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Michigan State Spartans Basketball: Wooden Legacy Tournament Analysis

So, is MSU going to play Arizona? Or Nah?

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Your Spartans will play three basketball games this weekend in California, and the bracket is kind of crazy:

It's a three-game tournament, but every team plays three times. So who will MSU play this weekend, exactly? Glad you asked.

MSU plays Boston College on Turkey Day, with an 86% chance of winning, per KenPom. If they win, they'll play the winner of Boise State/UC-Irvine. If MSU loses, they'll play the loser of BSU/UCI. Pretty simple:

MSU is more likely to play Boise State, who is a 61% favorite over UC-Irvine. That's likely to be in the winner's part of the bracket. MSU would be a 75% favorite over Boise and an 83% favorite over UC-Irvine given current KenPom rankings.

After that, the thought is that a winning MSU team would play Pac-12 favorite Arizona in the championship of the tournament. But MSU could play Arizona in the third-place game, with a win over Boston College and a loss to BSU/UCI, and Arizona beating Santa Clara but then losing to Evansville/Providence. Or MSU could play them in the fifth place game if MSU loses to Boston College, beats the loser of BSU/UCI, and Arizona loses to Santa Clara and then beats the loser of Evansville/Providence. You get it; there are a ridiculous number of options here.

I did all the calculations for you, using this calculator and KenPom's rankings. Here's who MSU is likely to play in the third game of the tournament, and in what game:

Yep, MSU is likely to play Arizona in the championship, but it's almost as likely as not. There's a 55% chance MSU plays Arizona in the third game, with the vast majority of those situations coming in the title game on Sunday. Here are the chances MSU finishes in any particular spot in the tournament:

MSU's got a two-thirds (67%) chance of getting into the championship game, and if it's against Arizona, it's a coin flip (KenPom has the Wildcats beating the Spartans 54% of the time). If MSU plays Providence, Evansville, or Santa Clara, the odds are much more strongly in MSU's favor.

You may notice that MSU is more likely to be the 5th place team than the 4th place team. That's because in the 14% of the time MSU loses to Boston College, it is highly likely to avoid Arizona, and thus win the final two games (landing in 5th place).