Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Big East

Part 19 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.

Our first power conference tournament is the biggest we've seen yet at 16 teams, with five Top 25 ranked teams and as many as 8-9 teams with a real case for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Not only is it the biggest and best tournament to date, but it's also arguably the most competitive, and even the favorites will be hard pressed to come out of it alive.

Instead of a conventional 16 team format, the Big East takes a page from the WCC and stepladders their tournament format, giving the top four seeds byes into the quarterfinals while making the 9-16 seeds play each other for the right to face the 5-8 seeds in another qualifying round before the quarters. This protects the top seeds and makes the lower seeds work harder to win the tournament. Take a look at the bracket format here.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim complains about receiving a double bye, though that double bye helps make the #1 seeded Orange the favorite at 12 to 5 (29.8%). Right on their heels is #3 West Virginia at around 5 to 2 (26.9%), and a ways back is dark horse #4 Villanova at 6 to 1. Longer shots with the best odds from there are #2 Pittsburgh (11 to 1), #8 Georgetown (14 to 1) and #5 Marquette (18 to 1).

The two teams on the bubble with a real shot of getting in are #7 Notre Dame and #10 Seton Hall. The Irish will have a challenging 2nd round game with either #15 Providence or... Seton Hall. If the Pirates get past Providence, their matchup with Notre Dame could be an elimination game in more ways than one. Obviously, if either team does not get to the quarters, it's probably game over for their at-large tournament chances.

From there, the winner of that early series is definitely an underdog to #2 Pittsburgh in the quarters and wouldn't hurt their chances with a competitive loss... but both have significant chances to win (Notre Dame at 41.1% and Seton Hall at 38.5%), and a win would boost that team's profile enough that as long as their eventual exit isn't embarrassing, said team should have enough pump to their resume to sneak in if they pull a quarterfinal upset. Without it, they could have enough but it depends on how the other bubble teams shake out.

UConn, amidst one of their worst seasons in a couple decades, is 50th in the Sagarin ratings and technically close, but at 17-14 and stumbling down the stretch it's unlikely they can coax at at-large bid from a couple of tourney wins. Rated 58, Cincinnati's been down for a while, and a 16-14 record's probably keeping them out.

The long shots are, as you'd expect, the longest shots we've seen to date, having to pull five upsets against some of the best teams in the country to get a tournament bid. #14 Rutgers faces the impossible at 53922 to 1, but they're not even the longest shot in the tournament. #16 DePaul is 86934 to 1 to win the tournament. To illustrate, let's enlist's help:

Chance of dying from accidental drowning: 1 in 79,065
Chance of dying from exposure to smoke, fire, and flames: 1 in 81,524
Odds of catching a ball at a major league ballgame: 563 to 1
Odds of having your identity stolen: 200 to 1
Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
Odds of being killed sometime in the next year in any sort of transportation accident: 77 to 1
Chance that DePaul's entire roster avoids death via transport in 2010: 83.4%
Odds of injury from fireworks: 19,556 to 1
Odds of bowling a 300 game: 11,500 to 1
Odds of DePaul winning the 2010 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament: 86,934 to 1

Sad that DePaul's starting point guard has a better chance of having his identity swiped, bowling a 300 game, getting possessed by Satan, dying in a terrible accident or getting burned up with a bottle rocket than he does of winning the Big East Tournament.

Here are the Big East odds for every team involved:

1. Syracuse: 2.4 to 1 (29.8%)
2. Pittsburgh: 10.9 to 1
3. West Virginia: 2.7 to 1 (26.9%)
4. Villanova: 6.1 to 1
5. Marquette: 17.7 to 1
6. Louisville: 22.5 to 1
7. Notre Dame: 48.6 to 1
8. Georgetown: 14.3 to 1
9. South Florida: 513.7 to 1
10. Seton Hall: 118.8 to 1
11. Cincinnati: 186.8 to 1
12. Connecticut: 108.9 to 1
13. St John's: 1113.6 to 1
14. Rutgers: 53921.8 to 1
15. Providence: 753.5 to 1
16. DePaul: 86394 to 1

Next: The Big 12... and a lot more, as Championship Week picks up steam.

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