Trust in Nate Silver

By Rustin Dodd

So, No. 1 seed Kansas picked up NCAA tourney victories over No. 16 seed Western Kentucky and No. 8 North Carolina this past weekend in Kansas City, advancing to play No. 4 Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

But did the Jayhawks actually improve their NCAA title odds? The answer is no, if you choose to believe Nate Silver, the statistical wunderkind who predicts presidential elections, writes best-selling books, and projects the NCAA Tournament on the side.

According to Silver’s latest projections, updated Monday on his FiveThirtyEight blog, Kansas now has a 4.5 percent chance to cut down the nets at the Final Four in Atlanta.

The number is down from Silver’s pre-tournament projection of 7.5 percent, which placed the Jayhawks as the fourth best bet behind Louisville, Indiana and Florida. After the opening rounds, KU is now behind tournament favorite Louisville (32.4 percent) and Florida (21.3 percent), the No. 3 seed in the Jayhawks’ South Region. And four other schools also have a better chance of winning it all, according to Silver. No. 1 seed Indiana (10.9 percent), No. 2 Ohio State (6.8 percent), No. 2 Duke (6.0 percent) and No. 4 Syracuse (4.8 percent).

So what’s going on here? Well, Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 has opened up better odds for No. 3 Florida. And Silver’s model, based on predictive computer formulas (but not R.P.I), likes both Michigan and Florida.

It’s not all bad.

According to Silver’s projections, Kansas is a slight favorite to beat Michigan, with a 54 percent chance to take down the Wolverines and reach the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks also have a 23.3 percent chance to reach the Final Four, and an 11.2 percent chance to reach the title game.

Yes, Silver has pegged the Jayhawks as a considerable long-shot. But remember: Silver’s model gave No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast a 3.3 percent chance to reach the Sweet 16. And the Eagles went all “Dunk City” on No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State to join Kansas, Florida and Michigan in the Arlington regional.

The odds of Dunk City crashing Atlanta and cutting down the nets?  0.019 percent.