As you are preparing to fill out your bracket or have done so and think you need to change something, there are a couple of stat gurus who have posted their win probabilities for the NCAA Tournament.
First we start with Ken Pomeroy whose log5 analysis are always fun to look at. The full regional and overall breakdown can be found on Pomeroy’s blog here.
As expected Pomeroy has Kentucky as the favorite to win it all with a 19.7% chance to take the title. What was somewhat unexpected is Kentucky has company as the top with Ohio State being given the same 19.7% probability. Michigan State is third at 12.7% followed by Kansas at 9.1% and UNC at 6.6%. Pomeroy also has UNC’s chance of making the Final Four at fifth best. UNC has a 28.5% chance of getting to New Orleans vs Kansas’ 33.7%. The top three are Kentucky at 47.9%, Ohio State at 45.9% and Michigan State with 35.2%. Duke has a 1.2% chance of winning the title and 9.5% chance to make the Final Four.
Clearly Pomeroy loves Ohio State and if you look at his ratings you understand why. Ohio St is ranked 2nd overall and is 7th in offensive efficiency and 1st in defensive efficiency. Kentucky is first overall 3rd in OE and 6th in DE. Kansas is the only other team which is top ten in both OE and DE ranked 8th in both. Michigan State is just outside the top ten with the 11th best offense but is 3rd in DE. At present UNC is 12th in OE and 13th in DE which does include playing the ACC Tournament without John Henson. In other words, the win probabilities follow the top five in the ratings exactly.
Nate Silver of the New York Times has a slightly different view of the win probabilities. Silver has Kentucky at the top with a 26.4% chance of winning the title followed by Ohio State at 15.8%, UNC at 11.3%, Kansas at 9.3% and Missouri at 5.2%. Silver only gives Michigan State a 3.8% chance of winning the tournament which is identical to the chances Duke has of winning it in this model. Final Four chances follow the same order with Kentucky at 57%, Ohio State at 44.5%, UNC is given a 37% chance followed by Kansas at 35% then Missouri at 25%. Since UNC and Kansas are in the same region something has to give there. Same is true of Missouri and Michigan State at 19.7% to reach the last weekend.
Florida State, who many have as a Final Four team, has a 5.2% chance of making it that far according to Silver and 4.4% according to Pomeroy.
The fact both analysts love Ohio State is a bit of a surprise though you have to really like the Buckeyes chances now the #1 seed in the East, Syracuse, will be playing with Fab Melo. Silver adjust the probabilities to account for new information so it is possible he is accounting for Melo being out though the introduction merely states adjustments are made for injuries. Silver is also accounting for geographic location which would certainly favor Kansas in a regional final versus UNC.
The great irony on all of this is we rarely go back and look to see how right these probabilities end up being. The NCAA Tournament is pretty much a crapshoot. Yes, there will be some teams who are as close to a lock as you can be but even as good as Kentucky has been they still only have a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance of winning the national title and those are considered really good relative to most seasons. So next time you hear someone throw the word “favorite” around to describe a team remember the rest of the field still has a much better chance than the one team everyone is picking.