The Puerto Rico Tip-Off opens tomorrow and it’s one of the more competitive tournaments on the preseason docket. Say what you want about ESPN taking over the preseason-tournament business, but you seem to end up with compelling fields and you get every game on TV somewhere.
The field in Puerto Rico doesn’t have the ratings-grabbing names that the more prestigious tourneys do, but it pegs the needle in terms of lack of predictability. Plus, all 12 games are on the family of networks. Let’s take a look at what log5 says about the field.
The numbers below represent the chance in percent of a team advancing to the round in question.
Semis Final Champ Purdue 68.6 40.6 24.9 Temple 78.0 41.1 23.9 Alabama 63.8 40.0 20.3 Wichita St. 74.7 36.0 15.9 Maryland 36.2 17.9 6.7 Iona 31.4 12.9 5.5 W. Michigan 22.0 5.4 1.6 Colorado 25.3 6.1 1.3
Purdue produced one of those women’s-style scores in its season opening win over Northern Illinois (96-34!) that will forever overrate them in my system. (Kudos to Wisconsin and Marquette for doing the same.) The Boilermakers followed that up with a nailbiter against High Point, so take their chances with a grain of NaCl. Really, the entire forecast here is frought with much more uncertainty than for end-of-season tournaments. We are dealing with one man’s preseason ratings modified by a game or two – or none in Iona’s case – of questionable competition to set expectations here.
Based on that, it makes sense that no single team has more than 25% chance of winning three games. Also note that no single team has better than a 50/50 shot of making the finals. Temple or Alabama might truly be the favorite, but the bigger point is that there isn’t much separating the chances of the top four teams in the tournament.
(Nerd note: This is a good time to remind people just tuning in that the exponent I’m using to compute the pythagorean winning percentage has been reduced to 10.25 this season. This is the value would have best calibrated the “chance of winning” predictions last season. Thus, for now, all pythag values will be lower than in previous seasons. I hope to recalculate these values for past seasons soon. Note that this change does not affect the calculation of any other stats.)
While games played in empty arenas do not normally excite me, there are enough unknowns with this group of teams that I find myself feeling something bordering on giddy anticipation. With each of the top four teams, there was some healthy divergence from the preseason ratings and human opinion. And we’ll have 12 games where the opponents are reasonably comparable in ability. It’s rare to get that this time of year, tournament situation or not.