Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Horizon League

Today I'll begin a new series, using current Sagarin ratings and a Markov Chain to determine the probability of each team's chances of winning for all 30 forthcoming NCAA Men's Division I College Basketball conference tournaments.

I'll start today with the Horizon League, where Top 25 powerhouse Butler pretty much has this conference in the palm of their hands, and could likely make the tournament at-large even if eliminated. The rest of the conference isn't so lucky. Wright State is the only other decent team in this conference, and along with needing to win out to earn a tournament bid, their chances are a somewhat remote 4 to 1 even with two byes.

The Horizon League tournament follows a strange 10 team format. The top two seeds, Butler and Wright State, can skip the 1st round and quarterfinals and don't have to play a single game until the semis. Seeds 3 through 10 open the tournament on March 2 with four single elimination games played at the higher seed's home court.

9-Illinois Chicago at 4-UW Milwaukee
8 Loyola Chicago at 5-Cleveland State
10 Youngstown State at 3-UW Green Bay
7-Detroit at 6-Valparaiso

After the first round, the tournament shifts to Butler's home court, as Butler is the #1 seed, for the quarters on March 5 as the winners of the preceding games all play each other. The next day, Butler plays the winner of the Milwaukee-UIC-Cleveland-Loyola mess, while Wright State gets the winner of the other mess, all again at Butler's home court. After that, the final is played on March 9 at the home court of the highest remaining seed, whether that's Butler or whoever else if Butler is knocked off.

All that given, here are the Horizon League Tournament Odds for every team involved:

1. Butler: 74.6% (1 to 3)
2. Wright State: 4 to 1
3. Wisconsin-Green Bay: 65 to 1
4. Wisconsin-Milwaukee: 73 to 1
5. Cleveland State: 134 to 1
6. Valparaiso: 217 to 1
7. Detroit: 96 to 1
8. Loyola-Chicago: 2010 to 1
9. Illinois-Chicago: 10819 to 1
10. Youngstown State: 2829 to 1

Aside from Butler's overwhelming likeliness that (short of taking a dive to get a fellow conference team into the dance) they will win this tournament... two items jump out that you should get used to seeing as more of these projections roll out.

One: Many teams face astronomical odds of winning. This makes sense due to the two top teams being far better than everyone else in the conference and both of those teams getting byes to the semis while everyone else has to duke it out in the two early rounds for the right to try and win two games as a significant underdog.

Two: Some teams have better odds than teams seeded above them. The team with the longest odds isn't the lowest seed, Youngstown State, but the team above them, Illinois-Chicago. UIC is the weakest team by rating in the conference and doesn't have as well a chance of winning all hypothetically possible opponents as Youngstown State does. You'll notice that Detroit's got much better odds than the teams around them (though at 96 to 1 that's not saying much). Since seeding is done by conference ranking and many teams are separated by 1-2 conference wins, the seeding often isn't indicative of the true rank among those teams. So expect to see this phenomenon regularly.

All that said, this should be one of the more foregone conclusions of the 30 tournaments. You won't see many #1 seeds with as great a chance of winning as Butler has in this tournament. Others should be a bit more competitive.

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