There is still a small amount of time to fill out a bracket for the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but the first waves of entries reveal a few trends regarding public sentiment in this year’s tournament.
Virginia and Villanova, the top two seeds in the tournament, are the hands-down the popular picks to win the national championship as of Wednesday morning. Right now the Wahoos are picked to win it all in a whopping 26.6 percent of the brackets submitted to CBS Sports, with Villanova following in second place at 19.1 percent.
That’s really a shocking number when you consider that while Vegas odds favor about five or six teams above the rest as title contenders, 45.7 percent of fans filling out their bracket have decided that either Villanova or Virginia are going to win the national championship.
Then again, SportsLine ran a computer simulation 10,000 times for each possible matchup in filling out its optimized “upsets” bracket, and Virginia and Villanova both fared quite well. See the full bracket simulation here.
A few more trends and stats from the early returns on CBS Sports’ bracket games:
Michigan State is one of the five most popular title picks
The Spartans are currently picked to win the national championship in 8 percent of the brackets. It’s the highest percentage of all the 3-seeds (ahead of Michigan at 3.1 percent). Right now only Virginia, Villanova, Duke (9 percent) and Kansas (8.3 percent) are more popular title picks.
The Midwest is the region no one can agree on
Also interesting to track in these trends is where the drop-off occurs, and what that says about the public’s view of a team’s path. Michigan State, for example, advances to the Sweet 16 in 87.7 percent of brackets, the Elite Eight in 45.3 percent of brackets and the Final Four in 30.4 percent of brackets. Those numbers are almost identical to the team pick percentage for Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.
Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, is being picked to advance to the Elite Eight in a whopping 83.1 percent of brackets (the highest percentage for that round), but then the percentages drop to 35.1 percent, just ahead of Midwest Region foes Duke and Michigan State.
The Arizona-Kentucky conundrum
Right now Arizona (4 percent ) and Kentucky (2 percent) are among the top 11 picks to win it all, but each team has a major drop-off in the second round with the possibility that they will be playing each other. Right now Davidson is the public’s favorite pick to play spoiler to that showdown, getting picked to knock off Kentucky in the first round in 16.6 percent of brackets.
Best bets for the Sweet 16
According to the bracket percentage, these teams are the most popular picks to win in the Round of 32 and advance to the Sweet 16: Virginia (95.5), Villanova (94.2), Kansas (92.4), North Carolina (90.1), Duke (89.1), Xavier (89.0), Michigan State (87.7), Cincinnati (83.6), Purdue (82.9), Michigan (81.3)
Toughest Sweet 16 to call: East Region
The public is split pretty evenly between a handful of teams to join Villanova and Purdue in Boston for the East Region. Right now Texas Tech in the leader at 57.1 percent, West Virginia is at 50.1 percent, Wichita State is just behind the Mountaineers at 44.6 percent and Florida is at 34.8 percent.
To review, in case you don’t have the bracket pulled up, Texas Tech would play Florida in the second round and West Virginia would play Wichita State in the second round. Everyone seems to agree to Villanova and Purdue will make it to Boston but no one can agree on who will come out of those other weekend matchups.