OT: Kentucky or the Field?

Submitted by MichiganMAN47 on March 17th, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Saw a poll on ESPN today, and 51% of people have Kentucky winning the National Title. I can't remember a time when there has been such a high consensus on this. 

I am on the other side of this argument. I think the odds are significantly lower that Kentucky wins a title this year, even if we give kentucky great odds in each game, they still have a low chance at winning. 

Chance of winning:

99% Round of 64 
90% Round of 32 
85% Sweet 16 
75% Elite 8
70% Final 4 
65% Championship Game

=25.8 % total odds of winning the title 

Combine this, with the fact that Kentucky played relatively weak competition in the SEC, and struggled at times, and I think this team is vastly overhyped. Put another way, if Kentucky were in the ACC would there be any chance they walk out of that unscathed? Thoughts? What do you have?





March 17th, 2015 at 11:49 AM ^

UK has taken player procurement to an unprecedented level.  It's obvlous to anyone who wants to look what is going on down there.  I hope they win every game by 20 points and piss off enough people to cause a serious investigation of why so many great players just happen to choose UK.


March 17th, 2015 at 12:22 PM ^

Are you suggesting that recruits are getting paid and/or benefits to go to UK? I think they go because they know they'll be on a highly competitive team, and good a real close look by NBA scouts. Plus the tradition, facilities, and resources. I'd have to look hard at Kentucky if I were a top recruit.

Yostbound and Down

March 17th, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

Calipari has been dirty in the past, Kentucky has been dirty in the past, so I don't think it's a stretch to think bagmen are there just as they are in football at several schools. It might not be the case because Kentucky and Calipari have such a good reputation for sending players to the league that guys want to play there anyways but I have no doubt that it's happened at least in the past. Plenty of schools (Kansas, Indiana, Duke, UNC, UCLA) have comparable tradition, heck Louisville in state has many of the same advantages.


March 17th, 2015 at 3:02 PM ^

I guess it's possible but highly unlikely.  The odds of piling up that much talent while running a clean program are extraordinarily low.  I would bet Kentucky either clearly violates rules or violates the spirit of the rules.  Think about it.  Are Kentucky basketball players real students taking real classes and passing real tests?  No, very unlikely, for the most part.  Are they getting some improper benefits?  Again, a very good chance.  Maybe it's cash, fringe benefits, whatever.  Calipari has been dirty everywhere he has been.  He wasn't directly implicated but prior Final Fours at other programs were both vacated.  And now he's piling up an obscene amount of talent with McDonald's All Americans 9 deep while running a clean program?  yeah, right.  


March 17th, 2015 at 12:10 PM ^

I disagree. We have a chance to witness something that hasn't been done in 40 years. Greatness should be respected and something to strive for. It is awesome to watch ala the Pats almost undefeated season. 

Plus, Cal isn't so much dirty as a touch slimy. He has the best arena I have ever been too (Rupp), great facilities, a player's dorm, etc. And he is honest in his goal. He is trying to get players to the pros as quick as possible. I don't mind ths because it is both honest and the goal of college s to get a job regardless of how long you need to get there. 
Finally, unless you get to bet Kentucky versus the field (in which I still take Kentucky), you are a fool not to bet on Kentucky. Ever other team's individual odds are tiny. 


March 17th, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

I strongly suspect Kentucky is dirty. Cal does not have a track record of integrity at other locations; why would he clean things up now that he is at the program that wants to win the most?

But that is kinda beside the point, because if Kentucky is dirty, so are a bunch of other schools. We know, for example, that UNC is staring at the guillotine. Syracuse just got pinched. Whispers about programs like Kansas abound. Even apparently "do it the right way" schools like Duke are known for pulling recruits from cities that are rife with misbehavior.

That's the landscape. Either the sport is mostly clean, or it is widely dirty. Either way, what Kentucky is doing this year is impressive.


March 17th, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

While I wouldn't be surprised if there are shady dealings going on with Calipari given his 2 prior schools' sanctions, I gotta give the guy credit. He is really honest and forthcoming about what he wants to do with his players aka get them to the NBA. 

I'm sure that resonates well with top recruits who really don't care for an education at this point in their lives given their athletic potential and money on the line. 

Would I be surprised Cal is cheating? Nah. Would I be surprised if he wasn't? Nah b/c I can see why recruits would flock to him. The "student-athlete" is a sham and Cal treats it like that knowing the student part doesn't matter to 90% of his recruits. 



March 17th, 2015 at 12:29 PM ^

"Cal isn't so much dirty as he is a touch slimy"... seriously? the guy is an absolute dirtbag. He has literally had recruiting sanctions every school he has ever been to... UMass, Memphis, and everyone on this earth knows he is getting those players at Kentucky through some sort of violation. Hell, you can neg away at this all you want but over half this board could coach this Kentucky team to the final four. 


