Probability of Winning the NCAA Tournament

Now that the field of 68 has been set, the next question is who will be lucky enough to win the NCAA Tournament? This has been the year of parity as we have seen a bevy of teams fall from the #1 ranking throughout the season. Also, this season features the most number of losses of #1 seeds in the history of the tournament with 23 combined losses between Kansas, Oregon, North Carolina, and Virginia. The previous record was from 2000 with 20 losses.

Nate Silver’s 538 page has a pretty cool interactive graphic that displays Kansas with a 19% chance of winning the tournament, followed by North Carolina with 15%. However 538 derived their probabilities, through a battery of Elo ratings and other various analytics (some based on play by play), this is just one interpretation of how to develop a probability structure. For our, we consider building an iterative model based on cross-correlated head-to-head match-ups (like in Colley’s method); score-based beta regression over game locations, time between games, player injuries and suspensions, and head-to-head-match-ups. It’s the very reason we predicted Connecticut to win the A-10 conference tournament when most other Bracketologists labeled UCONN as a “Bubble” needing to win the tournament. We’re not saying we’re better than others, we’re just saying our interpretations sometimes gets things right when others get them wrong (and vice-versa). We still have a hard time predicting Holy Cross’ run through the Patriot League.

Using our rankings system, we build a Markov simulation and run 10,000,000 simulations of the NCAA tournament. We tally the winners and then divide by 10,000,000 to obtain the probabilities. Sounds simple? It actually is… Anyways, here are the results:


Probability of Winning the NCAA Tournament

Team Probability of Winning
Kansas 8.5790
Virginia 7.4450
North Carolina 7.2837
Oregon 6.6224
Michigan St 6.3602
Villanova 6.3156
Oklahoma 5.9477
Xavier 5.5243
West Virginia 4.6655
Miami FL 3.9689
Texas A&M 3.8008
Utah 3.5359
Kentucky 2.8963
Duke 2.7659
Iowa St 2.6482
California 2.3757
Purdue 2.1891
Indiana 2.0066
Baylor 1.9585
Maryland 1.8846
Arizona 1.3390
Texas 1.3284
Seton Hall 1.2717
Notre Dame 1.0331
Iowa 0.8636
Dayton 0.6512
Wisconsin 0.6325
Oregon St 0.6077
USC 0.4055
Texas Tech 0.4029
St Joseph’s PA 0.3999
Colorado 0.3703
Butler 0.2731
Connecticut 0.2711
Cincinnati 0.2584
Providence 0.2289
Pittsburgh 0.1629
Syracuse 0.1426
VA Commonwealth 0.1343
Gonzaga 0.0815
Temple 0.0790
Michigan 0.0447
Vanderbilt 0.0421
Wichita St 0.0396
Northern Iowa 0.0394
Tulsa 0.0280
Ark Little Rock 0.0214
Yale 0.0195
S Dakota St 0.0146
Chattanooga 0.0139
Hawaii 0.0091
UNC Wilmington 0.0053
Stony Brook 0.0038
Iona 0.0032
SF Austin 0.0015
Fresno St 0.0013
WI Green Bay 0.0007
Buffalo 0.0005
UNC Asheville 0.0001
CS Bakersfield 0.0001
MTSU 0.0001
Weber St 0.0000
Hampton 0.0000
Austin Peay 0.0000
FL Gulf Coast 0.0000
Southern Univ 0.0000
F Dickinson 0.0000
Holy Cross 0.0000


As we can see there is no clear cut winner. Kansas has the best chances to win, however, due to their ability to lose games to Michigan State, Iowa State, West Virginia, and (most ugly) Oklahoma State; Kansas also has the ability to lose as early as the Sweet Sixteen, when matched up against Maryland or California.

This isn’t the days of last year, when Duke and Kentucky crossed the 10 percent mark, with Wisconsin hovering near 9 percent. This is the worst fielded tournament in its 35 year history; in terms or losses. This will be an interesting tournament, filled with potential upsets everywhere.

How do you think the tournament will turn out this year? Who are you rooting for?



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