Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An All-Big-Ten Final Four?

Eamonn Brennon writes that all four Big Ten teams making the Final Four is not out of the question:
Yes, those four remaining Big Ten teams aren't just the league's four best, they also happened to be conveniently spaced into each of the tournament's four regions, meaning it is entirely conceivable all four could find themselves on the way to the Georgia Dome by this time next week.
How conceivable? On the Official Eamonn Likelihood Scale of 1 to 10 -- with 1 being "Eamonn uses a treadmill in the next two weeks" and 10 being "The PR people in the Big Ten league office have spent all week doing the 'Florida Gulf Coast Manager Dance'" -- I'd put it at about a two.
That might be generous: The Las Vegas odds on an "all-Big Ten Final Four" have moved from a pre-tournament 250-to-1 to their current 62-to-1, which, for everyone reading this column not named Aaron Craft, is significantly less than my arbitrary scale above. Then again, those are the kind of odds Lloyd Christmas would have killed for.
He then goes on to make the case for each team. And he's right that each team has a legitimate chance to make the Final Four. The problem is that when you multiply their chances together, it's a very small number. That 62-to-1 bet Vegas is offering is—like all Vegas offerings—a sucker's bet.

Here's why. Earlier this week I reran my bracket simulator with the latest Kenpom data. This is just like Pomeroy's Log5 method, just somewhat less accurate and a little bit more fun. My results say that the four B1G teams have these odds of making the Final Four:

Indiana: 48.9%
OSU: 47.9%
MSU: 14.9%
Michigan: 16.4%.

To get the chances of all four making it, you just multiply those percentages together. The result: 0.5% chance. That's 5 out of 1000.

The problem here is that both MSU and Michigan will probably have to win two very tough games to make the Final Four. MSU will face Duke, then probably Louisville. Michigan will face Kansas, then almost certainly Florida. The chances of both teams winning both those games are pretty small. It could happen, but it probably won't. And, even if it does, IU and OSU are each more likely to lose a game than they are to win two.

In fact, it's actually significantly more likely that none of the Big Ten teams will even make the Elite 8! The chance that each Big Ten team has of losing in the Sweet 16 is:

Indiana: 34.4%
OSU: 35.4%
MSU: 52.7%
Michigan: 47.4%

So, the chances of all of them losing in the Sweet Sixteen is the product of those percentages: just about 3%. More than five times more likely than all of them making the Final Four.

In most of my simulations, two or three Big Ten teams make the Elite Eight, and one or two of them make the Final Four. Crazy things could happen, of course. But if I was betting on something crazy, I'd be betting against the Big Ten, not for it.

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