On the role of luck

The New York Times' Nate silver has an excellent post on the role of luck in NCAA Tournament success which I highly suggest you read. Silver contrasts Florida and Washington and shows how teams with similar talent have such a different experience based on the luck or incompetence of the draw. He then comes up with a nerdy formula for comparing the luck of the draw for each team in the field. Not surprisingly Florida is luckiest. UNLV is unluckiest. Kansas is third luckiest, though you would hardly believe it with all these people trying to kill yossarian out there.

Were it not for three inches on a twent five foot shot, Davidson would have advanced to the final four and not the mighty 08 team and had Ali Faroukmanesh eaten one less carrot or chicken nugget earlier in the day, his shot might have drifted slightly.

I really enjoyed this article for a couple of reasons:

1. It reinforced my sense that KU actually got a pretty good draw this year. Sure our 8/9 is a little harder than one would expect, but at least they're well known programs. Unless they just shoot very well or we don't show up defensively, either team would have a hard time beating KU.

2. It's a reminder about the randomness and chaos of the tournament in general, and even the best teams have a remote chance of winning. If I lined up ten of you and told you I was going to give one of you a new Daewoo Leganza you've all been dreaming about, you probably wouldn't be that surprised when you didn't get that hot ride. You probably wouldn't dwell for months on why you didn't win it, breaking down your very identity to determine what traits the winner had.

The most extreme projection gives KU a 20% chance to win it all and roughly a 50% chance of even making the final four. Do we go into each game with a projection to win? Except against OSU and possibly Duke, yes. So in that sense we're favored. In the real world, and the tournament is most certainly a part of said world, weird stuff happens, and sometimes, often even, that weird stuff isn't good.

This year, like last year, we should be thankful that weird stuff has to happen for us not to do well. Last year, weird stuff, enough of it anyway, happened. This year, maybe we'll be a little luckier.

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