With conference tournament season wrapping up today, let’s look back at the five least-likely events over the past two weeks. This is based on the log5 analyses produced for each tournament so I’m not looking at any in-game scenarios. (So you won’t see Albany, whose championship game comeback overcame a 3.4% chance of winning.)
5. Middle Tennessee reaching Conference USA title game (5.0%)
The sixth-seeded Blue Raiders needed some last-minute heroics to knock off Charlotte in their opening game, getting a dunk from Reggie Upshaw with 30 seconds left to break a 60-60 tie. Then they had to get by C-USA heavies Old Dominion and UTEP, the third- and second-seeds, respectively, to reach the title game, where they were ousted decisively by UAB.
4. Wyoming winning Mountain West title (4.2%)
The Mountain West was ripe for an unexpected team to win the tournament given that the favorite had only about a one-in-three shot. Figuring out which team that would be was the challenge. As it turned out, it was the fourth-seeded Cowboys, who won a pair of two-point decisions and an overtime game to do it. In the semifinal game they got a banked in three late in overtime to seal it, setting up a title-game victory over San Diego State where they won despite making just five field goals in the second half.
3. Hampton winning MEAC title (2.4%)
Hampton went 8-8 in the MEAC and was seeded sixth but won four games in four days to take the crown of least-likely tournament winner this year. Two of the three conference unbeatens lost in their tournament, and that includes North Carolina Central who fell in the MEAC semifinals. (It’s interesting that the biggest favorite to not win a title was St. Francis Brooklyn from the NEC at 51% and not Murray State or Central.) Delaware State did the dirty work for the Pirates, and that allowed Hampton to face a much easier opponent in the title game after their upset of second-seeded Norfolk State in the semis. Hampton won the title game by 21.
2. Furman reaching SoCon title game (2.0%)
Furman was the tenth-seed in its conference tourney – and in the SoCon there are only ten teams – finishing the regular season 6-21 against D-I competition. The Paladins first game was actually a coin flip against The Citadel, but after that they needed to pull significant upsets over second-seeded Chattanooga and third-seeded Mercer. In both games, they faced a double-digit deficit at some point. The title game featured a rare battle between the top and bottom seeds and it was actually a compelling game. Neither team led by more than six and Furman actually held a two-point lead with five minutes left. But they couldn’t hang on with Wofford pulling out a 67-64 win.
1. Auburn reaching SEC semifinals (1.9%)
It’s hard to believe but the biggest Cinderella story didn’t even get to its conference’s title game. Bruce Pearl mentioned how the Tigers’ program made history with its SEC tourney run. I’m not sure the history books in Alabama will pay much attention to a three-game winning streak, but it was a nice way to end the season. Auburn beat Mississippi State, who they lost to by seven earlier in the season, Texas A&M, who they lost to by 25 two weeks ago, and LSU, who they lost to by 23 in late February.