2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions, Sleepers

How crazy was the 2016 college basketball regular season? There are 351 NCAA college basketball teams competing in the top division. However, due to the one-and-done rule and/or more parity across the college basketball landscape, only one D-1 squad boasted three or fewer losses on their resume 14 days before NCAA tournament brackets were set to be released.

It wasn’t Bill Self’s No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks, Tom Izzo’s No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans or Jay Wright’s No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats. The squad was Sun Belt sensation Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at 27-3 – now a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region.

That’s right, your 2016 FOX Sports Bracket Challenge March Madness brackets shouldn’t be too far from a red pen as lower seeded teams have a great shot to play spoiler and slide on the Cinderella story slipper later this month. When perennial powers like the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats are clinging to their Top 25 rankings, young stars like Grayson Allen and Tyler Ullis know they have targets on their backs.

Although the top seeded teams in the 2016 college basketball tourney have an uphill climb to reach the Final Four in Houston, those involved in bracket office pools should know upper classman helped Michigan State and Kansas finish with a strong kick.

Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello – all seniors – have played a huge role in the Spartans winning eight of nine games heading into March. Everybody’s favorite eighth-year senior, Perry Ellis, (kidding) along with Frank Mason and Wayne Selden have the Jayhawks rollin’ with the team’s last loss coming a week before the Super Bowl.

As always, the WhatIfSports college basketball simulation engine projected game-by-game winners to help you fill out your 2016 brackets. You will also be able to follow the round-by-round action via BracketTrax.

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2016 NCAA Tournament Overview and Sleepers

Remember, by using the statistical make-up of each team to generate tournament picks, WhatIfSports removes the bias of other predictions and projections.

Could it be that the WhatIfSports college basketball simulation engine and Reid Forgrave are distant cousins? Why do we ask? Well, because if you scan the WIS tournament bracket projections and review Forgrave’s 2016 bracket picks – they share a common theme. Chalk.

If you ignore the No. 8 versus No. 9 matchups, Forgrave has only two upsets in the first round. The bracket simulation picked three – Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Gonzaga – to advance.

If you’re looking for some lower seeds to reach the Elite Eight – the sim engine isn’t digging them. The best it can provide are a couple No. 3 seeds to keep tabs on West Virgina and Texas A&M. The Mountaineers have better than a 28 percent shot at reaching the Elite Eight, while the Aggies have basically the same odds.

The computer likes Kansas to come out of the South Region, Oklahoma to survive the West Region, North Carolina to escape the East Region and, March Madness darling, Michigan State to win the Midwest Region.

The Spartans have won nine straight games heading into the tournament. So, it should come as little surprise the simulation engine gives Tom Izzo’s crew the best odds of winning the tournament – 22 percent – followed by Roy Williams’ Tar Heels (12.2 percent), the Jayhawks (8.9 percent) and Villanova (6.6 percent).

More previews and predictions: SOUTH | EAST | MIDWESTWEST

Dayton’s First Four Simulations and Projections

Because our 2016 Bracket Preview is formatted to simulate a 64-team field, we simulated these first round games 1,001 times and advanced those teams to the second round.

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Per the norm, the common theme of the First Four tournament games is whose bubble burst and targeting the teams unworthy rather than who will compete Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton.

Considering they lost to a 15-loss Memphis squad twice over the past few weeks, the Tulsa Hurricane should be thanking the committee for their tournament bid. However, they won’t be thanking the WhatIfSports college basketball sim engine who likes the Michigan Wolverines to beat them 60 percent of the time by an average score of 78-75. As the well-known laureate Rasheed Wallace once said “ball don’t lie.”

Most pundits didn’t think Vanderbilt would squeak into the tournament after losing its regular season finale to Texas A&M and to a 14-18 Tennessee program in the second round of the SEC tournament. Despite the shock, and opening as 2.5-point underdogs according to OddsShark.com, the simulation engine likes the Commodores to upset the Shockers 70 percent of the time by an average score of 77 – 71.

2016 NCAA Tournament First Four Simulation – Dayton, Ohio

Matchup Win % Avg. Score
Wichita State 29.7 71.1
Vanderbilt 70.3 76.7
Fairleigh Dickinson 35.6 74.4
FGCU 64.4 79.7
Holy Cross 40.6 66.2
Southern 59.4 69
Tulsa 39.7 75.2
Michigan 60.3 78.4

They may not be “Dunk City 2.0,” but Florida Gulf Coast worked their way back into the tournament for the first time since 2013 and the sim engine likes them to take down Fairleigh Dickinson and advance to play North Carolina. In the other First Four / No. 16-seed sacrificial lamb play-in game, the sim engine takes Southern over Holy Cross.

More previews and predictions: SOUTH | EAST | MIDWEST | WEST