68 teams may be playing for a national title, but realistically, the group of teams that have a reasonable chance to win is much smaller. Since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 64 teams in 1985, 21 of 34 champions are No. 1 seeds.
All but four champions have been top three seeds. The exceptions have been name programs as well.
1985 Villanova was an eight-seed, but rang in the 64-plus-team era with a crazy run. 1988 Kansas was a No. 6, 1997 Arizona was the sole No. 4 seed to win, and most recently, 2014 UConn was a No. 7.
History can obviously repeat, but you’re probably best off going with one of the favorites.
If you’re looking to win money, though, Duke may not be the best value. The Blue Devils are a giant betting favorite, but as we’ve outlined, FiveThirtyEight calculates the Zion and company as having a 19-percent chance to cut down the nets.
That’s the best number in the sport, but far short of the 40-percent of people picking Duke in ESPN’s bracket challenge.
Here are the rest of the top NCAA Tournament teams, by chance to win the entire tournament.
From FiveThirtyEight, which calculated this out with a model that bakes in BPI, KenPom, Sagarin, the site’s own Elo Ratings, and a few other factors.
Those 15 teams are the only ones with a full 1-percent or better chance to win the title. Every other team is at less than 1-percent.
There is plenty of other valuable information for those filling out brackets as well. FiveThirtyEight has calculated out each team’s chances at advancing to each round.
The best shot at a big underdog run? The chart gives Oregon a 40-percent chance at a first-round upset of Wisconsin, and is the leader to reach most rounds beyond that, as a 12 or higher seed. Florida and Ohio State are the only double-digit seeds with a 1-percent chance of reaching the Final Four.
For way, way more numbers to explore, and a full interactive bracket, head to FiveThirtyEight.