Tuesday, March 2, 2010

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

Part 5 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.

By no means competitive in Division I's big picture (the winner is likely 1st round fodder for a top 3 seed), Patriot League mens basketball is fairly competitive amongst themselves, every team roughly equal in strength from top to bottom. The worst team (Navy) could hang in on their home court with the best team (Lehigh).

The competitive parity, both on paper and in conference play, led to a scrambled pecking order in the tournament seeding. Lehigh is of course the #1 seed, but the League's 2nd best to 5th best teams are fairly equal, with the bottom three not too far behind. In fact, the 2nd best team, Holy Cross, earned the #7 seed! And #8 seed Army is actually a middle of the pack team that didn't fare too well in conference play. Meanwhile, the bottom three, American, Navy and Colgate, are seeded 4, 5 and 6, respectively.

The Patriot League plays a home-court tournament, with all games on the higher seed's home floor. As expected, this gives the top seed a huge edge, but the League's parity means Lehigh is still only a 45% shot to win the NCAA Tournament bid. Since #8 seed Army is more middle-of-the-pack, Lehigh is only a 73.7% shot to make it out of the first round (most 1-8 matchups give the top seed at least an 80-95% shot), which reduces their chances of winning it all as subsequent games get generally tougher: Lehigh will never be more than an 83.1% favorite in any potential game (if Navy beats American to meet Lehigh in the Semis). Still, the Mountain Hawks are by proxy the favorite.

Beyond that, we revert to the usual small conference tournament formula of a favorite, 1-2 dark horses and a bunch of long shots. Only #2 Lafayette (18.2%) and #3 Bucknell (14.9%) have a remotely realistic shot at winning. No one else is closer than 16 to 1. As close as the teams are in ability and talent, the home court format just sinks the lower seeds' chances, while the middle seeds don't have the relative strength to back up their seeding.

Here are the Patriot League Tournament Odds for every team involved:

1. Lehigh: 1.2 to 1
2. Lafayette: 4.5 to 1
3. Bucknell: 5.7 to 1
4. American: 15.9 to 1
5. Navy: 34.9 to 1
6. Colgate: 32.8 to 1
7. Holy Cross: 16.6 to 1
8. Army: 21.3 to 1

Navy will never hear the end of it from Army over being the tournament longshot despite being the #5 seed... unless of course they somehow sneak into the final.

Next: The America East Conference

Bonus: The Patriot League's official website offers a thorough preview of the quarterfinal matchups.

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