Thursday, January 23, 2014

acc season sim 2014

I can't believe I forgot that I did this last year, but for a short time there, I did.  Better late than never though.  This is a simulation spreadsheet of my own creation, which projects the ACC season and returns each team's likelihood of landing in a particular seed in the ACC tourney.  It's not perfect, of course, as you'll see when I run down the rules, but it's fun.  The aforementioned rules:

-- It uses KenPom's projections of how likely a team is to win a particular game.  For example, UVA has a 96% chance of winning the VT game on Saturday and a 25% chance of winning at Pitt next weekend.

-- It simulates 1,000 times.  I did 10,000 last year, but I'm sacrificing some precision to preserve some personal sanity.  (It uses Excel's random number generator, which refreshes every time you make any kind of change.  That meant that every time I wanted to update any damn thing at all, I would have to wait for it to complete literally over two million new calculations.)

-- Tiebreakers are given to the team with the higher KenPom rating, not the team that won the game between the two.  Excel has its limitations.

I won't bore you with the rest of the mechanics.  Here is the simulation as it looked on Sunday, which we'll call the outset.

And here it is after the ensuing week of play.

Probably the weirdest thing is that Pittsburgh moved to the first seed even with a loss to Syracuse.  (Not after the loss to Syracuse per se - the outset sim reflects that loss.)  Pitt, however, demolished Clemson on the road, which KenPom rewarded by moving the Panthers ahead of the Cuse in his ratings, and thus Pitt, for now, has the tiebreaker.  Also, Syracuse has a pretty rough schedule.  They're staring down future road games against all the other top four teams, all of which KenPom gives them less than a 50% chance to win.  Pitt has to play all the other top four teams too - all at home, where KenPom gives them a win probability ranging from 68% to 80%.

Some quick data from the most recent sim:

-- UVA's chance of a top-4 seed (and a double bye): 86.5%
-- UVA's chance of a top-8 seed (and a single bye): 100%
-- Currently would play the winner of the UNC (7)-Wake (10)-VT (15) seed group

I plan to update this every Thursday.  The ACC week basically runs from Saturday to Wednesday thanks to ESPN's Monday games - not ideal, in my mind, but not worth a rant either.


Here is the second week of sims:

You'll see that UVA and Syracuse remain stubbornly in the 2nd and 3rd spots, respectively.  Cuse still faces that tough schedule, and math has decided they're bound to lose sooner or later.  What may surprise is Duke in the top spot, now, flipped with Pitt which has plunged to fourth.  Duke's current chances at the top seed, nearly 43%, are mildly surprising.

Duke has a nice cushy schedule left, though.  After their trip to Syracuse tomorrow, they're favored to win every game, and now that they've whipped Pitt on the road, they have nothing left away from Cameron but relative cupcakes.  This is more or less why UVA remains in such a lofty position as well.  The bottom five teams in the ACC - that is, all of them with two or fewer wins - all remain on UVA's schedule.

The obvious top four of Duke, Pitt, UVA, and Cuse, in some order, is becoming better and better established, while Clemson and FSU are staking out strong claims for at least a single bye.  And then you look at the bottom of the list, where the single highest number on the whole matrix appears.  Virginia Tech is practically guaranteed, it would seem, a basement finish.  They hurt their cause badly this week with their second loss of the season to Boston College, so the ersatz tiebreaker I use now in fact represents reality in this case (as it will in maybe 2/3 of the cases by the end of the year.) 

Data from last week, updated:

-- UVA's chance of a top-4 seed (and a double bye): 96.99%
-- UVA's chance of a top-9 seed (and a single bye): 100%
-- Currently would play the winner of the UNC (7)-Miami (10)-VT (15) seed group

I need to correct some errors from this section last week: it said BC but should've said VT (and does now); I reflexively used the second-to-last team as the 15th forgetting that, duh, there are 15 teams in this league.  That also means the 9th seed technically has a single bye.  Not that this last one changed the numbers any, but yeah, if this were a 16-team tournament, like it was in the Big East, the 9 seed would have to get past DePaul the 16th seed before playing the 8th.

Final point: thanks to the Excel tip received last week, I'm back to 10,000 sims.  I definitely prefer that level of precision, and making my processor run literally millions of calcuations only once now is highly preferable as well.


Presented without commentary for now because it's late.  I'll deal with the verbiage tomorrow.


So.  UVA takes a surprisingly commanding lead.  This is not a complete shock given the mostly cushy schedule.  It's still surprising.  Reflected there is the fact that UVA is KenPom-favored in all its remaining games while Cuse is the KenPom underdog in two - its road games at UVA and Duke.

Duke's inability to make up any ground on UVA hurts them, too.  They should not have made that left turn at South Bend earlier this year.  Duke is threatening to smash the previous KenPom record for offensive efficiency - how that team lost to a lousy defensive squad in Notre Dame is beyond me.  But it's a big fat anchor for their regular season title hopes.

