Nate Silver Backs Villanova in NCAA Brackets

He predicted the presidential election, so surely he can work his magic with something of real importance.

Esteemed stathead journalist Nate Silver is (kinda, sorta) picking Villanova — well, not necessarily to win the NCAA championship exactly, but at least to do really well in your brackets.

There’s disagreement over the Villanova Wildcats, the No. 2 seed in the East region. Our model gives them a 21 percent chance of advancing to Arlington, which is barely lower than Virginia (23 percent) and Michigan State (24 percent). In contrast, just 9 percent of participants in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge picked Villanova from the East, as compared to 46 percent for Michigan State and 23 percent for Virginia.

It’s sometimes smart to pick a team with slightly longer odds, provided that few participants in your office pool are doing so. The logic is as follows: If you pick Michigan State, and the team reaches the Final Four, that will be helpful — but chances are that about half your co-workers will have picked Sparty as well. You’ll probably need to choose at least one or two more Final Four teams correctly, or have a killer first and second round, to have much chance of finishing at the top of your pool.

But you might be one of the few people in your office to choose Villanova (unless all your co-workers are reading this post). If the Wildcats make a run, you’ll be in an advantageous position, covering for blemishes elsewhere in your bracket.