What it means for the PKI

With two and a half weeks of men’s college basketball under our belts, we’re all ready to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, argue with extended family about how our favorite team is handling the opening roster of games — and, regardless of fanbase, take a look the Quarterfinals of the Phil Knight Invitational to see who emerges with a tournament championship early in the season.

Among the contestants, North Carolina stands out as the clear favorite with odds of +150, which equals a 40% chance of winning. After finishing second at the NCAA tournament last season, the Tar Heels held the top spot in ESPN’s Way Too Early Top 25 from April last year throughout preseason and were the No. 1 team on the AP poll for three straight weeks Line.

And why shouldn’t they? Four of their five starters returned, Northwestern transfer Pete Nance replaced the late Brady Manek, and three 4-star recruits come off the bench. The consensus seems to be that North Carolina’s unexpected entry into the Final Four last season tells us all we need to know about this powerhouse: a similarly strong tournament run is in store for this year.

Despite the narrative, ESPN Analytics’ College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is unconvinced.

The blue-bloods began the season at number 15 in the model and since then have only fallen to their current position of number 23. At a season level, BPI sees the Tar Heels with only a 2% chance of returning to the championship game in April. As for this weekend’s Invitational, BPI favors Alabama, which gives them a nearly 32% chance of winning compared to the Tar Heels’ 20%.