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2, 3, and 4 Seeds: Wisconsin, Creighton, San Diego State
While Arizona probably has the easiest region as a whole, they may have the toughest second-round matchup (I’m boycotting the “first round” and going back to the old way of talking about it) in the Oklahoma State Cowboys. If they can get through the first weekend though, things look pretty good for the Wildcats.
In the top half of their bracket, they have potential matchups with four-seed San Diego State or five-seed Oklahoma. Neither of these are particular daunting – we have the Sooners pegged as a seven seed, with a 12.46 nERD (click if you want to know what the heck that is). Obviously, we see them as a tad overrated as a five seed. San Diego State, with a 12.54 nERD, is only rated slightly higher than Oklahoma, and significantly lower than Arizona (19.41).
Speaking of nERD, Oklahoma State is at 14.90. Yes, that’s correct. The number nine seed that Zona could play in the second round is rated higher by our advanced metrics than both San Diego State or Oklahoma. After that first weekend, their Sweet Sixteen matchup could be a cake-walk in comparison.
Let’s move to the bottom half of the region. Number two seed Wisconsin, with a 15.28 nERD (ranked 11), would actually be one of the last three seeds according to our metrics. So for them to be the number two seed, well, that bodes well for Arizona. Creighton actually has a higher nERD at 16.11, despite being the lower seed, but that would still put them at the last two seed in our system.
What’s even better – Arizona will only have to play one of those teams en route to the Final Four. They could very conceivably make it to the Final Four without playing a top-10 nERD team. That OK State matchup will be hard to predict, but if they move on from that, you have to like their chances to make it to Arlington.