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Stats Corner: Probability Rankings of Winning Conference

Looking at the probability of the last month of B-Ball

NCAA Basketball: San Jose State at Utah State Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West is having a great basketball season, definitely the best of the non-Power 5 conferences and comparable to the PAC 12. They should have more NCAA invites than both the PAC 12 and the mighty ACC. There are six schools who have a legitimate claim to an at-large bid for the tournament, with UNLV being a dark house to win the conference tournament and steal an automatic bid. This week on Stats Corner, we are going to rank the probability of the top six teams who are in the running for at large bids and a conference title based on the probability of winning each game. Most teams have 10 games left, New Mexico has 9 and Nevada has 11 as the exceptions. Note, there is a huge home court advance in the Mountain West as shown by Utah State only having a 31.5% chance of winning at San Diego State but a 65.2% at home. Or Nevada being huge favorites when playing UNLV at 70.2%, but the probability drops to 31.9% when they travel so Vegas.

#1 Utah State: 76.1% of winning the conference. Predicted record 28-3 overall, 16-2 in conference.

at San Diego State 31.5%

Nevada 75.1%

Boise State 70.6%

at Wyoming 90.5%

at Colorado State 46.2%

San Diego State 65.2%

at Fresno State 84.0%

Air Force 97.7%

at San Jose State 78.4%

New Mexico 67.5%

By far the biggest surprise of the conference and arguably the nation is Utah State. Note to self, in the future when you have a time-machine, come back and bet $1000 for Utah State to win (not points or cover) each game during their 15-game win streak and roll the $1000 plus winnings into the next game. The 15-game streak will turn $1000 into just over $300,000. I guess since it did not happen, I never have a time machine in the future. The Aggies are underdogs in just 2 games, both road games, against San Diego State and Colorado State. They have moderate to heavy favorites in all other games, including the important tie breaker games of Boise State and New Mexico, both at home. Currently, the conference is theirs to lose. Word of warning, I said that about Air Force football with 4 weeks to go, and they proceeded to lose 4 in a row, so in college sports, anything can happen.

#2 Boise State: 25.2% chance of winning the conference. Predicted record 21-10 overall, 12-6 in conference

Air Force 97.0%

at Colorado State 38.0%

at Utah State 29.4%

Fresno State 94.2%

San Jose State 91.2%

at Wyoming 87.0%

at Air Force 88.1%

New Mexico 62.1%

Nevada 69.0%

at San Diego State 19.4%

The loss to Utah State hurts as they are down in the tie-breaker and underdogs in the rematch in Logan, but the Broncos are still in good shape. They already have wins against Colorado State, Nevada, San Diego State, and New Mexico, with the Wolfpack and Lobos wins being on the road. They still have Air Force twice, and Fresno State and San Jose State at home. The biggest game on the schedule is the rematch in Logan, if they loss that one they are down the tie breaker and 2 games behind the Aggies.

#3 San Diego State: 14.1% chance of winning the conference. Predicted record 25-6 overall, 14-4 in conference.

Utah State 68.5%

at Air Force 91.6%

at Nevada 45.7%

Colorado State 78.3%

New Mexico 66.3%

at Utah State 34.8%

at Fresno State 85.3%

San Jose State 93.6%

at UNLV 44.1%

Boise State 80.6%

Outside of the Aggies, the Aztecs have the most control over their own destiny in the conference. They do have losses to New Mexico, Boise State, and Colorado State, but they were all road loss and the rematches are all in San Diego. They also still have both games against the Aggies, home team is favored in both, plus favored road games against Fresno State and San Jose State. Outside of the trip to Logan, the two biggest tests will be at Nevada and at UNLV, tight but winnable games. The schedule for the Aztecs is the most favorable to a late push and challenge for the title.

#4 New Mexico: 11.9% chance of winning the conference. Predicted record 25-6 overall, 13-5 in conference.

at Wyoming 90.8%

UNLV 80.3%

at Nevada 43.8%

at San Diego State 33.7%

Colorado State 76.7%

Air Force 97.9%

at Boise State 37.9%

Fresno State 95.7%

at Utah State 32.5%

The only conference team to beat the Aggies, check, fewest games left, check, so why are the Lobos ranked so low? Three losses. They have the same number of wins as the Broncos, but the extra game is a loss, and the same number of losses as the Aztecs and Cowboys but those teams have a chance to catch them in the win’s columns, likely for Aztecs extremely unlikely for Cowboys. Their losses to UNLV and Colorado State were on the road and both still need to attend the Pit. They also need to travel to San Diego State, Boise State, and Utah State, where they are underdogs in all three games.

#5 Colorado State: 0.7% chance of winning the conference. Predicted record 23-8 overall, 11-7 in conference.

at Fresno State 75.5%

Boise State 62.0%

San Jose State 90.7%

at San Diego State 23.3%

Utah State 53.8%

at New Mexico 21.7%

at UNLV 70.9%

Nevada 67.0%

Wyoming 95.4%

at Air Force 88.6%

The feel-good start of the season, seems so long ago. The Rams have gone from favorites to less than 1% chance. The losses to Nevada, Boise State, and Utah State are not bad, by the loss to Wyoming is painful. The Rams remaining season is split in thirds, the first and last thirds are manageable and winnable. The middle third will decide the season, at San Diego State, hosting Utah State, and at New Mexico. Those three games will decide how the Rams spend the post-season.

#6 Nevada: 0.4% chance of winning the conference. Predicted record 21-11 overall, 8-10 in conference.

San Jose State 89.1%

at Utah State 24.9%

San Diego State 54.3%

New Mexico 56.2%

at UNLV 31.9%

Wyoming 95.7%

at San Jose State 71.6%

at Colorado State 33.0%

Fresno State 92.2%

at Boise State 31.0%

UNLV 70.2%

It was a toss-up between Nevada and UNLV as to who would get the final spot on this list, especially since they have not played each other yet. Two factors tipped the decision to the Wolfpack. First, they have 11 games left giving them a chance to make up ground. Second, while the schedule is very favorable to the Rebels, Fresno State, San Jose State, Air Force (although they did lose the first game), and Wyoming twice, they do not play Utah State or Boise State limiting their options to make up ground. Therefore, the final spot, with a very small chance, goes to Nevada. Like Colorado State, they have a gauntlet to make it through if they want to win the conference: at Utah State, San Diego State, New Mexico, then at UNLV with two games as toss-ups and two games as underdogs. If the Wolfpack wants to move up in the conference that is gauntlet they have to win all of.