Nova vs. Sixers (04/05/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Who is the best in Philly – Villanova or the 76ers?



Could a talented college team defeat the worst squad in the NBA?

Jordan Spieth asked the question.



We got the answer.

This hypothetical scenario is inevitably debated after a team runs through March Madness and cuts down the nets. This year is no different with Nova's thrilling win over North Carolina on Monday night.

Could Nova beat the cross-city “rivals” 76ers?

The case for the Cats goes something like this: Jay Wright's team is ruthlessly efficient on both ends of the court. In the tournament they averaged 83.5 points per game, shot 58.2 percent from the floor (50.0 percent from behind the arc) and forced nearly 14 turnovers per game. Plus, the Sixers are the worst team in the NBA.

Philly is good at being bad (just ten wins this season) but for all the tanking and futility in the City of Brotherly Love, the Sixers actually have NBA talent on their roster. It is unlikely that any player from Villanova is taken in this year's draft. We all love Ryan Arcidiacono but the tournament's Most Outstanding Player won't have a distinguished career in the Association.

So let's settle the debate once and for all. To do so we simulated the 2016 Villanova National Champions against the 76ers. In our simulations we play the game in the Pavilion and assume that 100 percent of the fans in attendance are cheering for Nova. The matchup is also played under current college rules against the Sixers average roster from this year.

Even in the most optimal scenario for the Wildcats, the Sixers would be 82.4 percent likely to win and by an average score of 89.4–70.7.

Against the dregs of the NBA, it is highly unlikely that Nova (or any other college basketball team) would defeat a group of professionals.

Of course Sparty was 97 percent likely to beat Middle Tennessee State and Golden State was a 17.5 point favorite (90 percent likely to win) over the Lakers, but the underdogs found a way. Upsets happen at all levels.