Nate Silver lists Florida as second-likeliest champ

Statistician Nate Silver, who nailed the 2012 presidential race and has earned well-deserved praise for his rigorous statistical analyses, ran the probabilities for the 2014 NCAA Tournament on Monday and came away with some good news for Florida Gators fans hoping to see their team win its third national championship.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com model projects that Florida has a 14.5 percent chance to win the national title – second-best behind Louisville (14.9 percent) and better than Arizona (13.4 percent). Only three other teams – Kansas (6.2 percent), Virginia (6.0 percent) and Michigan State (5.9 percent) – have better than a five percent chance at winning the championship. The Cardinals and Spartans are both four-seeds.

Silver broke down the Gators’ chances to advance in each individual round of the tournament. Florida has a 98.8 percent chance to move on to the round of 32, 83.9 percent chance to advance to the Sweet 16, 62.4 percent chance to move on to its fourth-straight Elite Eight, 41.1 percent chance to reach the Final Four and 26.1 percent chance to play for the national title.

The Jayhawks are approximately 20 percent less likely than the Gators to reach the Elite Eight or Final Four, making Florida the easy favorite in the South Region.

Silver explains why (after the break):

No surprises here: Florida is the favorite. The Gators, the No. 1 overall seed, benefit in part from the injury to Kansas’ Joel Embiid. (Although Embiid is more a great prospect than a dominant college player: If he were guaranteed to be healthy, Kansas’ probability of reaching the Final Four would rise only to 24.3%, while Florida’s would fall to 39.9%).

Nevertheless, the SEC isn’t the basketball power that it is in football. It wouldn’t be overstating the case to say that the SEC is halfway to being a mid-major: According to Jeff Sagarin’s conference ratings, the difference between the SEC and the Big 12 (the top-rated basketball conference this year) was larger than that between the SEC and the West Coast, Atlantic 10 or Mountain West conferences. Florida could be challenged not only by Kansas, but by whichever of No. 3 Syracuse and No. 6 Ohio State advances to the regional semifinals.

Check out the methodology Silver uses to make his NCAA predictions.

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