Youth League: Crunch Time

Two finals spots remaining. Four teams in the hunt. Six games that matter. To put it bluntly, that’s 64 combinations of results, one of which will decide the two teams that will join Central Coast, Manly, Hills, and Illawarra in the Youth League finals.

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So where do we stand? Currently, Penrith appear to have the best chance of making finals, having already secured 10 wins with two games left to play. Norths, Hornsby, and Sutherland have all secured nine wins to this point, but Norths have two games left to play whereas Hornsby and Sutherland have just one game remaining. It looks as if Penrith and Norths are in the box seat, but is anything ever really that simple in basketball?

As you probably could have guessed, absolutely not. There is a wide disparity in the quality of opponents that the four teams will face in the remaining games that could completely flip the script, even at this point.

Fortunately, we have a fancy tool at our disposal that can help: maths! Ok, so it’s not really that fancy, but given the results to this point in the season, we can make a reasonable estimate of each combination of results occurring, and by extension, the chances of each team finishing on a certain amount of wins.

The numbers suggest that Sutherland have a 96% chance of winning their sole remaining game, away to Liverpool-Macarthur. We will then postulate that Sutherland will win that game, and focus on scenarios that include Sutherland finishing on ten wins. That leaves us with 32 combinations of results, each with its own chance of occurring.

(Note: All percentages are based on predictions which are derived from results so far this season and do not take into account player availability or other circumstances which may affect future games. They are in no way intended to be 100% infallible, and are merely estimates intended to provide a guide. Also, working out finals permutations is FUN! But please do not take any of this as gospel or before operating heavy machinery.)

Penrith:

Current Record: 10-8
Remaining Opponents: Hills, Central Coast
Percentage Chance to Make Finals: 48%

With a 10-8 record, Penrith appear to be in the box seat to make finals. However, they come into their final two games as underdogs. The Panthers are about a 37% chance to beat Hills and a 15% chance to beat Central Coast. This equates to Penrith having a 52% chance of finishing on 10 wins, and whilst 25 of the 32 combinations of results involve Penrith finishing in the top six, in only one of these do Penrith finish the season with ten wins. This can be attributed to their poor records against the other teams fighting for playoff berths – they have just one win against Norths, Hornsby, and Sutherland combined, and the only season series they have won is against Norths.

Scenarios:
Win A Game: In regardless of other results. (47% chance of occurring)
Lose Both Games: Would require Norths to lose both of their games and Illawarra to beat Hornsby. (1% chance of occurring)

Norths:

Current Record: 9-9
Remaining Opponents: Bankstown, Newcastle
Percentage Chance to Make Finals: 88%

With games against the lowly Bankstown and Newcastle teams remaining, and reasonably solid season series results against the other teams in the playoff hunt, Norths are sitting pretty as things stand. With their odds of making the finals sitting at an astounding 88%, and a 96% chance of winning at least one game, things are looking good for Norths at this point. However, if somehow they do lose to both Bankstown and Newcastle, their finals chances are dead in the water.

Scenarios:

Win Two Games: In regardless of other results. (65% chance of occurring)
Win One Game: Would miss out if Penrith lose both games and Hornsby beat Illawarra (8% chance of occurring). In with any other combination of results. (23% chance of occurring)
Lose Both Games: Out. (4% chance of occurring)

Hornsby:

Current Record: 9-10
Remaining Opponents: Illawarra
Percentage Chance to Make Finals: 9%

Losing to Sutherland in a nail-biter last weekend proved to be a double blow for Hornsby. Not only did they drop to 9-10 instead of advancing to 10-9, they also lost the season series with the Sharks in the process. As a result, the Spiders now have to beat Illawarra and rely on other results going their way if they are to sneak into the playoffs. The Spiders need the following to occur:

  1. Defeat Illawarra
  2. Penrith lose both of their remaining games
  3. Norths lose at least once

A combination of these three events will give Hornsby a chance at securing playoff basketball. Any other combination would create an unfavourable tiebreak situation for Hornsby and condemn the Spiders to an August without playoffs. Of course, the Spiders would also benefit if Liverpool-Macarthur defeated Sutherland, but relying on that occurring would be fraught with danger to say the very least. With Hornsby playing the nightcap at 7pm on Saturday this coming weekend, their fate may be sealed before their own game even concludes. Conversely, the competition could be far more open by that time as well.

Scenarios:

Defeat Illawarra: Require the aforementioned combination of Penrith and Norths losses to go their way. (9% chance of occurring)
Lose To Illawarra: Out. (50% chance of occurring)

Sutherland:

Current Record: 9-10
Remaining Opponents: Liverpool-Macarthur
Percentage Chance to Make Finals: 55%

With a win in their final game all but assured at this point, and favourable season series results against both Penrith and Hornsby, Sutherland’s chance of making the finals is far higher than you may expect from a team currently out of the playoff places with just one game left to play. Whilst their sole remaining game comes against the bottom team in the competition, Sutherland can also potentially benefit from taking four wins in their six games against the other teams fighting for playoff spots. It is a complicating situation for Sutherland; whilst they will almost certainly rely on tiebreaks to make the finals, they own a lot of those tiebreaks. With regards to those other results, Sutherland will have to avoid a two-way tiebreaker with Norths or a three-way tie-breaker with Norths and Hornsby. Essentially, Sutherland want a situation where Norths do not end up on ten wins and a finals spot remains open, through either Penrith or Norths losing both remaining games. Sutherland own the season series against Penrith and Hornsby, giving them a vital leg-up. But it won’t matter if they don’t get a win and results don’t go their way.

Scenarios:

A total of 14 combinations of the 32 go Sutherland’s way if they beat Liverpool-Macarthur. There is no one silver bullet that either secures or denies the Sharks a finals berth, and they will almost certainly be in with a chance at making finals regardless of the results in this weekend’s games. They just have to hope that they don’t end up in an unfavourable tiebreak situation.

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