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Men’s ACC Tournament simulation: Syracuse has 4:1 odds to win two games

Duke and Virginia are the favorites to win the tournament, but everyone’s worried about Syracuse’s potential progression.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Duke Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to New York! Now get the hell out of my way on the sidewalk and walk like you’re nonchalantly fleeing a bank robbery.

The ACC concludes its two-year foray in Brooklyn this week, and the stakes for Syracuse — as has become tradition — are high: Win a game or two and NCAA Tournament inclusion comes into focus; bomb out of the bracket before the work week hits its midpoint and things become tense. This is going to be fun, in a bonkers kind of way.

In an attempt to understand how the men’s ACC Tournament bracket will unfold and assess Syracuse’s expectations, I ran a simulation of the tournament 20,000 times using ratings information from Jeff Sagarin, Sonny Moore, and Ken Pomeroy. No home court advantage was applied. The simulation only used these ratings as the basis for the simulation; no other considerations were made.

Here are the results of those simulations:

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

  • The odds presented are odds against — these are akin to Vegas odds. The odds against are derived from the championship probabilities illustrated.
  • Read this as “Progress to . . . .” So, in the “Second Round” column, this should be understood as Notre Dame having a 92.66% chance of progressing to the second round, and 45.95% chance of progressing to the quarterfinals, and so on.

As far as Syracuse is concerned:

  • Only four teams — Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Boston College — have worse odds than Syracuse to snip the twine on championship Saturday, and a lot of that has to do with the Orange starting on Tuesday and needing to win five games in order to secure an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament field. In the context of the bracket proper, though, Syracuse’s title odds are not materially worse than that of Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, or North Carolina State, teams with the luxury of opening on Wednesday and experiencing a shorter path to the title. There isn’t a huge difference between the 11th most likely champion and the 8th-best odds. The ACC is a machine.
  • The focus: Can Syracuse win two games in Brooklyn and position itself well for Selection Sunday? The odds aren’t atrocious: 4:1, and that 18% probability includes facing the third-strongest team in the conference (and one of the best teams in the nation). Drawing the Wolfpack in the quarterfinals would have increased Syracuse’s odds of progressing in the bracket, but may not have substantially influenced the Orange’s overall NCAA Tournament profile. Getting to the quarterfinals does not guarantee anything relative to NCAA Tournament inclusion — the rest of the country will continue to alter the landscape — but it will provide additional heat to Syracuse’s resume. Anything past the quarterfinals would be pretty outlandish, but the Orange aren’t a dead stick with respect to making a two-game push at the Barclays Center.
  • Expect Syracuse to be installed at somewhere around a five-point favorite against Wake Forest with about a 66% win probability against the Deacons. No ratings systems considered has Wake Forest as a stronger team than the Orange, even with Syracuse’s multitude of warts. This is the year that the Orange finally win a damn ACC Tournament game.

Some general thoughts on the bracket:

  • The most likely team to overprogress its seed is North Carolina. The Heels are the third-best team in the league and got spun into a six-seed due to an awful confluence of tiebreakers. Carolina’s title odds are somewhat muted because they will start their assault on Brooklyn a day before the top four seeds, but the Heels still have the capacity to overcome their hurdles (and are expected to do so without too much shade).
  • The team most likely to underprogress its seed is North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are overseeded compared to their relative strength, and all probabilities for NC State following the quarterfinals — the Pack would only be a four- to six-point favorite against Boston College or Georgia Tech in the quarters, small spreads based purely on seed differential — immediately drop to or below 25% and the team’s banner odds are only ninth-best overall. This could cause agita for Wolpack fans, which is some of the best kind of internet spleen.
  • There’s greater than an 80% chance that the winner of the tournament comes from the trio of Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina. The Devils and Cavaliers are neck-and-neck in odds, with the Heels trailing behind. Teams starting on Thursday have a 83% chance of winning the whole deal while there’s a 98% probability that the winner will not start before Wednesday. Ladder brackets are a real pain if you’re not one of the chosen.
  • Running the simulation 20,000 times, Pittsburgh never finished as the champion, Wake Forest won twice, and Georgia Tech cut down the nets four times. The Panthers are brutally terrible this season, and getting the ziggy off their conference record looks virtually impossible.