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The 2023 NCAA Tournament has been whittled to just 16 teams after a wild first weekend which saw a No. 16 seed (Fairleigh Dickinson) beat a No. 1 seed (Purdue) for just the second time ever.
Throw in a No. 15 seed (Princeton) which strung together back-to-back upsets and it’s made for an unprecedented tournament so far.
The table below shows the updated odds to win March Madness for the 16 teams that survived the first and second rounds. The remaining teams can be stratified into four distinct tiers.
2023 March Madness Odds
|San Diego State||+3500|
Here is how the bracket looks after the second round:
Tier 1: The NCAA Tournament Favorites
At the top of the board, there is a clear cutoff between South Region No. 1 Alabama (+350), Midwest Region No. 1 Houston (+360), and the rest of the field, which starts with UCLA and Conn at +900.
The implied win probability for Alabama (22.2%) and Houston (21.7%) is more than double the third-favorites (10%). The gap is somewhat hard to explain from an analytics standpoint. While Houston and Alabama do rate first and second, respectively, at KenPom, the teams that rate third through seventh are all still alive in the 2023 NCAA Tournament (UCLA, UConn, Texas, Tennessee, and Gonzaga) and the adjusted-efficiency numbers for that septet are all quite comparable, especially the top four.
Other sites (Haslametrics, for instance) don’t even have Alabama and Houston at the top, instead rating UCLA as the top team in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency.
Tier 2: Legit Contenders
The next tier is comprised of six teams with odds between +900 and +1100. Those six teams are No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 UConn, No. 2 Texas, No. 6 Creighton, No. 4 Tennessee, and No. 3 Gonzaga.
Along with Alabama and Houston, those are seven of the teams which are favored in the Sweet 16 matchups: Alabama is a 6.5-point favorite over San Diego State. Houston is a 7.5-point favorite over Miami. UConn is a 4-point favorite over Arkansas. Creighton is a 10-point favorite over Princeton. Texas is a 4-point favorite over Xavier. and Tennessee is a 5.5-point favorite over Florida Atlantic.
The only team among the top-eight favorites that isn’t favored in its Sweet 16 matchup is Gonzaga, which is a modest 1-point underdog to UCLA.
Tier 3: Longshots
The third tier is comprised of seven teams with odds between +3000 and +4500. They are Michigan State and Arkansas (+3000), Xavier, Kansas State, and San Diego State (+3500), and Miami and FAU (+4500).
The only one of these teams that is favored in its Sweet 16 game is Michigan State, which is a slight 1-point favorite over Kansas State.
The Spartans had one of the most-impressive victories of the second round, taking down East Region No. 2 Marquette by a convincing 69-60 scoreline.
Tier 4: Princeton
The final tier is reserved for the Cinderella of the ball. Even before Fairleigh Dickinson made history, No. 15 Princeton sent shockwaves through the college basketball universe by knocking off No. 2 Arizona in the South Region as 14.5-point underdogs.
The manner in which they pulled the upset made the result all the more stunning. The No. 15 seed trailed by double digits with less than 10 minutes to play, but finished the game on an 18-4 run. At the eight-minute mark, Princeton’s win probability was down to just 2.7% according to KenPom.
On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers proved they weren’t a one-hit wonder, or even a two-hit wonder if you count their Ivy League title-game victory over heavily-favored Yale. Up against No. 7 Missouri in the round of 32, Princeton jumped out to a 19-11 lead and never looked back. Missouri was never within five points after that.
Yet the Ivy League champs are sitting at +18000 to win the national championship, a 0.55% implied win probability. The next-longest odds (+4500) have an implied win probability of 2.17%, nearly four-times greater.
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