Skip to main content
Menu
Wisconsin Reminds Kentucky It’s Really Hard To Go Undefeated

Well, we told you there was a chance. Wisconsin has defeated Kentucky, ending the first run at perfection in men’s college basketball in nearly 40 years. The FiveThirtyEight model said there was a 31 percent chance that Wisconsin would win that game — and the 31 percent came to pass.

For months, we’ve tracked Kentucky’s chances of going undefeated, and it was only after the Wildcats made the Elite Eight that they became more likely than not to be perfect. Even a team as good as Kentucky has a good chance of being defeated in any given game (it isn’t the UConn women’s squad, after all), and it only takes one game to spoil a run. Coming into Saturday night’s game, Kentucky had a 53 percent chance of winning it all. No matter how inevitable Kentucky’s undefeated run seemed, it was still basically a coin flip whether they would do what no team in the modern era had done.

Speaking of coin flips, Wisconsin will face Duke on Monday night, and the model has spit out another 53 percent probability. This time, it’s Wisconsin who’s likely to win the championship 53 percent of the time. On the other side, Duke has a 47 percent chance of cutting down the nets. For both teams, that’s radically more of a chance to win than they started the tournament with. Wisconsin had a 10 percent chance of winning the tournament (and a 15 percent chance of making the finals) a few weeks ago; Duke had a 6 percent chance of winning it all.

More improbable than Kentucky not being in the final was that it’d be these two teams instead.


Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.

CORRECTION (April 5, 1:21 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Kentucky became more likely than not to go undefeated when it made the Sweet 16. That was true when it made the Elite Eight.

Chadwick Matlin is a senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Comments