March 17th, 2015 at 11:14 AM ^

Correct, although I disagree that the tourney will be boring. Part of the beauty of the tournamentis the teams playing out of their minds to get out of each round, even though they have no prayer of winning the title. It's a huge deal for a team like Stephen F. Austin to make the Sweet 16, and you better believe they will be balling as hard as they can ball to get there.

Also, I don't think watching Kentucky is boring. Watching historic excellence is fun, to me at least. This is probably the greatest MBB team of my 28 years on this planet. That's cool, and honestly part of me will be happy if they run the table, just to have given us all a chance to witness the kind of greatness that only comes every couple of generations.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:55 AM ^

I agree, I think Kentucky's run to be one of the greatest teams of all time is fascinating. There are years when a playoff begins with no clear favorite, and those are entertaining as we watch things play out on the field/court/ice. But there are also years where there is a clear-cut favorite, and their primacy brings an order and perspective that can also be very entertaining.

Kentucky is the storyline. But they are not a sure thing. And, helpfully, this is not the second or third year running of this, which would be boring. So I'm interested in what will happen.

BTW, those odds: the odds for Kentucky beating the 16 are way higher than 99%.


March 17th, 2015 at 3:02 PM ^

I disagree.  Instead of running an offense Calapari relealizes he can kill 95% of all teams by just stressing suffocating defense.  There is nothing subtle or innovative.  He has ten NBA bodies and just wears teams down.  He just has fresh players where other teams do not.  How many SEC games where a decent team hung tough and UK  pulled away?  Sort of what happened to Michigan this year where they just ran out of gas.

On offense there is nothing innovative other then get some open 3's with all of their NBA sized guards.  None of the bigs have really developed a post game other then overpowering or going over smaller people.  They can't seem to shoot, but it does not matter.  I just watched the UK Arkansas game and none of the big men seemed capable of hitting a mid ranged jumper or post shot even when open.  But it does not matter.  Calapari just tells his guards to overplay the 3 because he has two 7 foot shot blockers.  If they get in foul trouble he has two more starters sitting on the bench. 

So what is so entertaining watching a bunch of NBA capable players who have modest offensive talent overwhelm smaller and slower players and win every game 70 to 45?



March 17th, 2015 at 11:25 AM ^

Consider me crazy then.  In my heart, I know no one is going to stop Kentucky.  However, on paper, it doesn't benefit me emotionally or economically to have hem win.  Thus, I have them losing before the final four.  I'm indeed certifiably nuts when it comes to my brackets, that I know, but it sure makes the madness so much more fun.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:59 AM ^

Game theory. The trendy game theory pick this week is to not pick Kentucky to win, because "everybody" is and therefore if you get that right your chances of winning a bracket are still very low. Pick them to get upset, though, and in the small window of scenarios where they actually lose, you're playing against a much smaller field.

That's the premise, anyway.


March 17th, 2015 at 12:14 PM ^

Bingo.  As long as my final four stays intact, since I'm in the minority that will have Kentucky out before then, I don't have to stress about bombing my picks in the first weekend.  Whereas if I had Kentucky winning, it would be absolutely necessary to do great every single round.  Thus, with this big risk I'm taking, my chance at winning money in a pool is based off only having to get a handful of games right versus having to get a high majority correct.  Makes watching the tourney a lot less stressful early on and makes it easier to separate myself from the field as well.

Brackets to me are much more about strategy than picking what I want or truly think.


March 17th, 2015 at 12:15 PM ^

I am normally huge on game theory especially with brackets. I generally pick teams like state (ncaa) or mexico (world cup) because I am in brackets where everyone hates them making them undervalued.

However, I just flat out think Kentucky is going to win it. They are so so good. In the end, it makes sense to go with them if you truly believe they are winning it. 


March 17th, 2015 at 12:32 PM ^

If you're picking a winner, absolutely. But if you are assembling an entire bracket in a large field, the calculus changes. Every year, in every bracket, there are dozens of low-probability choices to be made. A particular upset, a certain 4-seed running to the Final Four, etc. Even a chalk bracket is a low-probability risk since we know things never stick to chalk.

So what we are talking about is simply a very prominent, visible low-probability pick. It is little different in principle from picking, say, a 14 over a 3, except that it looks like a bigger deal.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:28 AM ^

I disagree, at least with regard to trying to win a bracket pool.  Say you're in a pool with 20 people, and 10 pick Kentucky to win.  And say Kentucky as a 50% chance of winning the tournament (very generous for Kentucky).  If you're one of the 10, and Kentucky wins, you've still only got a 10% chance of winning out of that group of 10.  And there's a 50-50 shot Kentucky loses, and someone else picks the correct overall winner, dropping your overall win chance to 5%.  

