Modeling March Madness: The Final Four

Photo: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Elite Eight Recap

After a 27/32 Round of 64 turned into a combined 13/24 between the Round of 32 and Sweet Sixteen, I was concerned that my model was going to be an ineffective predictor of the rest of the NCAA Tournament. Then the Elite Eight happened, and my model accurately predicted the results of all four games, sending me into the Final Four at 44/60 overall with my initial National Championship winners still alive. That said, let’s take a look at what’s going on down in New Orleans.

Final 4

Every team here is one of the best teams in the country, but each has flaws that their opponents will try to exploit en route to the National Championship Game. While no team here is an obvious loser, every team here is beatable. Villanova shoots and defends better than Kansas, but will the Jayhawks’ depth and athleticism be too much for the Wildcats to handle? With Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore, and Mark Williams, Duke is the most talented team left in the field, but North Carolina just knocked them off on their senior night with a talent pool that can rival the Blue Devils, featuring the red-hot Brady Manek, Caleb Love, and Armando Bacot.

#2 Duke def. #8 North Carolina
Almost storybook, isn’t it? Coach Mike Krzyzewski will have Duke in the Final Four for the thirteenth and final time. Ten miles down Tobacco Road, first-year coach Hubert Davis already has the Tar Heels in the first of what UNC fans are hopeful will amount to many Final Four runs. For the first time ever, these historically great programs (and vehement rivals) will meet in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils should ride experience and elite talent to a win in this one, but don’t be surprised to see Carolina give them a great game.

#1 Kansas def. #2 Villanova
The Jayhawks have been an absolute juggernaut all month. After struggling in the first half they came out and absolutely stomped a Miami squad that seemed to be really capitalizing on their inability to defend against ball screens. They made some adjustments and didn’t look back en route to one of the best halves in tournament history. That said, the Wildcats have won some tough games themselves. If Villanova can come out, set the tempo and shoot the ball, they can win. The problem comes in when you consider Kansas’ superior defense and rebounding. Because of these attributes, they should be able to control the game and get up more shots than the Wildcats. Unless they are forced to spend all day trading 2s for 3s, look forward to another KU victory.