Nate Silver lists Florida as third-likeliest champ

By Adam Silverstein
March 18, 2013

New York Times political statistician Nate Silver, who nailed the 2012 presidential race and has earned well-deserved praise for his rigorous and specific statistical analyses, ran the probabilities for the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Monday and came away with some good news for Florida Gators fans.

According to Silver’s model posted on his FiveThirtyEight blog, Florida has a 12.7 percent chance to win the national title – third-best behind Louisville (22.7 percent) and Indiana (19.6 percent). In fact, UF as a three-seed is the only team ranked lower than a one-seed with a top-five probability to leave the event as champion. Kansas (7.5 percent) and Gonzaga (6.1 percent) round out the top five.

Silver broke down the Gators’ chances to advance in each individual round of the tournament. Florida has a 94.8 percent chance to move on to the round of 32, 78.6 percent chance to advance to the Sweet 16, 61.7 percent chance to move on to its third-straight Elite Eight, 37.1 percent chance to reach the Final Four and 20.3 percent chance to play for the national title.

He also explained why the Gators continue to be the statistical darling the team has been propped up as all season long.

But Florida, the No. 3 seed, is rated as the best team in the country by some of the computer systems, including Mr. [Ken] Pomeroy’s, despite taking seven losses and playing in the mediocre Southeastern Conference. How come? The answer boils down to margin of victory. Florida’s seven losses came by margins of 1, 3, 3, 4, 6, 6 and 11 points. By contrast, its wins came in blowouts; the Gators didn’t win a single game by fewer than 10 points.

As much as the conventional wisdom might chide Florida for having performed poorly in the clutch, there is an abundance of statistical evidence that a team’s record in close games is mostly a matter of luck, and that this luck turns around often enough. Had Florida split its single-digit games, for instance, it would have gone 29-4 this year, which may be a better indication of its strength.

One additional factor helping Florida is that Kansas could face a very tough Round of 16 game against No. 4 seed Michigan, which had until recently appeared to be in the running for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and isn’t all that easy to differentiate from the Big Ten teams that are seeded ahead of it. North Carolina, the No. 8 seed, could also give Kansas problems if it begins to play up to its preseason billing.

While Silver did list Kentucky as having the best odds to win the 2012 NCAA Tournament (at 26.7 percent, more than 10 percent ahead of the next team), he does concede that there are too many factors, variables and anomalies (such as luck) to guarantee a correct forecast of the tournament every year.

For example, the 2011 field “looked similar to this year’s” with three teams standing out from the pack. However, statistical “long shot” Connecticut wound up capturing the title.

Check out Silver’s detailed blog on the 2013 tournament, breakdown of every team in the field (including visuals), and methodology for making his NCAA picks.


  1. Timmy T says:

    We can beat ANYBODY we play. Will we is the question? Hopefully the team brings its A game and crazy energy on the defensive end. Keeping my fingers crossed and breaking out my lucky ball cap. Go Gators!

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    If the Gators play like the team they were for the first 2/3 of the season, pre-injury, the only team in America that can beat UF is UF. I picked them to win it all, but we shall see. If they don’t crash the boards and get the ball in the paint more like they did early in the year, it could be a very long offseason…

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    Adam, haven’t heard anything, did the women get NIT bid?

    • It will be announced after 11 p.m.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        a nice…is it televised or just wait? I just assumed they had no NCAA bid based on record, even with a few nice wins, guess I was right, they announced that before I got home, didn’t bother looking at that since not projected to be there, and lousy end of converence

  4. Ken (CA) says:

    Interesting…just finished watching ESPN bracket predictors, and by their statistical predictor, they have UF winning it all as well, with a 61% chance for winning over Louisville in the finals. everything up through Georgetown was 75% or better projection of winning

  5. Ken (CA) says:

    interesting, ESPN statistically picked UF to win it all tonight. like I said before tho, I agree, only team that can beat UFplaying as they can play is UF.

  6. Joe says:

    Hey Nate, thank you. I haven’t laughed so hard in years.

    • chigator says:

      This isn’t his opinion. These are odds or projections based upon past tournaments and metrics/rankings for this season. He isn’t say we are going to win it, just that if the tournament was played 100 times then UF would be in the title game 20 times. The problem with the tournament is that there is a lot of luck/noise involved, so I wouldn’t bet your house on any bracket.

      Read his book, its really good.

  7. gatorboi352 says:

    Florida was outrebounded in six of its seven losses this season (Arizona was the exception). We NEED Young/Yeguete/Prather to BRING IT starting Friday until April 8th.

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