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March 15, 2012

Science Picks Brackets, Part 2

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA — Tags: , , , — Willis @ 8:01 am

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post.

The Second Round

In this round we have 4 different groups of games. Again I’ll start with the easier ones.

1/8/9/16 – The 1 seed wins here 87% of the time. A 16 seed has never actually made it to this game so the remaining 13% is split between the couple of times that an 8 or 9 pulled off the upset. Only way I’d pick an upset here is if I were in a big pool and wanted to go with a high risk strategy.

2/7/10/15 – While this isn’t as cut and dry as the 1 seed games, the 2 seed moves on 65% of the time. If you’re looking for a 2 seed to fall, look at experience. This year Missouri is a 2 seed but they got a pretty new coach and they could go against Florida with Billy Donovan who’s taken his squad to the Elite 8 4 times. Other than that, go with #2.

4/5/12/13 – If for some reason you have a 12v13 match here, pick the 12 seed as they have a 8-1 record but if you want to dig deeper, pick the team with more experience in the tournament. If you have a 12/13 going against a 4/5 It’s not as cut and dry as the seed value may imply as, historically, this upset is relatively common. The most likely match-up is, of course, the 4v5. History doesn’t tell you too much with 4’s having a slight edge winning 52% of the time. I’d look at points per game and Pythagorean expectation here… and that makes me look at maybe New Mexico over Louisville, but it would be hard to pick against Pitino and his experience.

3/6/11/14 – If it’s 3v11 or 6v14 you should probably go with the 3/6 as they have won 72% of these past match-ups. The 3v6 game is where you need to spend some time. If I had to pick an upset here, I’d go with Cincinnati. Maybe you want to go against the crowd? Pick UNLV to upset Baylor, hell, pick them to take down the Blue Devils. No one likes Duke so it’s a feel good pick and if it happens, no one else in your pool made that pick.

On to the Sweet 16!

1 Seed Bracket – on average, three out of 4 top seeds will make it past this round. Remember that when you decide you want to take down a 1 seed. Which one of the 4 looks ripe for the picking this year? Syracuse. They’d most likely take on a very good Wisconsin team and they are down one of their better players. Then again, you could play the odds and just advance the 1 seed if you wanted to be a bit more low risk. 2 Seed Bracket – In general the 2 seed wins here (70%) but if it’s 2v3 then it’s more reasonable (62%). If you’re looking for a team other than the 2 seed to come out of this bracket, I’d say maybe Baylor (or maybe even UNLV) over Duke or, for even more madness, pick Florida over Marquette – It could happen.

Success in NCAA by Seed Chart

Elite 8!

Look at the blue lines in the above chart. You should probably keep your Final Four selections to that realm of possibility. Look at what 1 seeds look weakest (Syracuse) or look at the better 2/3/4 seeds (Ohio State, Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin) and make you selections from them.

Chart: Cinderella Plot 2001-2011

The darker the color the larger the seed number. The lighter the graph the further the 1,2,3,4 seeds have gone.

Final Four!

Seeding can now be tossed out the window for the birds because that doesn’t matter anymore. Here’s where you pick the better teams for some other reason. Maybe you want to go by AP rankings? Kentucky (champion pick) over Missouri (because you have Missouri (3) over Michigan State (5) in the Elite 8) and Syracuse over North Carolina. Perhaps you want to go with Pythagorean expectation, that would be Kentucky (champion pick) over Michigan State and Ohio State over Kansas. Whatever you go with make sure that you have a road for a good…

Champion

Look at that chart above. 4 of the last 11 years it was a team that was not a 1 seed. Want to go back another 11 years? The 1 seeds won 68% of the time. That’s 2 out of every 3 years. So you want to win your pool? You should probably stick with a 1 seed. Perhaps go with North Carolina like President Obama:

I hope that this helps you, because it helped me make my decisions even though I went against the math a few times.

