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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Handicapping the ACC Tournament

Posted by on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 9:56 AM

With the ACC Tournament coming up, it seems appropriate to take a look at each team's statistical odds of taking home the tournament title. To do so, it is best to use each team's Pythagorean win percentage which is determined roughly by the difference between their points scored and points allowed. Ken Pomeroy keeps these numbers, along with much other useful information, on his site. Along with simply tabulating the information, Pomeroy makes adjustments based on schedule strength and his work has proven highly predictive.

The following table shows the chances each team has at reaching each stage of the tournament. As is evident from the odds below, a team's seed line isn't always proportionate to their odds of winning. Similarly, having the No. 1 seed doesn't always mean having the easiest path to the championship.

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The table seems to pass a quick eye test.

Nine out of 10 ACC fans would agree that Duke is a better team than Wake Forest and thus should have greater odds to take home the championship. The table also reveals that Duke has the easiest path to the semifinals, a 87 percent chance to reach them compared to UNC's 84 percent chance.

The team with arguably the toughest draw is Virginia Tech who has a measly three percent chance of reaching the semifinals. The Hokies would have to overcome two of the conference's stronger teams, Miami and UNC, simply to reach the semifinals. This is an especially tall order for the Hokies when taking into consideration the fact that they'll likely have to win both to be breathing comfortably by Selection Sunday.

The table also belies the true top-heavy nature of the conference. Duke and UNC each have greater odds of winning the title than the other 10 teams combined. The fact that there is great parity within the rest of the field prevents any other team from having high odds in this simulation. In truth, this is just a simulation it is March and that means anything can happen.

The simulation above uses formulas developed by Bill James, the father of sabermetrics. These formulas were developed for baseball and have since been developed for a variety of sports. A concise rundown of the "log5" formulas I used to determine a team's odds of winning a game can be found here, and as always if you have any questions or are curious about my methods feel free to email me.

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