What are UAlbany's chances against Duke?

ualbany and duke sports logos

Devils and dogs.

Later: UAlbany lost 73-61.

The NCAA basketball tournament tips off today. UAlbany doesn't play until Friday, when it faces Duke at 12:15 pm in Philadelphia. (The game will be on CBS.)

UAlbany is a #15 seed, Duke a #2 seed. So, just looking at the bracket, the Great Danes appear to be facing a tall challenge.

So, what are their chances? Let's break it down -- via stats, experts, money, even "coolness"...

Season overview

UAlbany (24-10)
UAlbany started out its season relatively well -- it even won on the road at Washington. It didn't do so well in conference play, finishing fifth in the America East. But the Great Danes grabbed a spot in the NCAA tournament by winning three straight games in the America East tournament -- the third win against Vermont, which had stomped UAlbany 70-45 back in January.

Duke (27-5)
Duke started out the season as one of the nation's top teams and played like it, winning 15 straight games -- including wins over Ohio State and Louisville (the team said to be the favorite to the national title). The Blue Devils have a bunch of good players -- but their most important might be senior forward Ryan Kelly. He injured his foot in January and Duke promptly lost for the first time. Kelly was out for 13 games and Duke lost four of them. He returned in in early March and in his first game back dropped 36 points on then-#5 Miami (and Duke won). The Blue Devils have lost once all season with him the lineup -- that loss was their last game, to Maryland in the ACC tournament.

Kelly is 6-11 and shoots 49 percent from three. Yeah.

Rankings and stats

Duke is currently ranked #6 in the AP poll. UAlbany is not ranked.

Duke is ranked #1 in the RPI, one of the rankings the NCAA uses to pick teams for the tournament. UAlbany is #128.

Duke is also ranked #6 in the KenPom ratings, which take into account offense and defensive efficiency (how well a team turns possessions into points -- or prevents its opponents from doing so) and results. Albany is #143.

The KenPom ratings also highlight a(nother) big difference between the teams: Duke plays relatively fast (#83 in adjusted tempo), UAlbany does not (#287).

And Duke is way ahead of UAlbany in a bunch of different categories, notably points per possession: the Blue Devils score 1.14 points per possession, UAlbany 1.02. That might not sound like much, but over 65 or so possessions in a game, it adds up.

Predictions and probabilities

There area a lot of different predictions and probabilities projections for the NCAA tournament. Here's how they stack up for this game.

Ken Pomeroy is college basketball's foremost stat nerd. He calculates the chances of each team advancing to each round, based on the team's rating. Based on the formula he uses, UAlbany has 6.5 percent chance of beating Duke.

Nate Silver
Nate Silver is the country's forest political stats nerd. But before that, he was one of the foremost baseball stats nerds. Silver produces a tournament forecast based in large part on computer rankings. His forecast figures UAlbany has a 5.4 percent chance of beating Duke.

Survival Analysis
Sports nerdage really has surged over the last few years, with all sorts of analysis and forecasting. One of the more interesting forecasts for the NCAA tournament the last few years has been John Ezekowitz's Survival Analysis, which is based on statistical methods used to predict to effectiveness of pharmaceutical drug candidates (more explanation from Sports Illustrated). In this model, UAlbany has 15.8 percent chance of beating Duke. (Ezekowitz notes the model tends to overstate the chances of the low seeds, though.)

Duke is currently a 17.5 point favorite over UAlbany.

Of the six brackets posted by Sports Illustrated college basketball writers, none of them have UAlbany beating Duke.

Wisdom of the crowd
Yahoo posts distribution data for all the picks made by the zillions of people in its Tournament Pick 'Em game. Just 0.9 percent of those brackets have UAlbany beating Duke.

Barack Obama picked Duke over UAlbany in his bracket.

Annual spending on men's basketball [via Biz Review]:
Duke: $15.7 million
UAlbany: $1.38 million

Number of likes for each team's Facebook page:
Duke: 77,538
UAlbany: 1,695

Sports Illustrated's Extra Mustard blog ranked all the tournament teams by "the coolest person who went there." The results:
Duke: #49 (Ken Jeong)
UAlbany: #16 (Steve Guttenberg)

That's something UAlbany has going for it. (And if you saw that episode of Party Down in which Guttenberg played himself, you know The Goot is a force.)

Bottom line

Things don't look good for UAlbany. But you never know in the NCAA tournament. In fact, Duke lost last year in the first round -- to #15 seed Lehigh.


Um... UAlbany is a 15 seed, not a 14.

Editors: Indeed it is. Thanks for catching that.

Love this! We beat them in Coolness.... the only stat that really matters, right? At least it isn't a total blowout.

I know what the chances are, but I don't care. Albany really needs to win so that I can do that sassy finger snap to my husband while boldly declaring "Oh now what. Now what. What. Whats up now. What. That's what." (these schools are our alma maters, so this is personal).

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