The Ivy League likes to fancy its regular season as the “14-game tournament” because it doesn’t have an actual tournament and thus its 14-game regular season determines the conference champion. Technically, though, this is a misnomer. The Ivy League regular season is comprised of 56 games. The West Coast Conference has a tournament, but I’ve been wondering if you could call the regular season a six-game tournament in Ivy terms.
The WCC is composed of nine teams, but it spits in the face of the normal distribution by having three teams – Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, and BYU, which I’ll call the Top 3 – that are much stronger than the other six, a.k.a. The Bottom 6. Thus far the Top 3 have gone 13-0 against the Bottom 6. There are three games tonight and the Top 3 are heavy favorites in each. But will the WCC truly be decided solely by the six contests between the Top 3?
This is a question only the simulator can answer. At least right now. Simulating the remaining conference schedule using Wednesday’s ratings resulted in the following records for the Top 3 in games against the Bottom 6.
Record Occurrences 36-0 1229 35-1 2753 34-2 2919 33-3 1891 32-4 833 31-5 278 30-6 81 29-7 12 28-8 4
Despite the fact that the WCC takes top-heavy (perhaps “bottom-light” is more appropriate) to the extreme, the simulation reveals that there’s an 88% chance that at least one of the Top 3 loses a game they shouldn’t.
St. Mary’s is now the favorite to win the regular season, having won both of the games involving Top 3 teams to this point. The fact that both games were on the Gaels’ home floor devalues those wins somewhat, but not completely. The home team has about a 60-65% chance to win games against an evenly-skilled opponent and the Gaels’ have turned that uncertainty into 100% by virtue of their wins. They need only split road games against BYU and Gonzaga to win the six-game tournament and give them a great shot at the regular season title.
But despite the chasm that exists between the two sets of teams in the conference, the six-game tournament isn’t quite the end of the story. While most games against the Bottom 6 will be lopsided, chances are that at least one of the Top 3 will be the victim of a major upset before the end of the season.