March 14, 2012

Bracketology: Science Picks Brackets

Filed under: Basketball,NCAA — Tags: , , , — Willis @ 9:49 am

There are hundreds of ways to go about picking your office pool brackets. You can go with your gut. You can go with the cooler mascot. You can go with whatever school has a higher seed and toss-ups based on a coin flip. Or you can be a giant nerd like myself and pour over a giant spreadsheet full of numbers trying to predict the future better than Miss Cleo. All of these strategies have merit and when it comes down to it, it’s still the future and we don’t know what will happen.

What I’m going to do today and tomorrow (in the morning so you can use this knowledge for yourself) is post my opinions and feelings and you can do with that what you will. (My suggestion would be to do the opposite of whatever I think.)

First a little primer from ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie for a quick rundown of making your picks with the help of numbers.

Round of 64ish:

Let’s start with the 1 seeds: The #1 seeds have lost the opening game 0% of the time So here’s an easy 4 points. Actually, I’ll go even further: Advance the 1 seeds to the Elite 8 (History shows that #1s make it this far 85% of the time). If you pick against a 1 seed here, you are probably giving away points. The tough call would be Syracuse with a missing Fab Melo, and a lower Pythagorean Expectation then Wisconsin.

Now the 2 v 15 games: A 15 has done the upset 4 times in the past 27 years, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. There hasn’t been a 2 over 15 upset in 11 years now, so I guess we’re ripe for the picking. But even if the 15 did win, they never make the Sweet 16, so hedge your bets, and take the point (or loss of a point that no one else is gonna get anyway) and stick with the #2.

3 v 14: The #3 has won 85% of time in the past so now is the time to look into possible first round upsets, but looking at the field this year, I don’t see anything upsetting.

4v13: The lower seed wins 78% of the time here. So picking the right upset at this level might be nice. If I had to choose one, I’d take a look at New Mexico State over Indiana. Upset here would probably come from a high scoring team doing well, and NM St. are the highest of the 13 seeds with an average of 78.5 points per game.

2012 NCAA Mens Bracket

Another suggestion is to print this out and then throw darts.

5v12: Time to stop giving the low seeds a free pass. Lower seeded teams only take 67% of these games historically. This year I’d think about upsets from VCU, who did well last year, or Cal (if they win tonight) based on their Pythagorean expectation.

6v11: Again 67% to the lower seeded team historically and that is against the trend of recent years. Possible upset here would be Texas over Cincinnati based again off Pythagorean  but also coaching experience.

7v10: 60% for the 7 seed. Possible upsets here would be Purdue over St. Mary’s or Virginia over Florida.

8v9: Pretty much 50-50 — Actually the 9 seed wins this 53% of the time. Since this is pretty much a toss-up anyway, go with your favorite method to pick these. Mine (as you may have noticed) is Pythagorean  expectation. With this the only “upset” (can a 9 over an 8 be an upset?) being Alabama over Creighton. Don’t worry too much about these games, because the winner is just going to lose to the 1 seed in the second round.

That should cover you for about 32 games. I hope to go over the remaining 32 games and to finish this all up tomorrow morning. Until Then you can check out this list of reasons to root for each team in the tourney. Also check out Wired for their method of going against the crowd to gain points that no one else in your pool will.

March 16, 2009

[Business Day One] Unexpected Generosity

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:34 am

After a week of conference championship games, Selection Sunday swept into our lives and delivered the NCAA Tournament field to us.  Like kids on Christmas Eve, we waited to see what came down the chimney.  We speculated, audited in our heads how our years have gone.  Were we naughty or nice?  What’s Santa’s track record been in the past?  Does Daddy not having a job affect my odds of getting that pimp Lego Castle?  You talk yourself into believing in the most beautiful possibilities.  You think and hope and pray so hard that they become real.  Such is human nature.

Accordingly, life is filled with disappointments.  There are always more stories about vacations falling apart or an expensive restaurant being overrated or, say, your team getting ignored for the Big Dance than stories of unexpectedly perfect situations.  We as sports fans accept this.  We know, deep down, that our sunny predictions born of baseball’s spring training or football’s draft won’t be fulfilled.  But despite this, every so often the Gods of Sport give your team a gift.  Perhaps an entirely unexpected gift, a wholly undeserved gift.  But a gift.  And a beautiful one.

