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What Might Have Happened In The Second Round Of The NCAA Tournament

Though there are no actual games to be played, FiveThirtyEight is still taking a shot at a little March Madness. We built an NCAA Tournament bracket, using ESPN’s Bracketology, and we’ll be simulating the results of each game by using a simple “100-sided dice roll” against our forecast probabilities. Check back on Fridays and Mondays through April 6 for how each round of the men’s and women’s brackets went. After our first round played out on Friday, here’s how the second round might have gone.

Women’s bracket

GREENVILLE REGIONAL

The favorites: All four advanced, with No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 2 seed North Carolina State winning by 24 and 26 points, respectively, and moving closer to an all-Carolina Elite Eight matchup.

The upsets: The underdogs all fell short in this region. The closest game was courtesy of No. 6 seed South Dakota, which finished 30-2, ranked seventh in the Her Hoop Stats ratings and appeared in every coaches’ poll since Dec. 3. The Coyotes fell by 1 point to UCLA.

Next-round matchups: South Carolina still has a 95 percent chance of marching on, even against a battle-tested No. 4 seed in Oregon State, while NC State has a 72 percent chance of beating No. 3 UCLA.

DALLAS REGIONAL

The favorites: All four advanced, as even Iowa scored a double-digit win against Florida State in what was supposed to be a close 4-5 game. A year after losing star Megan Gustafson, the Hawkeyes are moving on to their second straight Sweet 16.

The upsets: None to speak of in this region. Would-be Cinderella and No. 11 seed James Madison’s tourney run ended after one win with an 18-point loss against heavy favorite Mississippi State.

Next-round matchups: Iowa set up an exciting Sweet 16 opportunity against Baylor, which eliminated the Hawkeyes by double digits in the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2019, though Baylor still has a 94 percent chance of advancing. The Stanford-Mississippi State matchup should be more exciting: The Cardinal is at 55 percent to move on.

FORT WAYNE REGIONAL

The favorites: The excellent seasons of Maryland and Louisville continue — the Terps are into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017, and the Cardinals are there for the fourth straight year.

The upsets: Here we have our only upset of the second round, as All-American Rhyne Howard and No. 6 seed Kentucky took down Arizona after entering the game with just a 29 percent chance of advancing.

Next-round matchups: Kentucky’s upset sets up a tantalizing rivalry matchup with Louisville in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals won the regular-season meeting in December in Lexington, 67-66. They have a 68 percent chance in the rematch. Maryland, meanwhile, looks good to move on, with a 77 percent chance of beating DePaul.

PORTLAND REGIONAL

The favorites: Oregon and Connecticut rolled by 23 points each and appear set on a collision course for what would be a terrific regional final. They ranked first and fourth on the Her Hoop Stats leaderboard.

The upsets: Again there were no actual upsets, but the underdogs gave it their best shot. Seeking its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, No. 5 Indiana gave fourth-seeded Gonzaga some trouble but lost to the powerhouse Bulldogs by 9. No. 6 Princeton, meanwhile, pushed Northwestern to the final minutes before losing by 6.

Next-round matchups: No. 3 Northwestern, which had its best season in school history by a wide margin, is into the Sweet 16 for the first time. Can the Wildcats punctuate a banner season with an upset of the Connecticut dynasty? They have a 22 percent chance, per our model.

Men’s bracket

MIDWEST REGION

The favorites: This region featured three of college basketball’s most celebrated blue bloods — Duke, Kansas and Kentucky — but only two survived. The top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks cruised past No. 8 Houston as expected. And although second-seeded Kentucky moved on, the Wildcats were brought to the brink by No. 10 Arizona State before pulling out the 1-point victory.

The upsets: The fifth-seeded Auburn Tigers, our pick to be the region’s bust, squared off in the second round with fourth-seeded Wisconsin, our pick to be the region’s sleeper — and the bust won.

