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March 11, 2009
Conference Tournament Odds
Log5 Style

by John Gasaway

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Ah, conference tournament time. When a young fan's fancy turns to Ken Pomeroy and his probabilistic previews.

I know, I know, Ken thought he could get away from me for a season. As if! I traced his whereabouts to Branson, Missouri, where, just as I expected, I found him taking in yet another matinee of the Baldknobbers Jamboree Show. It was there that I forced his log5 tables out of him.

What the heck is a "log5"? Start here. Basically, all the figures listed below indicate a team's probability of getting to a particular round of their conference tournament, with the rightmost column showing that team's chances of winning it all. These probabilities are based on the adjusted Pythagorean winning percentages that Ken tallies up for all D-I teams, percentages that are always similar, but never identical, to the tempo-free numbers that I track. Where there's an interesting discrepancy I'll try to point it out, knowing full well that Ken's not here to defend himself, so what I say goes.

Bear in mind these are mere probabilities, not destiny. DePaul had just a 13 percent chance of beating Cincinnati yesterday. In what by my lights was a rather rude display of disinterest in things tempo-free, the Blue Demons won anyway.

Bon appétit.

ACC: A Third Meeting Between Carolina and Duke?

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  North Carolina   100.0    84.1    64.8    42.3
 3  Duke             100.0    87.3    59.0    30.1
 2  Wake Forest      100.0    78.0    33.4    13.2    
 5  Clemson           85.4    56.1    19.3     8.4
 4  Florida St.      100.0    40.2     9.0     2.7
 9  Miami             67.7    12.7     5.7     1.8
 6  BC                64.4     9.5     2.7     0.5
 7  Maryland          54.2    12.7     5.7     0.5
 10 NC State          45.8     9.4     1.7     0.3
 8  Virginia Tech     32.3     3.2     0.9     0.2
 11 Virginia          35.6     3.1     0.6     0.1
 12 Georgia Tech      14.6     3.6     0.3     0.04

Ken's numbers are clearly telling him this is a Carolina vs. Duke kind of thing, never mind two-seed Wake Forest, much less four-seed Florida State. I might be a little more bullish on the Deacons than Ken's model is, but I do share its apparent bewilderment at the enchantment currently directed by much of the hoops world toward the Seminoles, who are showing up in many NCAA mock brackets as a five-seed. That's some pretty fast company for an offensively-challenged team that outscored its ACC opponents by just 0.02 points per trip.

A-10: Xavier Doesn't Need an Automatic Bid; Temple and Rhode Island Do

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  Xavier           100.0    85.8    59.4    45.1
 4  Temple           100.0    75.7    31.3    19.9
 2  Rhode Island     100.0    66.9    39.0    14.0    
 3  Dayton           100.0    70.8    37.1    12.4
 7  Duquesne          62.3    23.2    10.6     2.7
 6  Richmond          68.9    23.4     8.6     1.8
 5  St. Joseph's      62.5    17.3     3.9     1.6
 8  LaSalle           60.3     9.7     3.1     1.2
 10 UMass             37.7     9.9     3.4     0.6
 9  Saint Louis       39.7     4.5     1.1     0.3
 12 Charlotte         37.5     7.0     1.1     0.3
 11 St. Bonaventure   31.1     5.8     1.2     0.1

Xavier is a strong favorite, but should the Musketeers falter, Temple, Rhode Island and Dayton would all appear to have similar chances at the automatic bid. For Xavier to "falter," of course, the Owls may well have to beat them on that half of the bracket.

Big East: (You Know You Really Should be Reading Unfiltered)

With their bold new 16-team format, the Big East started their tournament earlier than have their major-conference brethren. I posted Ken's odds for Mike Tranghese's final tournament as commissioner yesterday.

Big Ten: Can the Hoosiers Pull a Hoosiers?

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  Michigan St.     100.0    77.3    54.3    33.7
 3  Purdue           100.0    82.4    50.7    27.2   
 2  Illinois         100.0    72.1    35.9    17.2
 4  Wisconsin        100.0    59.8    23.7    10.7
 5  Ohio St.         100.0    40.2    12.6     4.5
 8  Minnesota         55.6    13.5     5.9     2.1
 7  Michigan          61.1    19.1     6.2     1.9
 6  Penn St.          84.3    16.9     5.0     1.2
 9  Northwestern      44.4     9.1     3.5     1.1
 10 Iowa              38.9     8.7     2.1     0.5
 11 Indiana           15.7     0.7     0.1     0.003

Looks competitive, doesn't it? Michigan State can be termed the favorite, but there are four teams in all with at least a one-in-ten chance of cutting down the nets. The question is: can Indiana parlay a (kind of) home-court advantage (at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis) into a first-round win against Penn State? Ken gives that about a 16 percent chance of happening. If so, my money's on Mike Santa to nail the winning free throws, just like Ollie did.

