense with a defendant offense — but that is 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”just a fat boy with some ability.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC within the previous two seasons, collecting two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might just feature the very best offense of Barnes’s coaching career — and we are talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! A lot of the offensive potency could be traced to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, who positions in the 97th percentile in scoring efficiency, according to information courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams owns an old-man match you may find at 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 an adjusted field-goal percentage of 56.1. He can get the Volunteers buckets from the waning moments of matches, too, as he ranks 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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