Here’s where March Madness really started, though. After upending Iowa, No. 11 East Tennessee State proceeded to the second round for the first time since before the current roster was born. A matchup with No. 3 Duke and a win probability south of 20 percent loomed. But in a stunner, Steve Forbes and his team eked out a win over the Blue Devils, joining Mercer, Lehigh and VCU as double-digit seeds that have eliminated Duke and Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski in the past 15 years.

Next-round matchups: Kansas doesn’t fear any opponent, especially not one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the nation, and the Jayhawks have an 82 percent chance to advance. But fifth-seeded Auburn has found ways to win and would love an Elite Eight date with Kentucky — an encore of last year’s showdown. Kentucky has more Sweet 16 appearances than any team in the past decade and should benefit from East Tennessee State’s status as just the 23rd 11-seed to be in this position.

WEST REGION

The favorites: Dana Altman continues to work his magic with No. 4 Oregon, advancing in a nail-biter over No. 5 Michigan and ending Juwan Howard’s first season as head coach of the Wolverines. No. 2 San Diego State, suddenly questionable after going from the last unbeaten to two losses in its final six games, entered a tossup game against No. 7 Arizona and fittingly won by a single point.

The upsets: Though Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was hoping this was the year to bring a championship to Spokane, No. 9 Oklahoma played spoiler and flipped the top-seeded Bulldogs despite entering the game with a 14 percent win probability. Meanwhile, Archie Miller extended his best season yet in Bloomington by upsetting No. 3 Seton Hall to move No. 11 Indiana within a game of its ninth Final Four.

Next-round matchups: Oregon and Oklahoma collide in a rematch of the 2016 Elite Eight, with the Ducks again as the higher seed — and as a 2-1 favorite. Oregon’s hot-shooting offense against the Sooners’s aggressive half-court defense will decide it. And in a rematch of 2006’s opening round, Indiana and San Diego State meet again, with the Hoosiers’ everything-inside-the-arc offense taking on the Aztecs’ dare-you-to-shoot-it-from-deep defense.

EAST REGION

The favorites: Dayton’s high-flying, fun-loving spirit continued as the top-seeded Flyers edged the ninth-seeded Florida Gators. Nos. 2 and 4 Florida State and Maryland casually dispatched Utah State and Richmond to advance.

The upsets: After No. 11 NC State downed UCLA in the play-in game and No. 6 Penn State in the Round of 64, the assumption was that the Wolfpack march had run its course. But coach Kevin Keatts had other plans and eliminated Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats, the coach and team with the highest tournament win percentage since 2013.

Next-round matchups: The No. 1 Flyers have their work cut out for them in the No. 4 Terrapins, who have the slight edge at 52 percent. Second-seeded Florida State has a 67 percent chance of making the Sweet Sixteen, no doubt aided by No. 3 Villanova’s early exit, but the Wolfpack have capsized favorites in back-to-back games, so don’t count them out.

SOUTH REGION

The favorites: In a clash our model considered a 50-50 tossup, No. 4 Louisville advances with a double-digit victory over No. 5 Ohio State. Michigan State, which since 2000 has performed the best in the tournament relative to seed expectations, dethroned Virginia, the defending national champs. And the sharpshooting No. 2 Creighton Bluejays breezed by No. 11 USC to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.

The upsets: Rutgers is making the most of its first NCAA Tournament appearance in three decades. The Scarlet Knights had just a 29 percent chance against No. 1 Baylor and its stingy defense, but Rutgers caged the Bears, winning by a single point.

Next-round matchups: No. 4 Louisville is in the Sweet 16 for the eighth time this century and is a big favorite over Rutgers. No. 3 Michigan State has grown accustomed to deep runs under coach Tom Izzo, but No. 2 Creighton hasn’t been in this situation since the Nixon administration.

Check out our simulated March Madness predictions.

Jake Lourim is a freelance writer in Washington. He most recently worked for the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Josh Planos is a writer based in Omaha. He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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