Rand: Political whiz Nate Silver takes on NCAA tourney projections

  • Updated: March 20, 2013 - 12:36 AM

Gophers men’s basketball fans should hope Silver is as right about The Big Dance as he was about the political shuffle

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Andre Hollins and the Gophers rolled over Penn State at Williams Arena on March 2, but they haven’t won since, dropping three in a row. Still, stats guru Nate Silver picks the Gophers to beat UCLA.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS, Star Tribune

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Nate Silver became a household name during the 2012 election season when his Five Thirty Eight blog on the New York Times website became required reading for political junkies on both sides of the party line. Silver used advanced metrics to project races, pretty much nailing President Obama’s re-election before it even happened.

Gophers men’s basketball fans should hope Silver is as right about The Big Dance as he was about the political shuffle. On his blog this week, Silver projected several things about this year’s NCAA tournament. Here is a snapshot of information that might be most relevant to a Gophers fan or bracket picker:

• He gives Minnesota a 61.9 percent chance of defeating sixth-seeded UCLA in the opener on Friday in Austin. That’s the seventh-highest percentage of any team in the South Region even though the Gophers are the No. 11 seed.

• That said, Silver only gives the Gophers a 13.9 percent chance of reaching the Sweet 16. Much of that has to do with how much Silver’s numbers seem to favor Florida, the No. 3 seed in the South and Minnesota’s likely opponent in the round of 32 if the Gophers get past UCLA. Silver gives Florida a 12.7 percent chance of winning the national title — tops in the region and third best of the entire field. He calls their abundance of close losses a matter of “luck” and writes, “Had Florida split its single-digit games, for instance, it would have gone 29-4 this year, which may be a better indication of its strength.”

• He gives Minnesota a 2.4 percent chance of reaching the Final Four. So he’s saying there’s a chance! Indiana is tops among Big Ten teams and No. 2 overall behind Louisville with a whopping 52.3 percent chance of reaching the Final Four. Ohio State (23.8 percent), Michigan (12.8), Michigan State (10.6), Wisconsin (9.5) and Illinois (1.6) round out the percentages for the rest of the Big Ten teams.

• Looking for another sleeper in your office pool? Try Davidson. Silver gives the No. 14 seed in the East a 34.2 percent chance of defeating No. 3 Marquette in its first game and a 15.8 percent chance of making the Sweet 16.

MICHAEL RAND

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