Looking at tournaments through BPI

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
1:14
PM ET

AP Photo/Gerry BroomeESPN's BPI likes Duke's chances of winning the ACC tournament, but they could face tough competition along the way.
Duke has the best chance of winning the ACC men’s basketball tournament, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, but the Blue Devils don’t have the greatest likelihood of making it to the ACC semifinals.

Oregon has the second-best BPI rating in the Pac-12, but four other teams have a greater probability of reaching the semifinals of that conference’s tournament.

In projecting the results of conference tournaments, a team’s BPI rating doesn’t tell the entire story.

To project the likelihood of each team reaching and winning in a particular round, BPI takes into account how challenging the tournament has been for a team to that point. That aspect of the BPI calculations leads to interesting projections that might seem counterintuitive in light of teams’ BPI ratings.

In the ACC, for example, BPI No. 7 Duke has the greatest projected likelihood of winning the tournament. But No. 10 Syracuse has a slightly greater likelihood of reaching the ACC tournament semifinals (82 percent) than the Blue Devils (81 percent) as well as regular-season champion and No. 8 Virginia (74 percent).

All three of these teams (as well as fourth-seeded North Carolina) receive byes to the quarterfinals. In that round, based on BPI projections, the Orange are most likely to play North Carolina State (71st in the BPI rankings), whereas Duke and Virginia are projected to have quarterfinal opponents ranking in the BPI Top 60.

There is not much difference in the projected championship chances for the top three teams. The Blue Devils have a 27 percent probability compared to Virginia’s 25 percent and Syracuse’s 23 percent.

Extra game has cost
In the Pac-12, only BPI No. 1 Arizona has a higher ranking than No. 16 Oregon. The Ducks finished in a five-way tie for third place in the standings and are seeded seventh in the tournament, which forces them to play a first-round game.

That extra matchup helps reduce Oregon’s chances of reaching the semifinals to 43 percent. BPI No. 21 UCLA has the greatest likelihood of reaching the semifinals in that quadrant of the bracket (53 percent) and is the second-most likely Pac-12 tournament champion, with a 10 percent chance, compared with Arizona’s 63 percent.

An important 'if' for Big 12
BPI No. 4 Kansas has a 49 percent probability of reaching the Big 12 tournament final and a 37 percent chance of winning the tournament, making the Jayhawks the favorites in Kansas City, Mo.

BPI No. 17 Iowa State, on the same side of the bracket as the Jayhawks, has a 28 percent chance of playing for the tournament title – compared with 42 percent for lower-ranked Oklahoma, which is in the other half of the bracket. Should Iowa State reach the final, however, the Cyclones would have a 56 percent chance of beating BPI No. 24 Oklahoma.

The projections for Kansas reflect the team’s performance through the entire season and don’t take into account Joel Embiid’s back injury (which will keep him out of the conference tournament). In the three games Embiid missed, Kansas’ BPI was 85.0, compared to its 88.4 rating for the season. If that’s representative of the Jayhawks’ true level of play without Embiid, it’s enough to drop their chances to win to 24 percent, behind Oklahoma (29 percent) and slightly ahead of Iowa State (21 percent).

Big Ten projections
The Big Ten tournament projections demonstrate how BPI looks beyond wins and losses to gauge the power of teams. Michigan won the regular-season conference championship by three games, but the Wolverines are the third favorite to win the conference tournament based on BPI projections.

Wisconsin, which ranks ninth in BPI and tied for second place in the Big Ten standings, has a 26 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament. BPI No. 14 Ohio State has a 19 percent likelihood of winning, fractionally better than No. 22 Michigan.

Not far behind is BPI No. 13 Michigan State, which has a 17 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament.

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