Friday, March 20, 2009

Progression of Final Four Chances

At the Immaculate Inning we've been playing all week with different ways to present data generated by our NCAA Tournament simulation. Here is what I feel is the most dynamic view of things: after every set of games on both Thursday and Friday, I set the probability of the losing teams to "0" and re-ran the simulation. I've then graphed the final four chances of every team, by section. You can see the results below (also click here to view the whole source spreadsheet):

You can click on each tab to view the chart for each region. There lots of interesting in trends in each region. The re-simulations are based on the Pomeroy rankings from Thursday, and do not take into account statistics from the first round games themselves.

South Regional: The story here is the Final Four chances of #1 seed North Carolina. Note that these statistics do not take into account Ty Lawson's injury, and yet UNC has had their chances drop over the last two days. More specifically, they've stayed in about the same place, while four other teams have passed them in Final Four chances. Oklahoma is now the odds-on favorite, their chances jumping tremendously with the upset of Clemson elsewhere in the bracket. That is the story throughout; teams rarely improve their own Final Four chances with a win. Instead it's other teams losing that sends waves through the simulations. Three of the four remaining teams in the bottom half of the regional have a better final four shot than UNC, as does Gonzaga in the top half. Arizona State, meanwhile, has climbed from sixth to second in terms of Final Four chances, because they are favored in their matchup with Syracuse (52%-48%).

East Regional: Not much movement going on here, just some strengthening of chances for the favorites as the upsets just don't come. Remember, Wisconsin was heavily favored over FSU in the simulation, so the Seminoles' overtime loss doesn't have much effect on the rest of the regional. Basically, Wisconsin is now at 9%, having added FSU's original 4% to the Badgers' own 5% chances. Among the remainging teams, Texas has the worst chances, since they could have to go through Duke, UCLA, and Pitt (the top 3 teams, statistically), to make it to Detroit. Pittsburgh has the best chance of winning their second round game over Oklahoma St, while the Xavier-Wisconsin game should prove to be the closest of the second round.

Midwest Regional: One of the biggest jumps of the first round was in this regional-- Louisville is no longer the favorite, but instead Kansas wins the West 25% of the time. This only had a little bit to do with Kansas' win over North Dakota St. As you can see from the graph, the gigantic jump came at 5 PM, when simulation favorite West Virginia went down in an uninspiring performance against Dayton. Louisville, the #1 seed, also reached a Final Four chance of 25% by the end of the day, thanks to the upset of Wake Forest by Cleveland State (an upset we predicted in this post). There seems to be two types of games in the second round-- Kansas and Louisville are 80% favorites, while Michigan State and Arizona are favored at the 60-65% rate. If a Sweet Sixteen berth for a low-seeded, mid-major team is your defnition of "Cinderella," then Cleveland State's 38% chance of beating Arizona is the best slipper bet.

West Regional: Not much going on here, because there haven't been that many upsets. Our model did not see Maryland taking out Cal, but clearly they are a different team than the one which put up very mediocre numbers throughout the season. If Maryland can click their offense to the tune of 1.23 points/possession like against Cal, Memphis is going to be in for a long day. Purdue vs Washington is a coinflip (50.9% to 49.1%) and should be a very good game, while Missouri could have a tough time with Marquette.

Final Four Picture: There are tossups in pretty much every regional now, with Louisville-Kansas joining Pittsburgh-Duke and Memphis-Connecticut in the two-dog races. The South regional is as open as ever, and sees Oklahoma as the most likely representative. A UConn-Pittsburgh final still seems to be the most likely, while UConn and Memphis are the only teams winning more than 8% of the time (both are over 11%). This dynamic should change considerably after this weekend; currently the only major change was the elimination of West Virginia. Gonzaga and Kansas have slipped past Duke and are the fourth and fifth most likely championship teams.

So that's where we stand after the first thirty-two games of the 2009 NCAA tournament. Tomorrow and Sunday I'll be updating frequently with the chances of each team's advancement, and I will follow next week with a new simulation from the Sweet-Sixteen onwards! Till then, may your brackets be less busted than mine!

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