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March Madness 2015: Inside the numbers of the NCAA tournament's East, South regions

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Prediction: Madness.

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Since we're running out of time before the tournament starts in earnest, we'll do the East and South regions together.

The East

Seed Team R32 S16 E8 F4 Finals Champ Exp. Ws
2 Virginia 96% 75% 53% 35% 23% 11% 2.93
1 Villanova 97% 78% 56% 31% 19% 8% 2.88
3 Oklahoma 92% 66% 28% 14% 7% 3% 2.10
4 Louisville 84% 53% 21% 7% 3% 1% 1.69
5 Northern Iowa 79% 38% 12% 4% 1% 0% 1.36
7 Michigan State 64% 18% 9% 4% 1% 0% 0.96
6 Providence 58% 21% 5% 2% 1% 0% 0.87
8 North Carolina State 57% 13% 6% 2% 1% 0% 0.79
9 LSU 43% 8% 3% 1% 0% 0% 0.55
10 Georgia 36% 7% 2% 1% 0% 0% 0.46
11 Dayton 25% 7% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0.33
12 Wyoming 21% 5% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0.26
11 Boise State 17% 5% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0.23
13 UC Irvine 16% 4% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.21
14 Albany 8% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.09
15 Belmont 4% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.04
16 Lafayette 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.03

The Favorite: Virginia?

Virginia is most likely to get to the Final Four (35 percent) and to win it all (11 percent), but Villanova wins basically as many games (2.93 to 2.88) on average. This discrepancy arises because Villanova has a much easier path to the Elite Eight than Virginia does. UVA faces possible games against an under-seeded Michigan State and a very tough, very highly-rated Oklahoma team. Villanova has no cakewalk, as a game against either Northern Iowa or Louisville would obviously be a real test, but it's not as difficult as Virginia's.

Of course, the big question for Virginia, and the reason the Cavaliers probably got the No. 2 seed instead of the No. 1, is that their best player (Justin Anderson) has just returned from a broken finger/appendectomy sabbatical, and he does not appear ready to dominate yet. Without his incredible outside shooting (47 percent on threes), Virginia's offense is missing a crucial component. So it remains to be seen whether the Cavaliers are the same team that won the ACC outright for the second year in a row.

The Upset: Wyoming

Wyoming earned the Mountain West auto-bid by beating San Diego State. The Cowboys have not had a particularly good season, but there is an asterisk: Larry Nance, their star, got injured late-mid season, and they played very poorly without him. Now he is back, and seems to back to full strength as well.

I like Northern Iowa, and actually would not be surprised to see them make a deep run. But let's face it, my other upset picks are pretty lame, so I thought I should pick at least one No. 12 seed to win a first-round game.

The Sleeper: Michigan State

This is an easy one. As usual, Tom Izzo appears to have the Spartans peaking at the right time, and they probably should have beaten the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game. They have the signature Izzo toughness, which shows up most notably in their rebounding numbers. Travis Trice plays with a fearlessness and confidence that I admire, and Branden Dawson is hard to stop when his head is in the game. If they get by Georgia, they should give Virginia a serious run for their money, and a seventh Final Four for Izzo is well within the realm of possibility.

The Picks

Second Round: Villanova, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisville, Wyoming, Dayton/Boise, Michigan St., North Carolina St.

Sweet 16: Villanova, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisville

Elite Eight: Villanova, Virginia

Final Four: Virginia

Virginia in the Final Four is more something I want to see happen than I actually think will happen, but I'm trying to use The Secret here.

The South

Seed Team R32 S16 E8 F4 Finals Champ Exp. Ws
1 Duke 95% 74% 45% 28% 14% 6% 2.61
2 Gonzaga 94% 66% 43% 23% 10% 4% 2.40
5 Utah 85% 62% 34% 21% 10% 4% 2.16
3 Iowa State 88% 60% 29% 13% 5% 1% 1.96
4 Georgetown 88% 32% 11% 5% 1% 0% 1.37
7 Iowa 61% 22% 11% 4% 1% 0% 1.00
6 SMU 58% 23% 8% 3% 1% 0% 0.93
8 San Diego State 56% 15% 5% 2% 1% 0% 0.79
11 UCLA 42% 14% 4% 1% 0% 0% 0.61
9 St. John's 44% 10% 3% 1% 0% 0% 0.58
10 Davidson 39% 11% 4% 1% 0% 0% 0.55
12 Stephen F. Austin 15% 5% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0.21
14 UAB 12% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.15
13 Eastern Washington 12% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.13
15 North Dakota State 6% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.07
16 North Florida 3% 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.04
16 Robert Morris 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.02

The Favorite: Duke

Now this is a crazy region! Duke, Gonzaga and Utah are all in the top eight of the T-Rank, and Iowa State is a popular darling to make a tourney run as well.

The Upset: UCLA

It's tempting to pick Stephen F. Austin to beat Utah, based on Utah's subpar performance against quality opponents. But in fact, Utah has generally dominated inferior opponents and is one of the stronger No. 5 seeds in memory. Similarly, Georgetown has a recent history of tournament failure and Eastern Washington is the kind of team -- it shoots a lot of threes -- that can pull off the upset. But I'm not feeling it.

That leaves another lame pick of a major conference team that underachieved: UCLA. The Bruins should not be in the tournament. They don't deserve to be among the chosen. The committee's excuses for putting them in (things like, "they ended the season hot," which is false) are ridiculous. If there is any justice in the world, SMU will embarrass them.

But, sorry to break this to you, there is no justice in this material world. UCLA wins by 30.

The Sleeper: Utah

As mentioned above, Utah has amassed a great computer profile by feasting on lesser competition, but it hasn't been able to perform consistently well against better competition. Still, that's a small sample size, and the Utes will have something to prove after being saddled with that No. 5 seed. It's probably a year too soon for this team to make a deep run, but sometimes that's exactly what happens.

The Picks:

Second round: Duke, Gonzaga, Iowa St., Georgetown, Utah, UCLA (by 30), Iowa, San Diego St.

Sweet 16: Duke, Gonzaga, UCLA (by 20), Utah

Elite Eight: Utah, Gonzaga

Final Four: Gonzaga

A word about Gonzaga: For much of the year, Badgers fans were rooting against the Zags because they seemed to be in our way for a No. 1 seed. Their home loss to BYU put that worry to bed, but I watched a lot of Gonzaga games, and I think they are a really, really good team -- the best Gonzaga team I've seen by a good margin. Their time, their One Shining Moment, has finally come.