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The SEC Tournament Deconstructed, and a Kudos to the Deserving

Statistics and analysis is something that this blog has always tried hard to do consistently and well, and we have a lot of readers who seem to enjoy them.  Kyvampyre, a friend who frequents the live blogs here at A Sea of Blue, e-mailed me a very interesting set of numbers today, and I promised I would create a blog post out of it.

So what we have here is essentially the statistical probability for each team to succeed in each round of the SEC tournament.   You will notice the teams with the "byes" have a 100% chance of getting through to the quarter finals.  Of course, that presumes that said teams actually show up at the tournament site in sufficient numbers to put a team on the court or doesn't disqualify itself for an as yet undisclosed NCAA violation, but barring that, there is no way to lose a game you don't have to play.

Moving right along, the first number you see below is the Pythagorean calculation for expected win percentage.  Now you may ask yourself, "How the heck did Pythagoras ever get involved in basketball?"  Well, for a Greek, old Pythagoras really got around.  You probably believed that James Naismith invented basketball, but actually, ol' Pythagoras was the first hoopster to pull off the 360 dunk.  Bet you didn't know that.

But of course, I am pulling your leg.  The reason this winning percentage is named after Pythagoras is because of it's resemblance to the Pythagorean Theorem.  It was designed for use in baseball, but Ken Pomeroy and others have applied it to basketball as well, and it seems to work fine.

The mathematical principle for applying this idea is discussed in more depth here, and you are free to peruse it at your leisure, but for now we will just look at Kyvampyre's results, sorted by percentage of winning the championship:

Team Pyth. Win % Quarters Semis Finals Champion
Tennessee 0.96 100.00% 89.33% 66.46% 49.93%
Mississippi St. 0.92 100.00% 63.58% 40.72% 16.16%
Arkansas 0.91 100.00% 61.17% 20.18% 10.94%
Kentucky 0.87 100.00% 56.47% 23.80% 6.95%
Vanderbilt 0.89 80.30% 35.61% 10.21% 4.97%
Florida 0.89 66.19% 27.44% 15.34% 4.96%
Ole Miss 0.87 70.52% 34.95% 14.58% 4.21%
Alabama 0.8 33.81% 8.98% 3.55% 0.73%
South Carolina 0.75 50.67% 5.47% 1.46% 0.40%
LSU 0.75 49.33% 5.20% 1.36% 0.37%
Georgia 0.74 29.48% 8.58% 2.01% 0.31%
Auburn 0.66 19.70% 3.22% 0.33% 0.06%

You will note that I have highlighted a couple of interesting disconnects in the earlier rounds compared with where the odds line up for the championship.  I won't discuss them in detail except to say that they relate directly to the teams they are expected to play in that round.  For example, if Florida gets past their quarterfinal game, they have a better chance of getting to the finals than Vanderbilt.  Just some interesting things to note.

As we can see, Kentucky is the fourth most likely to win the whole thing, but their percentage isn't too good at only 7%.  Tennessee is a prohibitive favorite all the way through, as you would expect.

Thanks to kyvampyre for the interesting work.

At this point, I would like to comment on the news that Billy Gillispie will share the SEC COY title with Bruce Pearl.  Many of you know that I have a certain animus toward Coach Pearl, and that is not going to change.  But what will also not change is that Bruce Pearl is a fine coach who deserves this recognition.  But nobody deserves it as much as Gillispie.

Billy Gillispie has doggedly stuck to his principles all year long, despite fan disgust and both national and some local media types laughing up their sleeve and pointing to the success of Tubby Smith turning Minnesota around.  All those chickens have now come home to roost, and Gillispie is the rooster crowing atop the hen-house.  I hope that is sweet for him, because we often see coaches abandon their principles and take action in response to either media, fan, or athletic department criticism.  I cannot say for sure, but it appears to me that Gillispie doggedly stuck to his guns and it paid off in a way that could not have worked out better for him.

But before we get too caught up in giving Gillispie a well-earned pat on the back, let's not forget how this team found a way to have a meeting of the minds with the coach, and change their fortunes virtually on a dime.  Even the loss of the team's most promising and arguably best player as well as one of our leading scorers from the pre-season has not changed this team's fortune, and that isn't just due to coaching.  This team, coach and players together have delivered as a team, and it took an effort by both the coach and the players to finally set aside their differences and agree to attempt the impossible.

At this point, I am not willing to concede that this team cannot go deep into the tournament no matter what their seed.  This bunch is among the most determined and relentless groups I can ever remember, including the Unforgettables.  Remember, the Unforgettables had a first-round NBA draft pick playing for them all season, and even though Patterson is arguably going to go there as well, he has been unavailable for the last two games and won't be back until next season.  This has been a team effort, and I wish there was a "team of the year" award for the group that simply refuses to give in to adversity and succeeds in spite of it.  It has been utterly inspirational.

Congratulations to Coaches Gillispie and Pearl, and to all the Wildcats who received honors.  What a year this has been, and there is more yet to come.

Update [2008-3-12 8:10:32 by Truzenzuzex]:  Missing link to discussion of the tournament results estimate has been added.  Please excuse the omission.