A Look Back at a Crazy (Statistically Speaking) Year in Sports

I like reading the “best-of-the-year” lists that are popular this time of the year. I had thought about putting together a blog post that compiled the listings of the top books of 2016 from a variety of sources, and seeing which books, if any, were in common across the various lists (from what I can tell the book Moonglow by Michael Chabon is at the top of several “best boo of the year” lists. I never heard of it…)

However, after seeing what ESPN did, I put the idea about the books on the back burner. I’d have to say that ESPN has put together my favorite end-of-year story that I have seen this year.

The story looks at some of the biggest sports events of the past year and indicates what the odds of the actual outcomes were.

Here’s a listing of some of the key sporting events of 2016, ranked in order of the likelihood of the event’s actual outcome, from most probable to least probable:

  • 91.7% – this represents the UConn women’s basketball team’s pre-tournament likelihood of winning its fourth straight title, which it did by defeating Syracuse in the finals, to complete an undefeated season.
  • 63.6% – the pre-tournament likelihood of the U.S. winning the Ryder cup against Europe, which they did, giving the U.S. its first victory in eight years.
  • 54.6% – the pre-tournament chances of Team Canada winning the World Cup of Hockey, which they did by defeating Europe in the finals
  • 53.5% – this was the pre-tournament chances of Novak Djokovic winning the Autralian Open, which he did by beating Andy Murray
  • 45.5% – Serena William’s pre-tourney chances of winning Wimbledon, which she did by beating Angelique Kerber
  • 35.7% – this was the likelihood that Fiji would win a gold medal in rugby at the Rio Olympics. They pulled it off by defeating Great Britain in the final.
  • 25.6% – the pre-fight chances of Miesha Tate beating Holly Holm (who had beaten Ronda Rousey), which she did with a technical submission
  • 25.0% – the likelihood that Exaggerator would win the Preakness. Exaggerator’s win ended Nyquist’s bid for the Triple Crown.
  • 23.5% – the chance at the start of Game 5 of the World Series that the Chicago Cubs, down 3 games to 1, would win the title, which they did by winning the final three games against the Cleveland Indians.
  • 18.2% – the chances, prior to the start of the season, that the Minnesota Timberwolves’s center, Karl-Anthony Towns, would win the rookie of the year award in the NBA. Towns won unanimously, with the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis finishing second in the voting.
  • 11.2% – the pre-game chances that Sweden would beat the U.S. women’s national soccer team at the Rio Olympics. Sweden won the game on penalty kicks.
  • 10.5% – the pre-season chances of Jimmie Johnson winning his seventh Sprint Cup, which he did  at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • 9.1% – the pre-game 5 chances of the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA title. Just like the Cubs, the Cavaliers were down 3-1, but won the next three games to beat the Golden State Warriors.
  • 7.7% – the pre season chances of the Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl. Led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers.
  • 6.3% – the pre-season chances of the L.A. Sparks winning the WNBA title, which they did by defeating the Minnesota Lynx.
  • 4.8% – the pre-game chances of fifteenth-seed Middle Tennessee State beating second-seed Michigan State in the first round of the men’s NCAA March Madness tournament. Middle Tennessee State won the game 90-81.

If you want to see the five biggest upsets, click here to go to the ESPN web site; I don’t want to spoil all of its thunder.

By the way, the number one upset in 2016 (and perhaps the upset of the century) had only a 0.04% likelihood, which is less likely than the Philadelphia 76ers winning the NBA title! (and we all know how likely that is…)

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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