With 2 minutes, 38 seconds remaining and North Carolina leading by 10 points last Feb. 8, Duke had only a 0.62 chance of coming back to beat the Tar Heels, according to Ken Pomeroy’s win probability algorithm.
But in only five possessions – including freshman Austin Rivers’ game-winning 3-pointer – the Blue Devils beat the odds to prevail 85-84.
Writes Pomeroy of that UNC-Duke now-classic:
8. Duke at North Carolina, 2/8/12
The situation: North Carolina 82-72, Duke ball, 2:38 remaining (0.62%)
The result: Duke 85-84.
Comments: This is easily the most famous game on the list. Duke would have just five possessions left and went 3, 3, 2, 2, 3 to finish. Austin Rivers’ shot at the buzzer completed the comeback ….
Of course, a lot of things had to go right for Duke (and wrong for the Tar Heels) during that frenetic 13-2 game-ending run. For UNC, it was a devastating final few minutes that included costly turnovers, missed free throws and an accidental tip-in of an opponent's shot.
For the Blue Devils (and Rivers, in particular), the clutch moments were exuberant.
And yet, according to Pomeroy, that stunning ending was more likely than seven others. It ranked behind: Southern Utah’s victory over Oakland (0.58 percent win probably with 3:13 remaining); Gardner-Webb over High Point (0.51 percent with 35 seconds left); Troy over Florida Atlantic (0.49 percent with 2:49 left); Yale over Columbia (0.49 with 9:35 left); Manhattan over Iona (0.46 with 7:58 left); Presbyterian over Cincinnati (0.37 with 9:41 left), and -- at No. 1 – Idaho State over Sacramento State (0.33 with 10:29 left).
So, knowing all of this, when is it safe to turn the channel?
Pomeroy's rule of thumb: "If the margin is a least 15 points with 5 minutes to go, you can leave the game." But even then, one outcome last season violated that rule. He promised to reveal that later on his blog.
Hat-tip: @haroldgut (of The Herald-Sun)
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.