The top four is sorting itself out into a top three plus one, which is exactly as expected following the UVA-Pitt game.  Winning that helped keep us out of where Pitt is now.  You've then got UNC and Clemson battling for 5th, which is to say, play Pitt in the tourney and not Duke, Cuse, or UVA, so that's important.  NC State and FSU fighting for 7th, Maryland and Miami for 9th (very important, as 9th is the last single bye), and GT and ND duking it out for 12th (totally pointless.)

And as usual, the biggest lock of the whole thing is VT bringing up the rear.  If they could finish 16th out of 15, they would.  All together now: awwwwwww.

The Hoos have already clinched the single bye.  They can finish no lower than 8th even by taking a big fart the rest of the season.  Better yet, by the time we speak next week, they might just have clinched the double bye; they can do this simply by winning their next two and seeing UNC lose to Duke.  It can also happen if they win only one, but the scenarios are too convoluted for me to bother looking for all of them.

At any rate, the sim offers a 99.99% chance of getting the double bye.  I can live with those odds.  The only simulated season out of 10,000 in which they didn't, they lost all the rest of their games.  If UVA got the first seed, currently and in the sim they would play the winner of FSU-Maryland, the 8/9 game.


It's not terribly surprising to see UVA on top of the sim this week.  Not at all.  We already know all about Syracuse's difficult upcoming schedule, and they didn't help their cause, obviously, by losing this week.  What's surprising is the number; KenPom is basically offering a near-lock guarantee that UVA ends up with the #1 seed.

For giggles, I switched the tiebreaker - remember, I use KenPom's rank as a tiebreaker, and Cuse has fallen to 3rd in the ACC behind Duke and UVA - and gave Cuse the higher rank, and when you do that, UVA moves to about an 88-89% chance of the top seed.  So we're still looking at pretty nice odds.

One thing this can't do, because KenPom is slow to react, is account for teams on hot streaks, like, say, UNC.  Thus, UNC is stuck with astoundingly solid odds of just missing the double-bye.  Pitt does have an easier remaining schedule than the Heels - mainly due to not having to play Duke anymore - but the way the two teams are trending it's hard to buy that UNC is the one headed for the 5th seed.

Anyway, UVA.  Given that we need win just one more game to clinch no worse than the 3 seed, and the magic number with respect to Duke and the 2 seed is 2, it's no surprise that anything lower than 2 is just statistical noise.  But with catching Syracuse at home, Syracuse's difficult schedule, and the very short path left to go to remove Duke from the picture, our rooting focus should be whatever it takes to win the outright, no-tiebreakers-necessary regular season title.  The ACC doesn't count that as a championship, but we can put it on a banner anyway.


Got two sims this week.  I decided to run one with a UVA loss and one with a UVA win, in the Syracuse game.

The top one, obviously, is the win.  If UVA wins, that's it.  Everyone else is fighting for #2.  No tiebreaker necessary, either.  But you knew that.  What's interesting is that the probabilities say if Syracuse loses, they likely go crashing out of 2nd and into 3rd.  KenPom calls it just about a tossup that they'll win at Florida State, while Duke's one remaining road game is at Wake and then they finish at home against UNC.  8th and 9th, which is what we're interested in with this scenario, are a fight between NC State and Maryland, although that fight is about nothing more than who gets to wear their white uniform for the game.  Wake Forest could creep into that spot, but not so likely that you'd want to bet on it.

Second one down is in case of loss.  Boo.  But thanks to that trip to Tallahassee for the Cuse, and really, one extra opportunity to trip up as well since they have two to play after this Saturday, UVA would still be a heavy favorite for the number 1 seed.


Anonymous said...

I feel like you should share this sort of stuff with the world, dude. Tweet out the link with the stats...UVA has a 100% chance of being an 8 seed or higher with a one-week by according to your Kenpom simulation...AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

I forgot you did this last year too, but am really happy you remembered! This is fantastic. Thank you.

My one question is how can a team like Duke have a 0.1% chance of finishing 10th but no chance of finishing 9th? I'm probably just not thinking about something relatively obvious, but was wondering if you could offer a quick explanation.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

This was really neat last year, I'm glad you've brought it back. Like with Pitt and Syracuse this week, it's cool to see how recent outcomes affect the forecast. You'd think this is something KenPom would do himself, but who needs him, we've got you.

(Btw, you probably know this, but just in case: in Options, you can set Calculation to Manual. Then it'll only recalculate when you hit F9.)

Anonymous said...

Anon, Re Duke and 9th/10th, it's probably just statistical noise. He ran the sim 1,000 times, so that means exactly 1 time Duke was 10th and 0 times Duke was 9th. Very much within margin of error.

It's also theoretically possible that a team could have a chance of finishing 8th or 10th but no chance of finishing 9th. It's a very common scenario late in the season.

Brendan said...

I actually had no idea about the manual calculations thing. You learn something new every day. I might just go back to 10,000 sims.

Anonymous said...

Pitt beat Clemson at home, not on the road.