<
>

BPI projects a wide-open NCAA Tournament

Buddy Hield has helped Oklahoma to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll. Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s been well-publicized that we are in the midst of an unorthodox season of parity in college basketball.

Unlike last season, when Kentucky and a handful of other teams dominated the college basketball landscape, the gap between the top teams and the rest of the country is relatively narrow.

With highly ranked teams losing daily, many are predicting one of the most chaotic, wide-open NCAA Tournaments in recent history.

But how many teams actually have a legitimate shot to win it all?

To answer that question, we used Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) to play out the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Lunardi’s bracket was used to set the field, seeds and regions, and BPI was leveraged to project the tournament and determine how much madness to expect come March.

BPI projects a wide-open tournament

Based on BPI’s projections, there are 19 teams with at least a 1 percent chance to win the tournament, more than twice as many as there were in BPI’s projections entering last year’s tournament.

Oklahoma is the BPI favorite to win the championship, but the Sooners have a 17.8 percent chance to win it all. For perspective, Kentucky entered last year’s tournament with a 49.1 percent chance to win the championship, according to BPI’s projections.

Taking it a step further, there’s about a 1-in-2 chance that one of the four No. 1 seeds does not win the championship and a 1-in-3 chance that the NCAA champion is seeded third or lower.

Among teams outside of the projected No. 1 seeds, Virginia is the most likely to win the championship, but there a number of low seeds, including projected No. 7-seed Duke, with a decent chance to win it all. In comparison, every team seeded third or lower had less than a 1 percent chance to win the championship entering last season’s tournament.

The early rounds of the tournament should bust some brackets, too.

Because the gap between the top and middle-tier teams is at its lowest point in years, there are a number of low seeds with a good chance to advance into the second weekend. Vanderbilt, LSU, Syracuse, Valparaiso, Cincinnati and California are six projected projected double-digit seeds that have at least a 15 percent chance of making the Sweet 16; there was one such double-digit seed with that high of a chance entering the tournament in 2015.

The NCAA Tournament is still more than a month away, so there is plenty of time for these projections to change. Nonetheless, without a dominant team or set of teams, the 2016 NCAA Tournament might be one of the wildest, most unpredictable tournaments in years.

Note: The numbers above are through games of Thursday, Feb. 4, and they reflect the news of Louisville’s self-imposed postseason ban.