Which region is the toughest? What 1-seed got the best draw? We could argue these questions until we are blue in the face or we could turn to math for the answer.
Using the Bracket Simulator we ran 10,000 simulations on a neutral court of every 1-seed against each 2-seed, 3-seed and 4-seed in every region. Public perception is that the South, with North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA is the most difficult. Are the squares right?
Of course not! The most difficult region based on average win probability of the No. 1 seeds is the East that features 2-seed Duke, 3-seed Baylor and 4-seed Florida. That threesome has the highest average kenpom.com’s ranking based on adjusted efficiency.
The easiest region is actually the South, opposite of what the public believes. On average, the 1-seeds beat every top team in the South region 65.4% of the time compared to just 58.1% of the time against the teams in the East.
Path and seed in the tournament are important and the potential matchups a team could face impact their chances of reaching the Final Four. For example, North Carolina has a 36.3% chance of winning the South. The Tar Heels also have the best potential Sweet 16 matchup of 1-seed vs. 4-seeds. UNC is 70.0% likely to beat Butler, where as Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga are all less than 64% likely to beat the 4-seed in their region. If North Carolina had to face a better No. 4 seed the team’s probability of reaching the Final Four would decrease.
North Carolina vs. Texas Southern
Get the Pro System pick for this No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup
The Midwest is another region where matchups could determine which team advances. 1-seed Kansas (22.3%) is more likely to win the Midwest than 2-seed Louisville (21.9%) but the Cardinals (5.5%) are more likely to win the national championship than the Jayhawks (5.3%). Why? KU reaches the Elite Eight more often and thus are more likely to win the region but in the simulations when the regional final is Kansas vs. Louisville, the Cardinals are projected to win straight-up. Plus the Jayhawks are the weakest of the 1-seeds and would be projected to lose to them by a greater margin than Louisville.
Path and seed are important. According the simulations the East is the most difficult region and the South is the easiest.
Here is each 1-seeds projected win probability against all 2, 3, and 4 seeds.