2021 March Madness Preview

This is part of a series for the 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview. Please use the information here to help you fill out your bracket and enjoy!

  • Travel factor – in a normal year, traveling more than 150 miles from home reduces the odds of winning by 33.6% than for those who play in their home regions. However, this year all of March Madness will take place in Indianapolis so expect this advantage to be largely negated, except for:
    • The B1G tournament will also take place in Indianapolis and B1G teams will stay in the city in the interim. Expect a bump in early-round performance for B1G teams as well as possibly others located nearby like Loyola-Chicago, Toledo, and Cleveland State. Also, expect this bump to level off by the end of the first weekend.
  • Coaching Records in March Madness – Obviously how well a coach prepares his team is a key metric for NCAA Tournament success. Some coaches have better track records than others in wins over expected for their seed level. The top 5 active coaches won’t surprise you, but the order might. Check out the rest of the list for your bracket.
    1. Jim Boeheim
    2. Tom Izzo
    3. Roy Williams
    4. John Calipari
    5. Mike Krzyzewski
  • Past Title Indicators – Since 2002, (almost) every NCAA champion has met the following criteria:
    • Top 25 overall KenPom Ranking
    • 4 seed or better (2014 UConn is the one exception)
    • Top 25 KenPom offense ranking (Again 2014 UConn the exception)
    • Top 40 KenPom defense ranking
    • Won regular season or conference tournament (2014 UConn & 2015 Duke the exceptions)
    • The candidates that meet the above criteria this year are Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Houston, and Virginia.
    • Baylor met all other criteria but fell just short with a defensive ranking of 44.
    • Purdue meet all of the numerical criteria but failed to win a conference or regular season title.
  • Rest vs. Momentum in Conference Tournaments:
    • Being hot in March and performing well in conference tournaments is generally indicative of March’s success. The data backs that up 61% of Final Four participants played in their conference tournament championship game.
    • Rest (by losing early in the conference tournament) has not been proven to be as important. But strong teams have overcome early losses in such. Since 2002, 7 teams went on to win the National title after losing early in conference tournaments but all were 1 seeds (except 2003 Cuse, a 3 seed).

Lethargy and Pressure? – AKA the Gonzaga Factors: The Zags are the top seed and many are picking them to cut the nets for the first time. But they have two special considerations:

  • Lethargy – The 2021 Zags became the first team ever to win all of their conference games by 10+ points. This is quite an accomplishment but does it bode well for them? Will cruise control for 2.5 months come back to bite them? Will they be able to ‘turn it on’ when needed in the dance? The fact that they’ve only made one Final Four isn’t great for them.
  • Pressure – No team has gone undefeated since 1976 Indiana. Only 2 real modern-era teams (2014 Wichita St and 2015 Kentucky) made it to the tournament undefeated. Obviously, neither of these teams was hanging the banner at the end of the season. The Zags have escaped a lot of the usual pressure due to Covid and their conference SOS but I imagine it will ramp up after the first weekend. Definitely, a factor but Gonzaga is also the highest-rated KenPom team of all time! If anyone can do it, they can.

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