Nate Silver lists Florida as second-likeliest champ

By Adam Silverstein
March 25, 2013

New York Times political statistician Nate Silver, who nailed the 2012 presidential race and has earned well-deserved praise for his rigorous and specific statistical analyses, re-ran the probabilities for the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Monday and came away with some more good news for Florida Gators fans.

According to Silver’s model posted on his FiveThirtyEight blog, Florida has a 21.3 percent chance (+8.3 percent) to win the national title – second-best behind Louisville (32.4 percent). UF remains the only team ranked lower than a two-seed with a top-five probability to leave the event as champion. Indiana (10.9 percent), Ohio State (6.2 percent) and Duke (6.0 percent round out the top five.

Silver broke down the Gators’ chances to advance in each remaining round of the tournament. Florida has a 94.2 percent chance to defeat the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the Sweet 16 and move on to its third-straight Elite Eight, 58.2 percent chance to advance to the Final Four and 37.8 percent chance to play for the title.

He also updated his explanation as to why the Gators continue to be the statistical darling the team has been propped up as all season long.

Florida (up to 21.3 percent from 13.2 percent) The Gators are this year’s flash point in the debate between stat geeks and traditionalists. The traditionalists look at Florida’s 0-6 record in single-digit games and see it as an inability to close out in the clutch. “Statheads” like me attribute it to bad luck instead, and conclude that Florida is underrated as a result.

So far, the theories about how Florida might perform in close games haven’t been tested, since it won its first two games in dominant fashion. (The FiveThirtyEight model, of course, regards the blowout wins as yet more evidence that Florida is a very strong team.)

Florida will play Florida Gulf Coast in Arlington, Tex., on Friday. We’ll contemplate Florida Gulf Coast’s chances later on, but even if one takes an optimistic view toward the team, that counts as an awfully favorable matchup for Florida relative to the alternatives – and another reason that Florida has leapfrogged Indiana in our rankings.

While Silver did list Kentucky as having the best odds to win the 2012 NCAA Tournament (at 26.7 percent, more than 10 percent ahead of the next team), he does concede that there are too many factors, variables and anomalies (such as luck) to guarantee a correct forecast of the tournament every year.

For example, the 2011 field “looked similar to this year’s” with three teams standing out from the pack. However, statistical “long shot” Connecticut wound up capturing the title.

Check out Silver’s latest blog on the 2013 tournament, breakdown of every team in the field (including visuals), and methodology for making his NCAA picks.

One Comment

  1. collegeballdude says:

    also, ESPN on their bracketology show before the tourney started had UF winning it all! their brackets were completed totally on computer crunching of statistics.

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