Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Sun Belt

Part 15 of a 30 part series. Using Sagarin's Predictor ratings in a prediction formula, I'll weigh the probability of each conference team in each possible tournament matchup and through a Markov chain determine their chances of winning the tournament.

Here, folks, is a truly wide open tournament. It's not the sizable 14 team field that makes the Sun Belt Tournament competitive, or being located at truly neutral Hot Springs, Arkansas, but the conference's relative parity combined with the two best teams not receiving one of the tournament's three first round byes makes this a wide open tournament.

The favorite, Western Kentucky, is a 13 to 5 shot (27.6% actually), so relatively dim because as the #4 seed they need to beat bottom seeded New Orleans in the opening round to get to the quarters, and while WKU is assured of being favored in any possible game, they are not locks, with every opponent having at least a 15-25% shot of knocking them off. Since WKU has to win four games to take the Sun Belt, that's a lot of opportunities for an upset by conference foes that can put up a fight.

The best shot out of the other side of the bracket is actually #7 Louisiana-Lafayette at around 4 to 1 (19.6%), not so much because they're favored in their side of the bracket, but they would be favored in almost any possible matchup in the final. Even against Western Kentucky they're not much of an underdog: At 48.6% to win it's basically a coin flip anyway.

The top three seeds that all received byes are, believe it or not, relative dark horses at best to win. While they had strong conference records, they're not quite the strongest teams in the conference and would be underdogs in far too many matchups. Top seeded Troy is, at 8 to 1, the longest shot to win of any top seed we've seen to date. #2 North Texas is similarly dim at 9 to 1. #3 Middle Tennessee has a better shot at a little over 5 to 1. But these first round byes defy the notion that the bye makes you a favorite, simply because the conference records belie the actual strength of the teams holding them.

Here are the Sun Belt odds for every team involved:

1. Troy: 8.3 to 1
2. North Texas: 9.0 to 1
3. Middle Tennessee: 5.2 to 1
4. Western Kentucky: 13 to 5 (27.6%)
5. Arkansas State: 22.4 to 1
6. Denver: 17.3 to 1
7. LA Lafayette: 4.1 to 1 (19.6%)
8. Florida Atlantic: 22.5 to 1
9. South Alabama: 102.6 to 1
10. LA Monroe: 673.5 to 1
11. Florida International: 1046.6 to 1
12. Ark Little Rock: 295.7 to 1
13. New Orleans: 1400.6 to 1

Next: The Mid American Conference (MAC)