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Vegas's '09 NCAA Bracket

Vegas's national champs. (By Jonathan Newton - TWP)

When in doubt for all gaming options, turn to Las Vegas. In my case, I turn to my friends at Las Vegas Sports Consultants via LVSC are the oddsmakers who provide those mythical college football rankings I'm always yammering about; they don't work for casinos, but they advise the casinos in setting their initial lines.

Naturally, you want to know whether you should trust these guys. Well, I posted their bracket last year, and here's how it did.

* Vegas went 25-7 in the first round. That includes 2-2 in the 8-9 games. Vegas only picked one bigger upset, by seed: 10-seed Davidson over seven-seed Gonzaga. That made Vegas 1-0 on true upsets.

* Vegas got 11 out of the Sweet 16. All were 1-4 seeds. The only lower seed Vegas picked was fifth-seeded Clemson, which bowed out in the first round.

* Vegas got half the Elite Eight correct. Had you taken all higher seeds, you've have gotten five out of eight, which is better.

* But Vegas nailed the entire Final Four. Which, of course, was the first Final Four ever with all one seeds. Vegas also correctly had Kansas winning the national championship, though over UCLA instead of Memphis.

My sense is you would have been WAY above average in a typical pool by following this advice, and you would have won plenty of smaller pools, though likely not too many larger ones. And if you ventured further inside the numbers, you'd have found that Vegas's most-underseeded team a year ago was seventh-seed West Virginia, which surprised in advancing to the Sweet 16. One of its most-overseeded teams was Vanderbilt, which lost in the first round. This is good stuff, here.

Either way, it was certainly good enough to merit another go-round this year. This year's bracket is based on the LSVC power-rankings (listed below), which were then run through a simulator 10,000 times. I also now have the LSVC probabilities of every team advancing to every round, which I value more than the deed to my house.

First Round

Vegas takes 30 of 32 higher-seeded teams, with the exceptions being eighth-seeded Oklahoma State (going down to Tennessee) and seventh-seeded Boston College (going down to Southern Cal). That means Vegas likes both teams from the maligned SEC in 8-9 games.

Second Round

Vegas takes 13 higher seeds. The exceptions: fifth-seeded Purdue (over Washington), fifth-seeded Florida State (over Xavier) and sixth-seeded UCLA (over Villanova).

Third Round

All one and two seeds. North Carolina has by far the highest odds of making it this far, according to Vegas (more than 77 percent), while Oklahoma has the worst odds (38 percent).

Final Four

Believe it or not, it's another year of four one seeds, according to LVSC. Louisville beats U-Conn., North Carolina beats Pitt, and in a rematch of last year's regional final, North Carolina wins again to claim the national championship. Same final as the President.

So that's the overview. But clearly it's worth venturing a bit further into the numbers to provide a few more nuggets.


* The safest bet in the 8-9 games? Ohio State over Siena, 59 percent of the time. The easiest 7-10 pick is Clemson (winning 68 percent of the time), while the biggest toss-up is Maryland-Cal, with the Terps winning 49.2 percent of the time.

* Aside from those eight games, the best shots at an upset come from 12th-seed Arizona (49.8 percent wins over Utah) and 12th-seed Wisconsin (44 percent wins over Florida State).

* The low seeds (below a 5) with the best chance of going to the Sweet 16? All six seeds: West Virginia (46.5 percent), UCLA (40 percent), and Arizona State (36 percent).

* The low seeds (below a 2) with the best chance of going to the Final Four? Fourth-seeded Wake Forest (12.5 percent), sixth-seeded West Virginia (11.4 percent), and third-seeded Missouri (11.0 percent).

* Vegas likes 15th-seeded Morgan State's chances against Oklahoma slightly better than 14th-seeded American's chances against Villanova.

* The most overseeded teams in the tournament? Look at Utah, Illinois, Xavier, Syracuse, Boston College and Cal.

* The most underseeded teams in the tournament? Look at UCLA, West Virginia, Clemson, Tennessee, Maryland, Temple and Wisconsin, among others.

Any questions? Fire away, below. Also, as a bonus, here's the top third of LVSC's current power rankings, which include all 65 tournament teams. Seeds are in parentheses.

Power Rankings

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Pittsburgh (1)
3t. Connecticut (1)
3t. Louisville (1)
5. Duke (2)
6. Memphis (2)
7. Oklahoma (2)
8. Michigan State (2)
9. UCLA (6)
10t. Gonzaga (4)
10t. Wake Forest (4)
12t. Missouri (3)
12t. Kansas (3)
14. Villanova (3)
15t. West Virginia (6)
15t. Syracuse (3)
17. Arizona State (6)
18t. Purdue (5)
18t. Washington (4)
20. Clemson (7)
21. Tennessee (9)
22. Marquette (6)

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 18, 2009; 1:58 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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Next: Concerning Kornheiser's Office


Wow, so "Vegas" essentially puts out an all-chalk Bracket? Earth-Shattering.

They make Dick Vitale's Bracket look like a risk-taker.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 18, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

We all know the best 64 or 65 teams aren't in the tournament. After the seeding, I always come to the conclusion that it is the seeding that is flawed more than one team is upsetting another. Of course, all sports is about match-ups and it can be nearly impossible to find the best teams in one and done tournament play, but if the seeding was right it would always be a Final Four with all #1 seeds and that could be very boring.

Posted by: sitruc | March 18, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

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