Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Conference USA

Part 22 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.

UTEP has completed one of their best regular seasons in years with a 24-5 record that has them ranked 34th in the Sagarin ratings, planted on the front end of the NCAA Tournament bubble. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it's not only going to be hard for UTEP to win the Conference USA tournament even though they're a 5 to 2 favorite (27.3%), but there's no way they can take a loss without doing damage to their ratings, as they are technically favored in every single possible matchup the tournament could give them. However, several of those matchups are in doubt: #2 seed Memphis (3 to 1), on the decline following coach John Calipari's departure, has a 48.6% chance to beat the Miners if they meet in the final. #3 UAB (11 to 2), reborn under reborn head coach Mike Davis (he who crashed and burned under pressure with Indiana a few years ago), would have a 40.4% chance vs UTEP in the final.

UTEP could run into trouble before the final. #5 Tulsa (9 to 2) is hosting the tournament and could meet UTEP in the semis with a 49% chance to win. Even if #4 Marshall holds serve, the Thundering Herd are a 37.8% shot to knock off UTEP.

The Miners are (appropriately?) facing a minefield after the quarters, and a loss to any of the possible danger teams could jeopardize their at-large tournament hopes. There isn't a scenario where UTEP can get knocked off and safely get in at-large that doesn't involve several bubble teams in other conferences falling apart while top seeds all hold serve to win their respective conference tournaments.

And of course none of the aforementioned teams are seriously in the hunt for at-large bids. All are easy NIT picks, though. The closest of the bunch to the bubble, Memphis, is favored in any matchup before the final and only a slight dog versus a couple of possible Final opponents. There is not a realistic scenario where the Tigers can lose and sneak in at-large. To get in, they have to win out. But at 3 to 1, they have a good shot to do so, much better than UTEP at 5 to 2 may want to admit. With UAB and Tulsa right behind them, there are several likely suspects contending for the Conference USA title, and no one really stands out.

Here are the Conference USA odds for every team involved:

1. UTEP: 2.7 to 1 (27.3%)
2. Memphis: 3 to 1 (25.0%)
3. UAB: 5.6 to 1
4. Marshall: 10.6 to 1
5. Tulsa: 4.6 to 1
6. Southern Miss: 44.7 to 1
7. Houston: 33 to 1
8. SMU: 144.8 to 1
9. Central Florida: 647.5 to 1
10. East Carolina: 6510.4 to 1
11. Tulane: 2744.5 to 1
12. Rice: 16241.7 to 1

Next: The Mountain West

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