Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Which Conference Will Win the Title?

The Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball. But it's put-up-or-shut-up time. Although the Big Ten has been strong for a few years in a row now, there's been little to show for it in March or (especially) April. The conference has produced just one champion—Michigan State in 2000—in the last 23 years. More recently, as Eamonn Brennan notes, Big Ten teams have struggled in the second weekend of the tournament: Big Ten teams are just 3-10 in the Sweet 16 since 2008. The Badgers alone are 0-3. If they make it this year, they'll likely go to 0-4, but it will still be a great accomplishment. You really can't blame the Badgers for this paltry record because winning championships isn't a realistic goal for a team that doesn't attract multiple NBA-level talents at a time. No, this is on Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State. Those are the glamour programs, and when they're up they have to finish. I'm looking at you, Tom Crean.

Anyhow, I mentioned yesterday that using Ken Pomeroy's numbers—under which the Big Ten is the clear number one conference—there's still almost a one-in-four chance that no Big Ten team makes the Final Four. But what are the odds that a Big Ten team cuts down the nets in Atlanta? According to my simulations, the odds are about 27.4%. If we use Dan Hanner's data from only the last 10 games, however, the odds go down significantly. This is mainly because Gonzaga and Georgetown get so much better under those metrics, so they steal championships from everyone else. But Michigan is also awful under Hanner's numbers. It goes from a dark-horse title contender (2.6% chance) to a complete pretender (0 titles in 1000 simulations).

Here's a breakdown of each conference's chances using the full-season data and using just the last 10 games:

Note: This post has been updated after I discovered an error in my calculations. Specifically, I failed to update Michigan State's numbers for the Hanner simulation, which led them to be artificially low. This makes the Big Ten's numbers slightly better.

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