Boston College Basketball Math Session: ACC Tournament Odds


It’s March, and Boston College beating a mediocre Wake Forest team can only mean one thing: someone out there has hope for a run in Greensboro during the 2014 ACC tournament.

My job is not, per se, to snuff those hopes and dreams out like your ex who just didn’t feel the love anymore, but reality checks are what I do.

First, let’s start with the straight probability that Boston College wins the ACC Tournament: they would have to play and win five games. That’s the same outcome five times over with only two possible outcomes, which might look like:

(1/2) x (1/2) x (1/2) x (1/2) x (1/2)



The answer to which is 1/32. Any team that begins the tournament on Wednesday will have the same probability, while the teams who get byes into Thursday have 1/16 straight odds and the double-byes like Virginia begin with just a 1/8 chance as they must only win three games in a row.

Now, with that said, there are some wrinkles to be added like, say, how good the teams actually are. Straight probabilities are nice and all that, but they carry with themselves the connotation that, like the flip of a coin, the parties involved are equal. Boston College is not Duke, nor is Virginia anything like its commonwealth foe, Virginia Tech.

Time is a factor here — as in, we ain’t got all day — so let’s check on the work of another website, Team Rankings. They use what they call “sophisticated power rankings” and we’ll take their word for it. They have calculated percentage odds for each team to advance to each round, based not only upon how good a team is but upon the path each team faces. For example, Team A might be the number one overall seed over Team B, but Team A might have to face a team in the second round it lost to twice while Team B ends up getting games over opponents it disposed of easily.

Here are their generated odds of each team winning the ACC Tournament, along with their current seed:

4North Carolina11.6%
7Florida State3.0%
11Notre Dame0.4%
9NC State0.3%
13Georgia Tech0.1%
12Wake Forest0.0%
14Boston College0.0%
15Virginia Tech0.0%

1/32 looks a lot better than a goose egg, but the goose egg is probably more precise. The site also breaks down Boston College’s odds of advancing to each round individually (keep in mind that as the #14 seed in this simulation, we are projected to face 11-seed Notre Dame when the tournament opens).

Advance to 2nd Round (Wednesday win)40.25%
Advance to Quarterfinals (Thursday win)8.67%
Advance to Semifinals (Friday win)1.07%
Advance to Championship (Saturday win)0.19%
Win ACC Tournament0.03%

Boston College starts out as a prospective underdog against Notre Dame, and why not, since the Eagles lost to them twice. From there, if the Eagles should make it out of Wednesday, the road gets a lot harder and the teams a lot better. These percentages are cumulative, as in, Boston College individually has a 40.25% chance of beating Notre Dame, and that 40.25% chance TIMES whatever chance they have of beating their opponent on Thursday. For the record, that number is:

40.25%(X) = 8.67%
X = 21.54% (where X represents the odds of a victory on Thursday)

Boston College has a 40.25% chance of winning on Wednesday and an 8.67% chance of winning Wednesday AND Thursday. The percentages will only get worse from there. One might also assume that this calculation is somehow aware that Boston College only has only won consecutive games once all season. Five wins in a row would be shocking and completely out of the ordinary for this team.

That’s a whole lot of words to say “they’re not winning the ACC Tournament,” but there you go.