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2020 Basketball Conference Projections

Using Kenpom’s Projected Win Probability to Predict Auburn’s Conference Schedule

New Mexico State v Auburn Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Hey, remember when I wrote about all 4,096 possible win loss combinations for Auburn’s football season? I decided to take on a slightly more ambitious project for the upcoming basketball season.

Auburn plays 30 basketball games. That’s 1,073,741,824 (2^30) possible win/loss combinations. That’s...too many for my computer to handle. But Auburn plays 18 conference games. 2^18 is is 262,144 possible win/loss combinations for conference play. I can manage that!

I punched in Auburn’s current projected win percentage for each game based on preseason Kenpom win expectancy numbers. I did a bunch of excel things. Roughly 16 million formulas later, we get a final result!

I put two different lines on this chart: The first, in blue, charts Auburn’s projected conference win total. The second, in gray, charts an average team’s projected conference win total (assuming 50% win probability in every game). Let’s take a look:

Auburn’s curve is shifted both right and up of the “average” curve. This is a good thing! It proves Auburn has, on average, a greater than 50% chance of winning most games. In a conference as deep as the SEC is headed into 2020, this is a very good thing.

It may be easier to interpret these numbers in a chart, see below:

When you sum up all 262,144 possibilities, the most likely result is a 10-8 conference record. There’s a 20.8% chance of this happening, based on these preseason numbers. Remember, Auburn’s final four team went 11-7 in conference last season. In fact, 11-7 is the second most likeliest result in 2020.

There’s a 62.6% chance Auburn wins 10+ conference games and a 23.7% chance Auburn wins at least 12 conference games. If you ranked all 262,144 results from most likely to least likely, Auburn going 18-0 in conference play would be ranked right around 26,000 out of 262,144 - that’s top 10 percentile. Those are solid numbers.

On the flip side, the chances of Auburn having a very poor season are much slimmer. Auburn going 0-18 in conference play would be ranked about 236,500 out of 262,144. Out of the 500 most likely results, only 4 involve Auburn winning 7 or fewer conference games.

What does this all mean? Nothing. Auburn has yet to play a game yet. We all know losses in hoops are totally different than losses in football.

I’m more interested in re-visiting these numbers after each game. I’ll be tracking which of the 262,144 combinations are eliminated and which ones are still possible. I’ll also be updating the probabilities with Kenpom’s latest projections each week. Auburn’s ratings will shift with every game played during non-con play, as will each opponent’s ratings. By Christmas, these projections may look very different. So stick around.

Have a request for a specific result? Comment below and I’ll see what I can do.