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The ACC Tournament: The Computing Machine Thinks . . .

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Firing up the prediction machine to determine what scenarios and outcomes are most likely.

Winslow Townson

There is a little bit of drama surrounding the construct of the ACC Tournament this year. For the first time ever, the league will send a member to the NCAA Tournament on an automatic invitation basis, the winner of the conference tournament assured of a spot in the field of 18. The teams vying for that free ticket to a May adventure, though, is somewhat unclear.

As Patrick Stevens at syracuse.com details, there are eight tournament scenarios that the ACC is currently facing. The likelihood of some of those scenarios coming to fruition, however, is somewhat thin and this coming weekend will define much of the league's tournament composition.

Based on data through Tuesday's games, this is how the computing machine predicts the outcomes of the ACC's three remaining league dates -- Duke-Virginia and North Carolina-Syracuse go off this coming weekend; Maryland-Notre Dame is set for April 19th -- in a log5 environment:

log5 PROBABILITIES: FINAL ACC REGULAR SEASON GAMES
GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG
North Carolina at Syracuse North Carolina (74.18%) Syracuse (25.82%) Duke at Virginia Duke (62.30%) Virginia (37.70%)
Maryland at Notre Dame Maryland (62.29%) Notre Dame (37.71%)

The computing machine doesn't love the definite possibility for pure toss-up games (two of these probabilities are on the fringe of "Yup, even!"; the other bends heavily toward the Tar Heels), but there are opportunities for non-negligible upsets. The favorites are the favorites, and you can make a pretty decent argument that what the computing machine is seeing is consistent with how eyeballs and intangible lacrosse knowledge is anticipating the outcome of these games. There are some defining aspects to these matchups that are driving the probabilities:

  • Virginia is balanced at both ends of the field, but isn't as exceptionally balanced as Duke. The Blue Devils are simply a stronger offensive and defensive team relative to the 'Hoos, even though the Cavaliers are pretty solid in the overall. Some very quick math shows Duke as a four-goal favorite in somewhere around a 13-9 game. (Although, given the way the Devils have been playing lately, that could be a conservative prediction.)
  • The computing machine is also installing the Tar Heels as a three-goal favorite against the Orange, a game predicted to also finish around 13-10 on the scoreboard. Possession difference may not impact this game as much as one may think: The real difference between the two teams is that the Tar Heels are yielding about six fewer goals per 100 defensive opportunities -- on an adjusted basis -- than the Orange. That could mean a four-goal difference on the scoreboard if the game is played at or around 67 possessions.
  • Some dirty math sees Maryland and Notre Dame shaking out with a 12-8 win for the Terrapins. That may seem like a big gap but: (1) The Terrapins could dominate possession margin to a degree that severely limits the Irish, and (2) The pace of the game is likely to be in Maryland's favor. The Terps are stronger than Notre Dame at both ends of the field, and that shows in the game's overall prediction.

Using this projected construct of the ACC Tournament -- Maryland as the one-seed, Duke as the two-seed, North Carolina as the three-seed, and Notre Dame as the four-seed -- the computing machine gives these odds for each team to win the whole shebang at PPL Park (again, the data is through Tuesday's games):

log5 PROBABILITIES: PROBABILITY OF WINNING THE ACC TOURNAMENT
RANK TEAM PROBABILITY
1. North Carolina 41.38%
2. Maryland 27.31%
3. Duke 19.13%
4. Notre Dame 12.18%

We can beat this up after the field for the ACC Tournament is complete.