Posted by Neil Paine on March 28, 2011
Just how unlikely is this year's Final Four of Kentucky, UConn, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler?
Well, going by one measure, the odds of it happening were 0.00003% -- only two entries (out 5.9 million) correctly picked the four teams in ESPN.com's Bracket Challenge. But I decided to see how this year's improbable group matched up against other inexplicable Final Fours since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Here were the Final Fours with the highest average seed # since then:
|Year||Team A||Seed||Team B||Seed||Team C||Seed||Team D||Seed||Avg||#1s|
Aside from 2011, two other years stand out at the top of the list: 2000, when two 8-seeds crashed the Final Four, and 2006, when no #1 seeds made it (but George Mason did). In terms of pre-tournament likelihood, how do those years stack up to 2011?
To answer that question, I simulated each tournament from scratch ten thousand times using the seed-based win probability formula I introduced here. In my 10,000 simulations, here's how often each team made the Final Four:
Multiplying the probabilities together, we find that the 2006 Final Four had a 0.00213% chance of happening based on seeds, the 2000 Final Four had a 0.00092% chance of happening, and the 2011 Final Four had a staggering 0.00008% chance (about 1 in 1,229,650) of happening. Since the field expanded to 64 teams, I think it's safe to say that this year's Final Four is easily the most improbable.