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Parallel University: The Big Ten Tournament

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March Madness might have been cancelled, but that was only in our universe

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Rutgers vs Michigan Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

In the world of quantum physics, there is a theory that all possible outcomes of any measurement or event actually takes place in at least one universe. Every time a coin is flipped, in one universe it comes up heads, and it another newly created universe, it comes up tails. As a result, if this interpretation of quantum mechanics is true, an infinite number of universes exist where all possible outcomes actually take place.

In our particular universe, life kinda sucks right now. A deadly pandemic virus is sweeping the globe, and as a result, one of our most beloved sports traditions, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, has been cancelled. For me, this feel like Christmas got cancelled, and we were forced to take all of our presents into the front yard and set them on fire.

But, what if there is a universe out there where there is no COVID-19 virus? What if there is a universe where we are on the eve of Selection Sunday? Wouldn’t it be fun just to take a peak into that universe to see how things are going? Well, maybe we can.

Throughout this season, I have given a running tally of the number of expected wins and the odds to win the Big Ten regular season title. I accomplished this, in part, by taking Kenpom adjusted efficiencies, converting them into point spread for each game, converting those spreads into win probabilities, and then using those probabilities to run a 120,000 Monte Carlo simulations of the remaining Big Ten season. I used a similar methodology just the other day to project the results of the now cancelled Big Ten Tournament.

If the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then each of those simulations represents what actually happened in some parallel universe out there. So, why not use the same method to see what one possible, but mathematically consistent, Big Ten Tournament would have looked like? Well, as it turns out, I did just that, and I am happy to share the results with you now.

Let’s start with Thursday’s action in Indianapolis:

No. 9-Michigan defeats No. 8-Rutgers: 76-61

No. 12-Minnesota defeats No. 5-Iowa: 74-64

No. 7-Ohio State defeats No. 10-Purdue: 70-61

No. 11-Indiana defeats No. 6-Penn State: 76-64

Michigan was favored over Rutgers, so that result is not a surprise, but Iowa and Penn State stumbled out of the blocks. This all but certainly guarantees Indiana a parallel universe bid to the Big Dance, but will it hurt Penn State and Iowa’s seed? Also, Ohio State survived a late charge from Purdue and now faces MSU for the second time in under a week.

Then, we move on to Friday:

No. 9-Michigan defeats No. 1-Wisconsin: 70-64

No. 4-Illinois defeats No. 12-Minnesota: 77-57

No. 2-Michigan State defeats No. 7-Ohio State: 70-66

No. 3-Maryland defeats No. 11-Indiana: 77-59

Vegas had Michigan and Wisconsin as a pick’em, and the Badgers were due for a tough game. At the end of the day, their luck ran out. The same can be said for Minnesota and Indiana, who ran out of gas and get boat-raced. Ohio State showed more fight against MSU in the rematch, but in the end, Cash and Tillman were just too much. MSU survives and advances to the semis to face Maryland, who cruised against the Hoosiers.

As for the action on Saturday afternoon:

No. 9-Michigan defeats No. 4- Illinois: 77-59

No. 2-Michigan State defeats No. 3-Maryland: 73-64

While Michigan was the lower seed, they were a two-point favorite over the Illini and managed to crush Illinois due to hot shooting from the outside. Meanwhile, MSU led the Terrapins wire-to-wire, and were buoyed by a 15-point outing from Gabe Brown.

This sets up a rematch of the 2019 & 2014 Final, both of which were won by the Spartans. Can MSU make it three in a row? (I have a very good feeling about it.) Either way, we will have to wait until just before the brackets are announced on Sunday evening in the parallel universe to find out.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the parallel universe, other conference tournament were going on as well. The parallel universe selection committee was watching these games very closely. I will now give a quick summary of how those came out:

Mid-Majors Conference Results

  • In the America East Conference, Vermont cruised to victory over Hartford to claim the auto-bid, as expected.
  • In the Big Sky, No. 1 seed Eastern Washington was upset in quarter final action by Sacramento State. This paved the way for Northern Colorado to claim the auto-bid with a title game win over Montana State.
  • In the Big West, favorite UC Irvine earned the auto-bid with a win in the finals over UC Santa Barbara.
  • In C-USA, early favorites North Texas (No. 1 seed) and LA Tech (No. 3 seed) both get upset in the quarterfinals. As a result, No. 2 seed Western Kentucky takes the title and the automatic bid.
  • Chaos in the MAC! All four top seeds lose in the quarterfinals, paving the way for No. 8 Seed Ohio to win the title over No. 7 seed Toledo.
  • In the Mid-Eastern conference, Norfolk State entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, but they were the Kenpom favorite to win the tournament... and that they did.
  • In the Metro Atlantic, top seed Siena wins the orderly tournament over St. Peter’s to claim the auto-bid.
  • In the Southland conference, the biggest upset of the week occurred as Stephen F. Austin is bounced in the semifinals by Northwestern State. This clears the way for Nicholls State to claim the auto-bid.
  • In the SWAC, in a mild upset, Southern University takes out Prairie View A&M in the finals.
  • In the WAC, New Mexico State was the big favorite and rolled to victory and the auto-bid.
  • In the Ivy League, No. 3 Seed Princeton defeats Harvard and then Yale to claim the conference’s automatic bid.
  • In the Sun Belt, in a mild Finals upset, No. 2 seed South Alabama takes out Arkansas Little Rock to claim the conference crown and automatic bid.

In other notable conference tournament action:

  • Dayton wins the A-10
  • Florida St. wins the ACC
  • Houston wins the AAC
  • Kansas edges Baylor to win the Big 12
  • Creighton wins the Big East
  • Oregon wins the Pac-12
  • Kentucky wins the SEC

(Note: I did not actually simulate the results of this final batch of tournaments. For seeding purposes, I will lean heavily on the aggregated results from the bracket matrix project. Even I have limits...)

In the parallel universe, Selection Sunday is still on schedule. Stay tuned on Sunday night to see where MSU winds up, and how mad at the committee we should or should not be.