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Selection Sunday 2019: Which top seeds have the easiest road to the Final Four?

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Breaking down the strength of the likely opponents for each region’s #1 and #2 seeds

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Florida State vs Duke Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness 2019 is officially upon us. The bracket has been released (get yours here!) and you’re about to hear the words “Boss Button” one hundred times as much in the next two weeks as you do the rest of the year.

We’ve already broken down Virginia’s region. But how does the Road to Minneapolis look overall for the top seeds?

We took the teams that are most likely to stand in the way of the 1-seed and 2-seed in each region, and added up their cumulative KenPom efficiency margins—the higher the total, the tougher the road.

First, the top seeds.

Road to the Final Four: One seeds

REGION EAST SOUTH MIDWEST WEST
REGION EAST SOUTH MIDWEST WEST
TOP SEED Duke UVA UNC Gonzaga
16-seed NC Central/ND State Gardner Webb Iona Fairleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A&M
KP Margin -7.545 -0.74 -3.08 -4.28
8-seed VCU Ole Miss Utah St Syracuse
KP Margin 15.69 15.08 16.62 16.3
9-seed UCF Oklahoma Washington Baylor
KP Margin 14.58 15.53 13.37 15.29
5-seed Mississippi St Wisconsin Auburn Marquette
KP Margin 20.68 23.68 23.33 18.42
4-seed Va Tech Kansas St Kansas Florida State
KP Margin 24.47 20.22 20.71 22.56
3-seed LSU Purdue Houston Texas Tech
KP Margin 20.97 26.05 22.42 26.75
2-seed Michigan St Tennessee Kentucky Michigan
KP Margin 31.36 26.98 27.41 29.44
TOTAL Opponent KP Margin 120.205 126.8 120.78 124.48

(For the teams awaiting play-in games, we averaged the efficiency margin of the two opponents.)

Despite avoiding the difficulty of a potential regional final against Kentucky in Louisville, Virginia comes out on the short end of the stick here. Oklahoma and Wisconsin have the highest efficiency margins of their respective peers in other regions. Tennessee has the lowest margin of any 2-seed.

HOWEVER—and hold onto your hearts, Hoo fans—Gardner Webb is by far the strongest 16-seed in the field. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are only a hair behind Bradley, the lowest of the 15-seeds; North Dakota State and Iona are almost 2.5 points worse.

Duke has the easiest path overall, but has KenPom’s top-rated 2-seed—Michigan State—lurking on the bottom line of its region.

ONTO THE TWOS!

Road to the Final Four: Two seeds

REGION EAST SOUTH MIDWEST WEST
REGION EAST SOUTH MIDWEST WEST
TWO SEED Michigan St Tennessee Kentucky Michigan
15-seed Bradley Colgate Abilene Christian Montana
KP Margin -0.36 4.29 2.09 3.55
7-seed Louisville Cincinnati Wofford Nevada
KP Margin 20.97 17.05 20.71 18.92
10-seed Minnesota Iowa Seton Hall Florida
KP Margin 14.46 15.96 12.91 18.32
6-seed Maryland Villanova Iowa St Buffalo
KP Margin 19.98 18.77 21.85 20.34
3-seed LSU Purdue Houston Texas Tech
KP Margin 20.97 26.05 22.42 26.75
4-seed Va Tech Kansas St Kansas Florida St
KP Margin 24.47 20.22 20.71 22.56
1-seed Duke UVA UNC Gonzaga
KP Margin 31.99 35.66 29.17 32.79
TOTAL Opponent KP Margin 132.48 138 129.86 143.23

It’s good to be Kentucky, but woe be unto the Michigan Wolverines. Seton Hall is a weak 10-seed and likely to be knocked out by the mighty Wofford Terriers. And for Michigan, Texas Tech is a monster-strong 3-seed to be parked in the Sweet Sixteen. KenPom also sees UNC-Chapel Hill as a much weaker 1-seed than Gonzaga.

Working in Michigan’s favor? The Wolverines are the second highest-rated 2-seed on KenPom.

As they say, though, the games aren’t played on paper. One 5-12 upset, or a 4 over a 13, or a good old Syracuse-style 15-seed toppling a #2, and these roads start to look very different.