Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Southeast Conference (SEC)

Part 29 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.

Kentucky's definitely the best team in the SEC and, as things stand, a likely #1 NCAA Tournament seed coming into the SEC tournament. But believe it or not, they're not the favorite.

Kentucky, at 11 to 5 (31.0%) to win as the #1 East seed, isn't as good a shot to win as tournament host Vanderbilt at 9 to 5 (36.2%). This would be a 50-50 matchup if these two teams were to meet in the tournament final, but Vandy, as the #2 East seed has a slightly easier road to the Final than Kentucky. Vanderbilt is no less than a 71.4% favorite in any possible game up to the finals, but Kentucky will likely face a dangerous foe in the semis in #2W Ole Miss (29.7% chance of beating UK) or #3E Tennessee (39.4%).

After that, only 7 to 1 Tennessee is a dark horse. The next closest shot to win is #1 West seed Mississippi State at 13 to 1. And despite their high seed, Mississippi State is rated 56 in the Sagarin ratings, indicating they're probably NIT bound if they don't win out.

The SEC has an unusually perilous at-large perch. Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are definitely in, but Florida and Ole Miss are on the bubble.

Florida, rated 43, absolutely has to beat Auburn in the opening round, then it's a toss up as to whether a 50-50 matchup with Mississippi State in the quarters requires that they win or if they can afford a loss and still get into the NCAA's. For their sake, the Gators may as well assume they need to win that game to get in. Anything beyond that is gravy.

Ole Miss, rated 45, would be an underdog to likely opponent Tennessee (LSU's a 10 to 1 underdog to beat the Vols) and jury's out if a close loss would be enough to bump them in. With few upsets rattling the at-large picture, ranking in the low 40's might be enough, but that's danger territory no matter what.

As for the definite ins, Vanderbilt has a funny tendency of getting higher than deserved seeds from the Selection Committee, so far be it from me to say their projected #7 is absolute. But it's highly recommended they reach the final if they want to take advantage of that favoritism. The committee may be willing to humor that #7-ish placement otherwise.

Tennessee is about a #5 right now, and as an opening round seed, they could boost that profile with a run to the semis. They have a chance against Kentucky (39.3%) but are definitely an underdog in a potential semis matchup. They could play their way up from #5 if they pull that upset.

Kentucky is one of my picks for a #1 seed, and they've got to win out to keep that rep, even though I find it hard to believe West Virginia or Villanova in the Big East could play their way into giving the Big East a 2nd #1 (Syracuse is a lock for a #1 seed) unless they win out. Kentucky can end that conversation, however, by winning out.

Here are the SEC odds for every team involved:

SEC East Seeds:

1. Kentucky: 11 to 5 (31.0%)
2. Vanderbilt: 9 to 5 (36.2%)
3. Tennessee: 7 to 1
4. Florida: 22.2 to 1
5. South Carolina: 173.8 to 1
6. Georgia: 174 to 1

SEC West seeds:

1. Mississippi State: 13.1 to 1
2. Mississippi: 15.1 to 1
3. Arkansas: 388.3 to 1
4. Alabama: 84.5 to 1
5. Auburn: 411.2 to 1
6. LSU: 9628.8 to 1

Next: Our final conference tournament... the WAC

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