Modeling March Madness: The National Championship Game

Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Final Four Recap

In spite of my model’s predictions and my own personal guesses as to who would come out on top, part of my brain just expected to see Duke win it all. Sadly for Blue Devils fans, Coach K’s happy ending was in the Final Four, where Hubert Davis’ story is only beginning. Now Davis’ UNC squad is matched up with Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. My model had the Jayhawks getting here, but absolutely did not see this coming from the Tar Heels. Their path has taken them through juggernauts such as Baylor and Duke en route to an unexpected chance at winning the whole thing. A 1/2 Final Four leaves us at 45/62 on predictions so far in the tournament, so after tonight we’ll be looking at either 71% or 73% across the tourney as a whole. Overall this is a good showing, and I already have some ideas to put into the works to be even more accurate in next year’s tourney.

National Championship

It all comes down to this. Two teams with very different paths will match up tonight with the National Championship on the line. Kansas was an absolute force throughout the entire tournament, noticeably outplaying every single opponent, while North Carolina has been a showcase for some of the top talents in the country, giving us some absolutely ridiculous performances from Brady Manek, Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, and RJ Davis. Both teams belong here, and either could come out on top, but only one team will be able to end their season with a win.

#1 Kansas def. #1 Gonzaga #1 Kansas def. #8 North Carolina

From the very beginning, my model predicted a Jayhawks national championship, and it still sees that coming to fruition in spite of the change in opponent. While Carolina should give them fits on the glass and the two teams are neck and neck in terms of scoring, the Jayhawks are a considerably better defensive team. Kansas also proved on Saturday that they can beat you in a number of different ways. They can dominate the inside and get easy buckets all day or turn into the best three-point shooting team in the country with the flip of a switch. Their depth, highlighted by star sixth man Remy Martin, is a true x-factor, since their legs will be a lot fresher all night, especially late in the second half, where many games like this one are won and lost. I expect to see a Jayhawks win tonight, and so does my model.