JONESBORO, Ark – The door to the NCAA Tournament is still open for the Red Wolves. It may take a series of small miracles to get it to budge at all, but it is still cracked nonetheless.
Arkansas State finished the regular season with an impressive 83-79 win on the road at ULM to spoil their senior night. Now, they will face off in a rematch only four days later in New Orleans with their respective seasons on the line. It’s win or go home.
The Red Wolves (11-20, 6-12 SBC) finished 11th in the Sun Belt this season in their first year under head coach Mike Balado. They are the 11 seed in the 2018 Sun Belt Men’s Basketball Tournament and will face sixth-seeded ULM (15-14, 9-9 SBC) in the first round. The winner will then face 3 Georgia Southern (20-11, 11-7 SBC).
Though the Red Wolves would be underdogs in both of those games, the numbers paint a different picture. A-State actually swept the season series versus the Warhawks with a 75-64 win at home in the conference opener and the aforementioned season-closer. They tied the season series with the Eagles, with the home team winning each matchup.
After those two, though, they have an uphill battle. If they were to shock the Sun Belt and reach the semifinals, they would face either 2 Georgia State, 7 Troy or 10 South Alabama. The Red Wolves have a combined record of 0-4 against those teams.
But there’s always a chance, right?
Since we’ve taken the scenario this far, we might as well keep going. Let’s say the Red Wolves pull off the trifecta of small miracles to make the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game. They would likely face 1 Louisiana, but could also face 4 UTA, 5 Appalachian State, 8 Coastal Carolina, 9 Texas State or 12 Little Rock.
A-State is a combined 3-7 against those teams, with a 2-0 record against the Mountaineers and a 1-1 split with their rival Trojans.
Let’s just talk simple statistics. There are 12 teams in the tournament and one of them must win, right? If you go that route, the Red Wolves have an 8.3 percent chance to win it all. Too bad it doesn’t quite work that way.
The Red Wolves don’t get a bye and have to play more games to get to the promised land than some other teams. So, let’s give them a 50/50 shot at winning each game.
That would equate to a 50 percent chance to make the quarterfinals, a 25 percent chance to make the semifinals, a 12.5 percent chance to make the championship, and a 6.25 percent chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
That may seem low until you look at it from a relative point of view. Those are the same odds that an applicant to Harvard gets accepted. Only one in 260 million win the Powerball, one in 700,000 gets struck by lightning, and 150 people a year die from falling coconuts.
Those things happen all the time. So why can’t this?
It May Be Dumb…
To summarize, here is a quote from the 1994 film “Dumb and Dumber”. Seems fitting.
“What are my chances?”
“Not good like one out of a hundred?”
“I’d say more like one out of a million.”
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
11 Arkansas State vs 6 ULM, Sun Belt Conference Tournament First Round
New Orleans, LA
Wednesday, March 7, 7:30 P.M.