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March Madness predictions 2021: Using KenPom to pick NCAA bracket upsets, Final Four

If you are not consulting Ken Pomeroy’s eponymous KenPom ratings earlier than making your 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket picks right through the Final Four, you then can be doing it unsuitable. It is known as March Madness due to these unexpected upsets, early exits and improbable finishes — however in the long run, it is nonetheless about statistical sanity.

Sure, Dick Vitale is superior, child, and Charles Barkley offers you much more than Chuck-les, however Ken Pomeroy’s in-depth, numbers-based bracket breakdown is not fancy analytics — it additionally carries a historical past of success.

You can be taught loads by wanting on the outcomes of the final 12 NCAA Tournaments. From Kansas chopping down the nets in 2008 to Virginia taking the newest title two years in the past, solely 5 groups (10.4 %) that went into the tourney ranked exterior the highest 20 in KenPom superior to the Final Four. Along with Virginia (No. 1 in KenPom), the 2019 Final Four additionally featured runner-up Texas Tech (No. 5 in KenPom), Michigan State (No. 3 in KenPom) and Auburn (No. 11 in KenPom).

Eight of the previous 12 NCAA champions have been rated No. 1 in KenPom. Another, Gonzaga in 2017, made the championship recreation. Yet one other, Kentucky in 2015, made the Final Four.

MARCH MADNESS: The best bracket names for 2021

So that is the place you discover the correct chalk. But KenPom may aid you determine bracket sleepers and busts primarily based on two signature stats: adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency. If a workforce is very rated in both space, then that could make up for deficiencies on the opposite finish.

In 2018, when Loyola-Chicago crashed the Final Four, it had the No. 17 KenPom protection on its facet. In 2017, South Carolina ranked 91st in offense however made a Cinderella run to the Final Four as a No. 7 seed thanks to its third-ranked protection. In 2013, Louisville rode its seventh-ranked offense and top-ranked protection to the Final Four.

Throw out the 2 groups that have been the largest statistical anomalies since 2010 — VCU and Butler in 2011 — and nothing has been surprising within the nationwide semifinals when taking KenPom into consideration. If a workforce is rated larger on each offense and protection, then it will possibly count on to beat anybody in any a part of the event.

But earlier than utilizing KenPom to make your March Madness bracket picks, listed here are some issues to learn about this yr’s NCAA Tournament area, primarily based on his scores:

MARCH MADNESS: Download a 2021 printable bracket


KenPom scores for 2021 March Madness

Top groups in NCAA Tournament

1. Gonzaga (No. 1 in West)
2. Michigan (No. 1 in East)
3. Illinois (No. 1 in Midwest)
4. Baylor (No. 1 in South)
5. Iowa (No. 2 in West)
6. Houston (No. 2 in Midwest)
7. Ohio State (No. 2 in South)
8. Alabama (No. 2 in East)

Top groups in adjusted offensive effectivity

1. Gonzaga (No. 1 in West)
2. Iowa (No. 2 in West)
3. Baylor (No. 1 in South)
4. Ohio State (No. 2 in South)
5. LSU (No. 8 in East)
6. Michigan (No. 1 in East)
7. Illinois (No. 1 in Midwest)
8. Houston (No. 2 in Midwest)

Top groups in adjusted defensive effectivity

1. Loyola-Chicago (No. 8 in Midwest)
2. Alabama (No. 2 in East)
3. Tennessee (No. 5 in Midwest)
4. Illinois (No. 1 in Midwest)
5. Kansas (No. 3 in West)
6. Michigan (No. 1 in East)
7. Utah State (No. 11 in South)
8. Gonzaga (No. 1 in West)

Most doubtless first-round upsets primarily based on KenPom

1. No. 9 Wisconsin over No. 8 North Carolina (South)
2. No. 10 Rutgers over No. 7 Clemson (Midwest)
3. No. 9 St. Bonaventure over No. 8 LSU (East)
4. No. 10 VCU over No. 7 Oregon (West)
5. No. 10 Virginia Tech over No. 7 Florida (South)
6. No  10 Maryland over No. 7 Connecticut (East)
7. No. 11 Utah State over No. 6 Texas Tech (South)
8. No. 11 UCLA (if it performs) over No. 6 BYU (East)

Most underrated groups in NCAA Tournament

1. Wisconsin (No. 10 in KenPom, No. 9 in South)
2. Loyola-Chicago (No. 8 in KenPom, No. 8 in Midwest)
3. Connecticut (No. 16 in KenPom, No. 7 in East)
4. St. Bonaventure (No. 25 in KenPom, No. 9 in East)
5. USC (No. 14 in KenPom, No. 6 in West)
6. Maryland (No. 31 in KenPom, No. 10 in East)
7. Villanova (No. 12 in KenPom, No. 5 in South)
8. Rutgers (No. 34 in KenPom, No. 10 in Midwest)

Most overrated groups in NCAA Tournament

1. West Virginia (No. 27 in KenPom, No. 3 in Midwest)
2. Missouri (No. 51 in KenPom, No. 9 in West)
3. Texas (No. 26 in KenPom, No. 3 in East)
4. Oklahoma State (No. 30 in KenPom. No. 4 in Midwest)
5. Clemson (No. 42 in KenPom, No. 7 in Midwest)
6. Kansas (No. 22 in KenPom, No. 3 in West)
7. Virginia Tech (No. 50 in KenPom, No. 10 in South)
8. Florida (No. 37 in KenPom, No. 7 in South)

MORE BRACKET PICKS: DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga)

March Madness bracket predictions 2021 

West Region

iyer 2021 bracket


South Region

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Midwest Region

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East Region

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Final Four picks

  • Gonzaga
  • Ohio State
  • Illinois
  • Michigan

National champion: Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s resume at 26-0 has the identical really feel as Virginia’s resume in 2019 from atop the KenPom rankings. In that event, Gonzaga was second in KenPom and upset by the mighty fifth workforce in KenPom, Texas Tech, within the Elite Eight.

This yr, Gonzaga faces an identical looming impediment: Iowa, the No. 2 seed within the West, can also be No. 5 in KenPom. The bracket earlier than that time could be very favorable. For the Bulldogs, it comes down to the Hawkeyes to keep away from ending one other promising championship-caliber season in need of the Final Four.

BRACKET TIPS: Play the odds | Idiot’s guide

What can get the Zags zigging by means of to the nationwide semifinals is their top-ranked offense and higher defensive effectivity than the Hawkeyes. Two extra Big Ten powers who’re No. 1 seeds, Illinois and Michigan, are additionally well-rounded groups. Baylor is No. 4 general in KenPom, however there is a huge dropoff in defensive effectivity to No. 44, making it far much less harmful than the opposite three high seeds.


Based on the development of each groups, Gonzaga and Michigan would signify the 2 finest groups assembly within the nationwide semifinals in Indianapolis. Illinois, with a good Midwest seed forward of Houston and West Virginia, is the second-safest wager to get to the Final Four, nevertheless, as Alabama looms as a extra harmful regional closing opponent for Michigan. In the top, it is going to be the Zags taking down the Illini after Illinois goes by means of Ohio State once more.



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