Stats models like ASU as a bracket buster pick … if it beats Nevada

Mar 15, 2023, 8:05 AM | Updated: 11:37 am
Arizona State guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. (4) drives to the basket against Stanford forward Brandon...

Arizona State guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. (4) drives to the basket against Stanford forward Brandon Angel (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stanford, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Two statistical models really like the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The catch? ASU just has to get there.

ASU opens Wednesday against Nevada for the right to play the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs on Friday. For both the Sun Devils and Wolf Pack, it’s a favorable matchup, according to in-house metrics for ESPN and The Athletic.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index says ASU is a top-10 giant-killer

ESPN’s primary college hoops analytic tallies Nevada barely ahead of ASU in BPI (71st to 72nd).

That game is basically a toss-up.

But if the Sun Devils get out of Dayton on Wednesday night, there is a 24% chance at an upset.

That’s the ninth-best odds out of all of the first-round matchups.

Writes ESPN’s John Gasaway and Matt Eisenberg:

Bobby Hurley’s team plays at a relatively fast pace and likes to pressure opponents into turnovers. The one area where this defense will occasionally take its chances, however, is on the perimeter. ASU doesn’t necessarily chase opponents off the line and in fact can give up a high number of 3-point attempts. Then again TCU hardly ever shoots from out there. This could work in favor of the Sun Devils.

That said, Nevada has an even more favorable matchup against TCU, with an upset chance of 33%, which is sixth-best of potential first-round matchups.

The Athletic’s Slingshot sees the same thing

Oh, how similar these two analytics are.

With the eighth-best upset odds to bust the West Region bracket, the Sun Devils have a 23.6% chance of upsetting TCU if it wins against Nevada.

Here’s a tidbit about the Slingshot model.

With the help of our outstanding team of Furman math professors – Liz Bouzarth, John Harris and Kevin Hutson – we have incorporated all kinds of bells and whistles into our model that we’ve written about before but never fully deployed. These include cluster analysis, more sophisticated measures of team pace and comparisons to similar games from the past. Our quick reaction: This field looks thrillingly friendly to upsets — more like 2021 than 2022. And in the coolest twist of fate we’ve seen since we started doing this in 2006, our professors’ home school reached its first NCAA tournament since 1980, and drew a matchup with a team our model pegs as the most vulnerable giant in the field. Madness, indeed.

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Stats models like ASU as a bracket buster pick … if it beats Nevada