Big 12: Oklahoma Gets a Friendly Venue but a Tough Draw

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  Kansas           100.0    80.9    56.8    32.6
 3  Missouri         100.0    78.6    47.3    27.4
 2  Oklahoma         100.0    68.8    34.8    18.3    
 5  Texas             91.6    52.9    21.0     8.5
 4  Kansas St.       100.0    46.1    15.2     5.1
 7  Oklahoma St.      81.8    29.2    10.8     4.2
 6  Texas A&M         71.7    18.1     6.3     2.1
 8  Nebraska          51.5    10.1     3.7     0.9
 9  Baylor            48.5     9.1     3.2     0.8
 11 Texas Tech        28.3     3.3     0.6     0.1
 10 Iowa St.          18.2     2.0     0.3     0.0
 12 Colorado           8.4     0.9     0.1     0.0

At first glance the numbers here might seem to disrespect a 27-4 Oklahoma team that will be playing in Oklahoma City. Keep in mind, though, that the probabilities measure not only a given team but also their opponents. As it happens, the Sooners were put in the much tougher half of this bracket. OU will likely open with a quarterfinal against an underrated Oklahoma State team (albeit an underrated OSU team they've already defeated twice). Next comes a probable semifinal against either surging Texas A&M or Missouri. Win those two games and you probably get Kansas. If Jeff Capel's team wins this tournament they will have earned it, even in Oklahoma City.

C-USA: Giving New Meaning to the Term "Prohibitive" (as in "Favorite")

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  Memphis          100.0    99.0    94.4    88.3
 3  UAB              100.0    82.9    52.4     5.7
 2  Tulsa            100.0    83.3    39.5     3.3    
 5  Houston           87.1    49.5     3.0     1.4
 4  UTEP             100.0    48.4     2.4     0.9
 6  UCF               66.6    13.4     4.3     0.2
 7  Marshall          71.4    14.1     2.8     0.1
 11 Southern Miss     33.4     3.7     0.8     0.02
 9  E. Carolina       43.4     0.4     0.1     0.01
 8  Tulane            56.6     0.6     0.1     0.01
 12 SMU               12.9     2.1     0.03    0.004
 10 Rice              28.6     2.6     0.2     0.003

These figures reflect the fact that Memphis is playing on their home floor, the FedEx Forum. You might say the Tigers are something of a favorite. The odds of the other 11 teams vary in trusty correlation to how soon the pairings have them playing what amounts to a road game against Memphis.

Mountain West: A Clear Top Five

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 1  BYU              100.0    95.3    63.5    41.7
 2  Utah             100.0    86.7    52.0    22.9
 3  New Mexico       100.0    85.5    42.8    16.8    
 5  UNLV             100.0    57.1    22.1    11.6
 4  San Diego St.    100.0    42.9    13.9     6.3
 6  Wyoming          100.0    14.5     2.4     0.3
 7  TCU              100.0    13.3     2.8     0.3
 8  Colorado St.      66.8     3.7     0.4     0.01
 9  Air Force         33.2     0.9     0.1     0.003

Speaking of home court, UNLV gets a slight numeric boost here because the tournament is being played at the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas. Note that Ken's figures ding New Mexico somewhat for their undeniably weak November and December. My numbers, conversely, give the Lobos a tabula rasa once conference play begins. In other words here at Basketball Prospectus we offer a complete line of quality tempo-free products so that you can choose what's best for your particular bracket needs.

Pac-10: The Semifinals Will Have an Interloper

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
 2  UCLA             100.0    78.7    58.4    37.1
 1  Washington       100.0    76.8    43.0    21.9   
 4  Arizona St.      100.0    67.1    37.1    18.8
 3  Cal              100.0    53.6    17.7     7.1
 6  USC              100.0    46.4    14.0     5.1 
 5  Arizona          100.0    32.9    12.8     4.4
 7  Washington St.    85.7    20.6     9.8     3.6
 9  Stanford          78.4    21.2     6.9     2.0
 8  Oregon St.        21.6     2.0     0.2     0.01
 10 Oregon            14.3     0.7     0.09    0.008

The probabilities suggest there's a big difference between the Pac-10's top three and bottom seven--a top three comprised of this tournament's one-, two-, and four-seeds. UCLA's chances are thus enhanced, ironically, by being the two-seed. In the semis the Bruins will likely play the actual fourth-best team, Cal, while Washington faces a tough game against Arizona State. Yes, we get to use words like "actual" in the Pac-10. Everyone plays everyone home and away.

SEC: This is What "No Clear Favorite" Looks Like

Seed                  Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ   
E1  Tennessee        100.0    67.8    38.5    22.2
W1  LSU              100.0    57.0    34.0    17.7
E2  South Carolina   100.0    64.5    30.0    13.9    
W2  Auburn           100.0    51.9    25.1    12.6
E3  Florida           80.4    43.7    22.9    12.5
E4  Kentucky          69.5    34.0    19.9    10.1
W3  Mississippi St.   82.5    33.3    12.4     4.6
E5  Vanderbilt        58.9    20.8     8.7     3.8
W4  Alabama           41.1    11.3     3.8     1.3
W5  Ole Miss          30.5     9.0     3.5     1.1
W6  Arkansas          19.6     4.4     1.0     0.2
E6  Georgia           17.5     2.2     0.2     0.03

Talk about balance. Fully half the conference has at least a one-in-ten chance of winning this thing.

I know everyone is down on Kentucky right now, but their chances of getting an automatic bid are actually better than that of a lot of teams that are virtually assured of at-large bids: teams like Villanova, Clemson and Texas, to name a few. Yes, a big part of that is the lack of a dominant team in the SEC. The Wildcats should seize on that absence as an opportunity.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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