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Artificial Madness: Simulating Round of 32 Match-Ups Using Proprietary Model

By: Evan Boyd

The first round of Artificial Madness is done. Now, we see who will reach the second weekend of the tournament.

Stats Perform’s award-winning research group is simulating the final scores of our tourney matchups using a model it created with advanced data from our AI team along with other metrics.

How are we running this? Our model takes that advanced data and calculates each team’s offensive and defensive ratings from the 2019-20 season. Then we’re also able to project scores of the matchups our model has produced from the seeding process that’s based on group tiers.

Keep in mind that there will be some variability, as we are running the model only once. This leaves room for upsets – just like there should be in March.

Think of it as a weighted coin flip, and the weights are the probability of each team winning. For example, Kansas has a 96.7% chance of beating Robert Morris, but Virginia only has a 55.9% chance of beating USC.

Below are also hypothetical scenarios on what might have happened in each game given the score:

MIDWEST Region

 

Kansas had a 75.8% shot at taking down the Gators, a team the Jayhawks had not faced since 2014. Once again, the combination of Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson likely proves to be the overall decider of the game, as Florida has no answer for the pick and roll. Kansas moves on to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

 

Vermont shocked the world with a one-point win against BYU in the first round, but the Catamounts fail to make it to the second weekend by losing to Maryland. The Terrapins move on thanks to another double-double from Jalen Smith, plus Darryl Morsell steps up and scores in double figures. They will next play Kansas, which would be just their second time facing the Jayhawks since the two teams met in the Final Four in 2002. The guard play will be what to look out for in this game, as Devon Dotson versus Anthony Cowan Jr. could make a great game.

Both teams pulled off upsets in the first round – Wichita State beating Michigan and Hofstra knocking off Villanova. The Shockers take this one from the Pride, holding Hofstra to under 60 points for just the second time this season. With Wichita State, there has now been at least one 11 seed (or higher) making it to the Sweet 16 in each of the last 13 tournaments.

Could this have been yet another game that included a dazzling performance from Cassius Winston? Maybe so. This game is full of talent with Winston, Xavier Tillman and Onyeka Okongwu. Jonah Mathews and Winston trade threes between each other, but it’s the Spartans that move on to the Sweet 16. Michigan State advances to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year after falling in the first weekend for three straight tournaments.

EAST Region

Our first 1 seed to fall! LSU (80.5 points per game) and Dayton (80.0 PPG) were both dominant scoring offenses this season, so a high-scoring game is no surprise. Dayton had a 73.1% chance of winning this game according to our model, but the Tigers pull off the big upset. Perhaps Trendon Watford emitted shades of his brother, Christian, who helped lead Indiana to two Sweet 16 appearances in 2012 and 2013. The only two losses that Dayton had this season came in overtime – maybe this one had free basketball as well. The next time the world can watch Obi Toppin will have to come in the NBA.

New Mexico State pulled off the big upset against Louisville in the opening round, but Wisconsin was able to fight off the Aggies by keeping control of the ball and hitting threes. Brad Davison fights for a few loose balls to get the Badgers more possessions late in the game, and the Big Ten’s best free-throw shooting team moves on. Wisconsin had a slightly higher chance of beating New Mexico State than Dayton did against LSU – a 73.2% shot. The Badgers will play LSU in the Sweet 16, their first time making it to the second weekend of the tournament since doing so for four straight seasons from 2014-17.

Believe it or not, West Virginia actually had a higher chance of winning this game than Seton Hall, according to our model. But it was almost like flipping a real coin to decide – the Mountaineers had a 50.8% chance of winning. Instead, we see the other side of the coin landing, perhaps thanks to Myles Powell’s spectacular shooting or Romaro Gill’s defensive play. Despite Powell likely being the leading scorer of this game, this matchup could have been a fight between big men. It would have been interesting to see how Gill and Sandro Mamukelashvili fared against West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver. Seton Hall goes to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.

Penn State had a good game against Utah State, but the Nittany Lions’ run ends here. This ends an era for Penn State, which was led by seniors Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. Freshmen Vernon Carey Jr. and Cassius Stanley take advantage as Duke has its ninth game scoring at least 90 points on the season. Talented freshmen win over the veteran seniors.

SOUTH Region

Saint Mary’s almost pulls off the upset! We can imagine this as Jordan Ford having a chance to win the game with a three, only to be blocked by Freddie Gillespie. Maybe Jared Butler had a last-second layup for the win. Either way, such a close game may mean heartbreak for the Gaels. Baylor had a 64.2% chance at winning this game, the lowest percentage by any number 1 seed in the second round.

The dream is alive for Akron! Arizona had a 76.4% shot at beating Akron, but the Zips move on in a tremendous upset. This is the first time a 13 seed has defeated a 5 seed since Bradley back in 2006. Akron catches fire from three thanks to Loren Cristian Jackson, Tyler Cheese and Channel Banks. Not only is this the first time the Zips have been in the Sweet 16 in school history, but these are the only two wins that Akron has ever had in March Madness… or should we say, Artificial Madness!

Creighton continues to dominate, this time an 18-point win over NC State. The Bluejays have been red hot from beyond the arc as of late, and scoring 89 points may show that. Creighton had a 65.5% shot at beating the Wolfpack, so there could have been a chance of NC State pulling off another upset. Creighton makes sure that does not happen.

Florida State has its chance to get revenge against Indiana after losing at Assembly Hall in December. However, the Hoosiers pull off the upset yet again! Florida State had a 56.9% shot at beating Indiana, but fail to split the season series. Freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis has a tremendous game and outmatches the depth of the Seminoles. Archie Miller reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time since taking Dayton to the Elite Eight as an 11 seed.

WEST Region

An impressive win for Gonzaga, which had the highest chance of beating its opponent this round at 79.5%. The combination of Filip Petrusev, Admon Gilbert, Killian Tillie and others is just too much for almost any team. A win means that Gonzaga makes it to the second weekend for the sixth consecutive year, tied for the fourth-longest streak since the Sweet 16 began in 1975. Could the Bulldogs return to the Final Four?

Oh no, could this have been ANOTHER overtime game for Cincinnati? The Bearcats’ seven overtime games this season led all D-I teams. Perhaps this one ended in a game-winning three-pointer by one of the Wesson twins, or a tragic missed shot by Jarron Cumberland. The Buckeyes make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.

Oregon went to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed last year, and now the Ducks are going back. Oregon had too many three-point weapons for Oklahoma, which shot just 31.8% from beyond the arc this season. Oregon had a 69.4% shot at beating the Sooners, the highest among the remaining 3 seeds in the tournament.

We end with another upset! We might have seen a great matchup between Ayo Dosunmu and Malachi Flynn, but Kofi Cockburn dominates this one, going for 20 points and 15 rebounds. Illinois makes the Sweet 16 for the first time since the Illini’s incredible run to the national championship in 2005. San Diego State had just a 59.0% shot at beating Illinois, the third-lowest chance for a favorite in the second round.

Illinois’ win means that SIX of the 10 Big Ten teams in our tournament reach the Sweet 16! However, no team from the conference has won it all since Michigan State in 2000. We also saw impressive victories from Kansas (won by 24) and Duke (won by 20), and could we have a Cinderella story in Akron or Wichita State?

Come back tomorrow as we will reveal the Sweet 16 in our Artificial Madness. You can check us out @StatsBySTATS for the latest news and information in the sports world.