But if you pick a team like Arizona or Wisconsin, who may only have a 10% chance of winning, but you're the only one who picks them, you get that whole 10% chance of victory to yourself.  Being diverse is a good thing in your bracket pool.

I'm obviosuly simplifying as if picking the winning team is the only thing that matters, but the same principle applies to every other round.  Basically, your goal in a bracket pool is to pick teams whose percentage chance of winning, in any given round, is greater than the percentage of people who choose that team to win.  You want to beat everyone else, not get the most total points.

(other note: I'm assuming the only goal is to finish first in the pool.  If there's a reward for finshing in other spots near the top, the analysis changes a bit).


March 17th, 2015 at 11:11 AM ^

I stopped watching college BB this year after the Kansas massacre.  I honestly didnt see the point of watching basketball when one team was so much better than the rest. They win the tournament 9/10 times, and I would be shocked if they didnt win every game by double digits.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:19 AM ^

they struggled with some crappy SEC teams. They had to go to OT to beat Ole Miss and double OT to beat Texas A&M. Neither of those teams are good. They also had tight games with LSU, Georgia, and Florida. LSU is decent, but Florida and Georgia suck. 

They are a great team and will be tough as nails to beat in the tourney, but they are beatable. 


March 17th, 2015 at 11:40 AM ^

it wouldn't shock me if at some point they were either bored or let their guard down.  Its hard to maintain that much focus when you are basically ensured a 1 seed even if you drop a couple.  

Come tournament time they will have a diff level of focus I am sure, but as will all teams.

I think they will win it all, but for bracket game theory I probably won't pick them


March 17th, 2015 at 11:29 AM ^

did not learn anything about college basketball from that game other than that Kansas stinks, which I already knew.

 I saw enough need for "stirring comebacks" from Kentucky against the likes of LSU this year to know they are vulnerable.  You will see a little bit about the SEC this Friday when State destroys Georgia to know what kind of competition Kentucky has seen for the last two months.

They play without focus at times and can go very cold for streches.   If it is possible to be unimpressed with an undefeated team that is the way I feel about them.  I think Arizona is better head up.  Give me the field. Winning a national championship is very difficult to do, and it has very little to do with regular season records.  As good as they are, if you are giving me the other 67 teams I will take them.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:40 AM ^

but I think if Maryland gets hot they could knock UK out in the Sweet 16. It will require a hell of a game from Dez Wells (obviously more than just that), but he is that type of player that can get really hot and take over in March Madness. 

UK hasn't played against a good team since Dec. 27. If they go cold one night, things could get very interesting. 


March 17th, 2015 at 11:45 AM ^

element is what I think is going to be an eye-opener.  Kentucky played Auburn in their conference tourney semi.  Auburn for god sake.  The stakes will be higher and the teams will be much better beginning next weekend.


March 17th, 2015 at 3:57 PM ^

which was really early in the season, they beat NC, Louisville and Arkansas twice were the only currently ranked teams they played and only Kansas is a top 10 team and barely at that (they are #10).  So actually as talented as they are projected to be they just might be a team that is a bit overrated.   I would take the "others" on the beat premise and that UK goes down to somebody.

Yostbound and Down

March 17th, 2015 at 11:12 AM ^

Ed Feng, who appears on the MGoBlog roundtable on WTKA, wrote this for Grantland about why you shouldn't pick Kentucky in your pool:


I don't really see them having any trouble in their regional though. Wichita State and possibly Notre Dame I could see giving them problems. I think the best chance for the upset is in the Final Four, but Calipari is likely to be the best coach there (unless Duke makes it.) They're going to win it all.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

They can definitely be beat by a handful of teams if they are off and the other team is clicking, but that's about it. When you go 34-0 or whatever they are, you aren't just better than everyone, you are way better. The margin required to maintain wins on your worst days is ridiculous.

Also, I think that's a bit aggressive to say that Kentucky is only winning 2/3 times against a finals opponent, or 3/4 against teams in FF and E8...I haven't seen anything to make me believe a team in college this year is going to take a game off of them 1 out of 3-4 times.

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March 17th, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

Kentucky. Only a few teams could challenge them. Notre Dame, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Duke are the only teams I can see giving Kentucky a game if they all are playing well.


March 17th, 2015 at 11:42 AM ^

just no way.  It has been a long time since you could bet chalk in the NCAA tourney.  It just doesn't happen anymore.  Even the years when all of the programs in the Final Four are blue bloods or classic basketball powers there will be one that does it from a low seed.  Kentucky was an 8 seed last year, and I don't think UConn was any higher than a 5 if that.