by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, December 23, 2013
If you ever want to feel invincible, I recommend checking out the life actuarial tables provided by the Social Security Administration. You can look up your age and figure out how many more years the average person at that age figures to live. According to the tables, at age 40 I can be expected to live 38 more years. That puts me at 78, at which point I would be expected to last nine more years. At 87, I’d have five more years left. You can see where this is going. I can repeat this exercise forever, or at least until the chart ends at age 119. That’s at least 80 more years of complaining about rebound margin and field goal percentage. (No male has been verified to make it past 116, so take the data at 119 with a grain of salt.)
There are nine unbeatens remaining, but the only one with a realistic chance of making it to the end of the regular season without a loss is Wichita State. Even then, the real feat of ending the season perfect would include the conference and NCAA tournament, and in that case the chance of the Shockers running the table is almost zero.
But that’s no fun. I choose to look at Wichita State’s future through the lens of invincibility, and you should, too. That is what I have done through the following chart:
From this you can determine how many games Wichita State would be expected to win before losing, given how many games they’ve already won. Right now, the Shockers are 12-0, so starting at 12 on the horizontal axis and rising vertically to the blue line, one finds that they’d be expected to win 19.3 games before their first loss. In other words, using the current ratings, there’s roughly a 50/50 chance the Shockers will do 20-0 or better before their first defeat. If they make it to 20-0, they would be expected to win 25.1 games before losing. Keep repeating and before you know it, Wichita State is 40-0.
This is an egregious misuse of probabilities—although all values in the chart are correct based on my ratings—but if Murray State’s situation two years ago serves as an example, then there will be worse analysis as Wichita State’s situation gains more attention. And why isn’t it already? It seems like the Racers were getting much more press exactly 24 months ago in similar circumstances.
The other line on the graph is the expected number of additional games won at any given point. Right now, that number is at 7.3. It will never be higher. Unlike the actuarial tables, in which your additional expected years continually decrease with age, Wichita State has the potential to tap into a fountain of youth in mid-February. That’s because the consecutive road games against Indiana State and Northern Iowa (potential wins 24 and 25) are seen as significant roadblocks to their undefeated health. If Wichita State survives that, they’d be expected to get to their conference tournament with a zero in the loss column.
The number of additional wins drops off quickly after that, partly because the much more difficult competition of the MVC title game and NCAA tournament looms, and partly because Wichita State can’t possibly survive past game 40. (BTW, I’ve estimated chances of winning each tournament game.)
Good luck to the nine remaining unbeatens. Eventually, another team will make it through an entire season without a loss. But unless I’m truly invincible, it probably won’t happen in my lifetime.