10,000 Sims: Big East and Big Ten

While we concentrate on the mid-majors here at Big Apple Buckets, there are going to be some excellent conference races in the BCS conferences. Two of the best are in the Big East and the Big Ten. Even though Ken Pomeroy’s top two ranked  teams (Indiana and Louisville) play in those leagues, neither has better than a 49% chance of winning the league title outright.

The Big Ten contains four of the Top 10 and 10 of the Top 90 teams in the nation according to Pomeroy. Indiana is going to be challenged by a host of teams, including Ohio St., Michigan and Minnesota. What’s incredible about the league though is the depth. There are so many good teams in the Big Ten that one simulation ended in a six-way tie for first place. Nine teams won at least one outright league title. (Sorry Northwestern, Penn St. and Nebraska.)

23% of the league simulations ended in a tie for first place. With those seasons included, here’s the percentage of times a team finished in first place:

  1. Indiana – 68%
  2. Ohio State – 24%
  3. Michigan – 15%
  4. Minnesota – 13%
  5. Wisconsin – 6%
  6. Michigan St. – 3%
  7. Iowa – 0.3%
  8. Illinois – 0.07%
  9. Purdue – 0.01%

Yup, the Boilermakers, which are currently ranked 72nd overall in Pomeroy, won an outright league title by finishing 14-4 and having everyone else clustered right below them. I don’t expect that to happen this season, but when you run this many trials some wacky things happen. Indiana won the outright league title  49% of the time. The Hoosiers finished conference play 18-0 in just 1.6% of simulations. Ohio State, Michigan and Minnesota combined to do it another 12 times total. It’s not happening. Slightly more likely is a team going winless. Both Penn St. (1.1%) and Nebraska (5.4%) went 0-18 more than 1% of the time. But it’s tough to lose 18 games. Even a terrible Indiana team won one game in 2009.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Northwestern isn’t making the NCAA tournament this season. The Wildcats’ best seasons was a mediocre 12-6 record in conference play. They averaged 6 wins per season. Out to one decimal here was the average win total for each team during the 10,000 trials.

  1. Indiana – 14.6
  2. Ohio St. – 12.9
  3. Michigan – 12.3
  4. Minnesota – 12.1
  5. Wisconsin – 11.3
  6. Michigan St. – 10.2
  7. Iowa – 8.8
  8. Illinois – 8.2
  9. Purdue – 6.1
  10. Northwestern – 5.6
  11. Penn St. – 3.4
  12. Nebraska – 2.5

All of these numbers seem to pass the sniff test to me. The race for second is going to be awesome and the Big Ten should be one of the most exciting conferences in America.

The Big East is also going to have some great races in its final season in this configuration. The 15 teams that make up the league range from No. 2 overall (Louisville) to No. 129 (DePaul). Three teams are currently ranked in Pomeroy’s Top 8 (Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the Cardinals). The schedule is obviously a little unbalanced because of the large number of teams.

Like the Big Ten, the Big East finished in a tie a moderate 24% of the time. Here are the percentage of seasons won by Big East teams with ties included.

  1. Louisville – 66%
  2. Pittsburgh – 40%
  3. Syracuse – 19%
  4. Cincinnati – 2%
  5. Notre Dame – 0.5%
  6. Georgetown – 0.3%
  7. Connecticut – 0.06%
  8. Marquette – 0.05%
  9. Providence – 0.01%

There are some pretty clear tiers here. Louisville is almost as convincing a favorite as Tom Crean’s team. Rick Pitino’s squad won 45% of the simulations outright. The number that seems off to me is Pittsburgh’s share. The Panthers are 12-1, but their No. 6 Pomeroy rating seems like a house of cards built on the back of some blowout wins over overmatched mid-major opponents. It’s shocking to see Jamie Dixon’s team winning the league outright in 22% of simulations. There’s a small, but potential, chance that UConn would make things real fun for the Big East by winning the regular season title.

Louisville does have one thing on Indiana. The Cardinals went undefeated many more times during league play, with 5% of sims ending in that elusive 18-0 record. Pittsburgh and Syracuse combined to do it another 150 times total and were the only teams to accomplish the feat another than Louisville. On the other hand, there are many fewer winless seasons in the Big East, as DePaul has lots of opportunities against the bottom of the conference at home to make sure the Blue Demons get at least one victory. They went winless just 36 times.

DePaul’s best season was 11 wins, but they averaged 4 per season. Here are the average win totals for every Big East team:

  1. Louisville – 15.4
  2. Pittsburgh – 14.7
  3. Syracuse – 13.6
  4. Cincinnati – 11.4
  5. Notre Dame – 10.3
  6. Georgetown – 9.5
  7. Connecticut – 8.6
  8. Marquette – 8.4
  9. Providence – 7.4
  10. Rutgers – 6.8
  11. Seton Hall – 6.7
  12. St. John’s – 6.1
  13. South Florida – 5.9
  14. Villanova – 5.7
  15. DePaul – 4.4

I’m a little surprised by the Providence win total, especially considering the Friars just lost at Brown. With an average of 8.4 wins per season it looks like Marquette is going to be right on the bubble come Selection Sunday. (Team Bubble Watch indeed.) Marquette’s best season (16 wins) gets them in easy. Their worst (1 win) leaves them out, but the reality will almost assuredly be somewhere in between. The 15 win difference between the Golden Eagles’ best and worst seasons is tied for the most in the Big East with Seton Hall.

Both these conferences races should be a ton of fun. Let’s see it play out just once starting on Monday afternoon.

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