Tournament Challenge: Virginia still most popular pick to win it all

With less than a day until the first tipoff Thursday, here are some intriguing nuggets regarding TC picks:

Virginia remains the most popular team to win the national title, though it has continued to slide downward, now sitting at 20.1 percent.

Other No. 1 seeds:

  • Villanova – 15.4 percent

  • Kansas – 7.9 percent

  • Xavier – 3.3 percent

America believes these teams also have a better shot of winning the national title than No. 1 seed Xavier (3.3 percent):

  • No. 2 Duke – 9.6

  • No. 3 Michigan St. – 8.2 percent

  • No. 2 UNC – 6.8 percent

  • No. 4 Arizona – 4.8 percent

  • No. 3 Michigan – 3.6 percent

Only 7.7 percent of brackets have No. 1 seed Xavier reaching the championship game.

  • The other No. 1s: Virginia (35.6 percent), Villanova (31.8 percent), Kansas (15.18 percent)

  • No. 2 Duke (17.5 percent), No. 3 Michigan St. (16.1 percent) and No. 2 UNC (15.21 percent) are picked to reach the title tilt in more brackets than No. 1s Kansas and Xavier.

The public continues to love New Mexico St., picking it to upset No. 5 Clemson in 27.3 percent of brackets. As for other No. 12s, 22.7 percent are picking No. 12 South Dakota St. over No. 5 Ohio St., and 19.2 percent have No. 12 Davidson over No. 5 Kentucky. More than 16 percent have No. 12 Murray St. over West Virginia.

No. 12 New Mexico St. is also picked to make the Sweet 16 in 10.1 percent of brackets, which is more than all of the No. 7, 8, 9, 10 (except Butler and Texas -- see below) and 11 seeds.

You can count No. 11 Loyola-Chicago among the same class as No. 12 New Mexico St.; it is picked to reach the Sweet 16 in 8.5 percent of brackets, placing it just behind New Mexico St. (10.1 percent) and No. 8 Missouri (10.0 percent)

A pair of No. 10 seeds continue to get love. No. 10 Butler is picked to reach the Sweet 16 in 11.7 percent of brackets and the Elite 8 in 5.2 percent of brackets. No. 10 Texas is at 11.4 percent Sweet 16, 4.0 percent Elite 8.

The public is siding with the “underdog” in one 8-9 seed battle and predicting a toss-up in another: 52.2 percent have No. 9 NC State beating No. 8 Seton Hall and 50.0 percent of entries have No. 9 Alabama taking down No. 8 Virginia Tech.

The most popular national title game combination remains No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 1 Villanova, though the number of people predicting this tilt has slid down to 13.8 percent of brackets.

Is this the year a No. 16 beats a No. 1? More people are buying into No. 16 Penn (4.2 percent vs. No. 1 Kansas) making it to the second round than No. 15s Iona (3.6 percent), Lipscomb (3.7 percent) and CSU Fullerton (3.9 percent).

Top-10 largest groups (in order): ESPN’s SportsCenter, TC Challenge ESPN, ESPN Streak, Dick Vitale’s Group, Migos’ Group, ESPN’s SportsNation, ESPN’s First Take, Golic and Wingo, Fans of Duke and Pardon the Interruption.