Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Atlantic 10 (A-10)

Part 18 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.

In what's allegedly a down year for top teams in NCAA Division I, the A-10, on the cusp between mid-major and major status, has three teams (Xavier, Temple and Richmond) with legitimate claims for at-large NCAA Tournament bids, while three more (Dayton, Rhode Island, Charlotte) have claims for NIT spots. Most of the rest of the conference can at least put up a good fight against top teams, and the hands-down worst team in the conference, Fordham, did not qualify for the A-10's 12 team conference tournament at fabled Madison Square Garden in NYC.

This is a challenging tournament field, and the top teams, even with first round byes, won't have an easy road to the A-10 title. There is no distinct favorite, simply a multi-tiered horse race in terms of odds.

Top seeds Temple and Xavier are each 11 to 5 shots to win: Temple at 30.8% and Xavier at 31.0%.

Behind then are 6 to 1 shot Richmond at the #3 seed, with #7 Dayton (10 to 1) and #5 Rhode Island (12 to 1) not too far behind. From there, everyone else is a longshot to win, from 28 to 1 #4 Saint Louis all the way to 2700 to 1 #11 UMass.

Even the quarterfinal round is going to prove a tough challenge for the top seeds. #2 Xavier is only a 63.7% favorite to win their opening game should they face #7 Dayton (typically a top seed's first matchup gives them around a 75-85% chance to win), and a likely semifinal matchup with #3 Richmond leaves them with a 65.9% chance to win. However, the Musketeers would be favorites in any possible finals matchup, and if the opponent isn't Temple then they are likely big favorites, no less than 73% to win (and that's if they face Rhode Island). If they can bypass two 2 to 1 shots of losing to reach the final, the A-10 Title and an automatic NCAA Tournament spot (along with possibly a 3 seed) is within easy reach.

Temple has the same odds to win the A-10 as Xavier, but for different reasons. They are easy favorites in their first two rounds, but the potential matchups in the final would cause them trouble. The Owls would actually be underdogs to Xavier (42.3%), while only slight favorites against Richmond (58.6%) or Dayton (56.2%). Even #5 Charlotte has a 3 to 1 shot (24.2%) to steal the title from Temple if the 49ers reach the final.

Richmond is on the high end of the NCAA Tournament bubble, and though some highly ranked teams have clinched automatic bids, which opens up at-large bids at the bottom and improves their chances, they need to be careful not to let their 35-40ish rank drop with a bad tourney loss. Aside from winning the A-10 tourney outright, their best bet is to win their quarterfinal game and at the least take a close loss in the semis... unless in the unlikely event that #10 George Washington is their semifinal opponent in which case the Spiders had better win. Making the final would boost Richmond's rating and profile, but ironically making the final and then losing would similarly damage their at-large chances and likely undo the boost of their semifinal upset because they would be favored over most of their possible opponents. The exception comes if they get to face #1 Temple and can lose that game without getting blown out.

Dayton's a bit too far from the bubble to have a real shot (Sagarin ranks them at 53, and the bubble usually bursts around the low 40's). Upsetting #2 Xavier in the quarters and then winning their semifinal game to reach the final could get them in at-large if they run into #1 Temple in the final and take a competitive loss. But otherwise, their only other hope of the NCAAs is to hit their 10 to 1 ticket and win the A-10 tourney outright.

Here are the A-10 odds for every team involved.

1. Temple: 11 to 5 (30.8%)
2. Xavier: 11 to 5 (31.0%)
3. Richmond: 6 to 1
4. Saint Louis: 27.6 to 1
5. Rhode Island: 11.8 to 1
6. Charlotte: 50.4 to 1
7. Dayton: 9.6 to 1
8. St Bonaventure: 162.1 to 1
9. Duquesne: 298 to 1
10. George Washington: 455 to 1
11. Massachusetts: 2706.4 to 1
12. St Joseph's: 2060.8 to 1

Who would I put money on? Nobody. Given posted future odds (via The Spread) and the odds of winning I posted above, the expected value of every possible pick is negative.

Next: Our first major conference tournament of 2010... The Big East!

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