Tournament Simulation | March Madness 2021

The article below shows how our models view this year’s tournament field from a simulation perspective. Each table shows the % chance that each team advances to a given round of the tournament (e.g., in the first table, Gonzaga has a 92.5% chance of advancing to the 2nd round). These figures are calculated based on 1,000 simulations of this year’s tournament, which were performed using win probability and spread predictions from our models. See our related posts for our Full 2021 Tournament Bracket and ourĀ Game-by-Game Predictions.

Tournament simulations are an awesome tool that can be used to account for all the potential matchups that teams could face on their way to cutting down the nets. They are extremely useful for comparing “what is most likely to happen” against public picks to find optimal places to differentiate your bracket from others in your pool. They also do a great job of highlighting how difficult it is to make a run in this tournament – even the teams that are most likely to get to the Final Four usually have less than a 50% chance of doing so (i.e., it is more likely that they DO NOT make the Final Four).

West Region

Gonzaga (53%) is the overwhelming favorite to come out of the West region by our numbers. Note that Kansas (7%) and Virginia (7%) are both dealing with COVID cases, and could potentially be short-handed (or even withdraw from the tournament). We have not adjusted their data. Iowa (13%) is most likely to come out of the bottom half of the bracket, though they project to get strong competition from Oregon (4%) and USC (6%).

East Region

The East is much more wide open, with four teams projected with at least a 10% chance of making it to the Final Four. Alabama (21%) is the most likely representative from the East based on our models. Note that we regressed a few of Michigan’s (14%) statistics by 0-5% to account for the Isaiah Livers injury (they will be missing one of their best players).

South Region

Baylor (33%) is roughly twice as likely as any other team to make the Final Four out of the South. They are helped by the fact that Villanova (6%) will not be at full strength – note that we regressed a few of Villanova’s statistics by 0-5% to account for the Collin Gillespie injury (they will be missing one of their best players). Texas Tech (11%) and Arkansas (12%) look most likely to challenge Baylor, while our models are not as high as the consensus on Ohio State (9%) in the bottom half of this region.

Midwest Region

Houston (35%) is perhaps a surprise here, but they rank strongly in our models. Illinois (23%) is not helped by tough 2nd and 3rd round projected matchups with Loyola Chicago and Tennesse/Oklahoma State. Sadly, our models are not very high on Cade Cunningham and the Cowboys (5%). I’ve got a bad feeling about this….

Tournament Champ

Our numbers see Gonzaga (33%) as the overwhelming favorite to win it all this year. Comparing to ESPN’s public bracket data, about 36% of the public is picking Gonzaga as their champion, which is roughly in line with our number, meaning there isn’t necessarily “value” in picking Gonzaga as champion. If you’re in a smaller pool, it’s fine to pick Gonzaga as your champion, but, if you’re in a pool with 100+ people, you will want to go outside the box. Houston (12%) is the obvious contrarian choice by our models, as only 3% of public brackets have Houston winning it all. Baylor (12%) and Illinois (5%) will be popular public choices, but Alabama (5%) or Iowa (5%) would be much more contrarian choices and present better values according to our models. Further, Iowa is also interesting because, should they win, they would give you leverage against the field by beating Gonzaga early (and many people in your pool will have Gonzaga going far). Here is the full output of our simulation:

TeamSeedQuadRound
Two
Sweet
16
Elite
8
Final
Four
Champ
Game
Win
Gonzaga1West0.9250.7920.6540.530.4210.332
Baylor1South0.8720.6080.4520.3250.2180.117
Houston2Mid0.8680.7270.5370.3490.2310.115
Illinois1Mid0.8420.5440.3820.2290.1170.053
Iowa2West0.7730.510.3250.1260.0860.046
Alabama2East0.8130.5490.3490.2080.0940.045
Michigan1East0.8080.4450.2430.140.0540.031
Texas3East0.5820.4190.2260.1440.0520.021
Arkansas3South0.6310.4040.2510.1230.050.021
Kansas3West0.6140.3590.1880.070.0370.018
Virginia4West0.6970.430.140.0670.0370.017
Ohio State2South0.7320.4240.2050.0850.0390.014
Loyola Chicago8Mid0.680.3150.1660.0640.0330.014
Colorado5East0.750.4040.230.1170.0390.013
Texas Tech6South0.6860.3330.210.1090.0550.011
USC6West0.7040.3950.1840.0570.0270.011
UConn7East0.6650.2920.1480.0690.0240.009
LSU8East0.5680.2890.1330.060.0180.009
Winthrop12South0.4450.2750.0940.0480.0180.008
Tennessee5Mid0.7510.4280.1930.0810.0370.007
Florida State4East0.6660.3820.210.0960.0230.007
West Virginia3Mid0.6770.3430.1260.0550.0210.007
Oregon7West0.6330.270.1440.040.0160.007
Colgate14South0.3690.1520.0870.0250.0130.007
Creighton5West0.5870.2950.0680.0280.0110.007
North Carolina8South0.5890.2380.1320.0710.0330.006
San Diego State6Mid0.640.3830.1560.0830.030.006
Oklahoma State4Mid0.4930.2530.110.0460.0130.006
Villanova5South0.5550.2920.1150.0570.0210.005
UC Santa Barbara12West0.4130.1820.0410.0140.0060.004
Purdue4South0.5330.260.0950.0450.0190.003
BYU6East0.5720.2080.0790.0350.0080.003
Abilene Christian14East0.4180.2340.0970.050.0130.002
Wisconsin9South0.4110.1260.0570.0260.0090.002
St. Bonaventure9East0.4320.220.10.0260.0070.002
Syracuse11Mid0.360.1710.0480.0210.0040.002
Clemson7Mid0.4780.10.0390.0110.0040.002
Liberty13Mid0.5070.230.0820.020.010.001
Utah State11South0.3140.1110.0480.0170.0070.001
VCU10West0.3670.1460.0620.020.0050.001
Eastern Washington14West0.3860.1580.0530.0140.0050.001
North Texas13South0.4670.1730.0520.0170.0030.001
Michigan State11East0.4280.1390.0470.0150.0030.001
Oklahoma8West0.5150.1020.0410.0120.0030.001
Maryland10East0.3350.1060.0350.0160.0020.001
Missouri9West0.4850.090.0330.0070.0020.001
Wichita State11West0.2960.0880.0240.0030.0010.001
Florida7South0.6220.3070.1240.0420.0110
UNC Greensboro13East0.3340.1210.0410.0130.0030
Rutgers10Mid0.5220.1160.0430.0150.0020
Georgetown12East0.250.0930.0360.0080.0020
Virginia Tech10South0.3780.1740.0560.0090.0010
Morehead State14Mid0.3230.1030.0350.0090.0010
Ohio13West0.3030.0930.0190.0080.0010
Georgia Tech9Mid0.320.0990.0380.0100
Grand Canyon15West0.2270.0740.020.00300
Iona15East0.1870.0530.0190.00300
Cleveland State15Mid0.1320.0570.0160.00300
Oregon State12Mid0.2490.0890.020.00200
Drexel16Mid0.1580.0420.0090.00200
Oral Roberts15South0.2680.0950.0190.00100
Appalachian State16West0.0750.0160.0040.00100
Mt St Mary's16East0.1920.0460.007000
Hartford16South0.1280.0280.003000

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