The Arizona Cardinals got one this past year – making it to the SuperBowl with a one dimensional offense and a terrible defense.  The Kansas City Chiefs got one in the form of a discount Matt Cassel.  And my beloved Boston College Eagles just picked one up in the form of a 7 seed in the tournament.  Granted, I think BC’s unexpectedly generous seeding isn’t on the same level of “holy flying God are you lucky” as the Buzzsaw’s run into the playoffs or The Last Cassel’s new home in KC, but it hit me close to home.  So I’m going to talk about it.

BC beat Duke at home and UNC on the road.  We won the first game of the ACC tourney and played the Blue Devils to the final seconds in the next one.  We had the resume for a 9 or 10 seed, considering we dropped ugly games to St. Louis (road) and Harvard (home, in front of me).  The season proved that Boston College has the legs to either run into the Final Four or drop in the first round – in other words, they’re the perfect 9 or 10.  Just high enough not to be a Cinderalla, but just low enough to fly under the radar until the Sweet Sixteen.

Then the 7 seed happened.  I learned about it on a basement computer in the green room of my comedy theatre.  “Wow,” I said aloud.  “I think that’s a little generous.”  That right there is a rarity in sports.  We’re so used to disappointment, so used to our teams being disrespected, that when something so fun and unexpected happens, we have no idea what to think.  How often in the history of your own sports fandom have you had a “we don’t deserve such good news” moment?  You’ll probably think about thirty different “we got hosed” moments trying to come up with one.

So between now and Friday’s game against USC, I’m going to do my best to appreciate the sports equivalent of finding a $20 bill on the street.  Go Eagles, YOUR tournament 7 seed!

February 23, 2009

[Business Day One] Marching Towards March

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:46 am

“BC didn’t look too good this weekend,” said a BU-alum co-worker.

“Yeah,” I replied, “but we’ll make the Dance.”

Boston College beat Duke at home and UNC on the road this season.  A couple of thrilling games against top competition.  As part of any NCAA Tournament portfolio, they’d be those “well, now we have to let you in” type games that guarantee an 8 seed.  But in this baffling season in which the ACC beats up on each other more than usual, nothing is certain.  After beating UNC, my beloved Eagles returned home and got clobbered by Harvard, a team with slightly more athletic talent than my high school’s.  I was there at Conte Forum when it went down.  If you dig up the ESPN highlights (I won’t, since it hurts), you’ll be able to see me in the background with my head in my hands and my girlfriend being a good soldier and trying to make me feel better.

The road to March Madness reminds me a lot of the road to the Oscars.  Way too many people using way too much specious reasoning to determine the future.  “Mickey Rourke won some support when he thanked his dogs during the Golden Globes, so that puts him in a great position.”  “Texas Tech is only at .500, but with their strength of schedule being what it is, maybe it’s enough to get some looks.”  Pundits of all types are weigh in, using the same information in different ways.  Interesting things happen when “news”casters need to fill two hours on one subject.

Like the Oscars, when the Tournament actually happens it is cause for a massive party, drinking games and friendly wagers.  But darn if the trip there is agony.  I’m not here to say that going to daily RPI trackers or Perez Hilton for gossip is wrong, but I am here to say that anticipation, when too bloated, invariably leads to letdown.  People love setting themselves up for disappointment.  I’m sure that some of you who braved the seven hours worth of the Academy Awards spent a lot of it wondering why your Lead Pipe Locks didn’t win their respective awards after you spent days in advance researching their roles and figuring out who actually is in the Academy.  I just trust you don’t make the same mistake with the NCAAs.

September 2, 2008

[Business Day One] Boston College, Week 1

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , — Serpico @ 12:46 pm

I had it all planned out. I called a month in advance to make sure that the bar in Portland, Maine would be playing the Boston College-Kent State tilt. Once I arrived in the beautiful coast city, I went to the bar three hours before kickoff and to confirm, in person, that it would happen.

Of course, the plan fell through. The first casualty of war is always the plan. So instead of sitting down in a nice Irish pub to watch my beloved Eagles take on the Golden Flashes, I spent the next half hour dragging my girlfriend around the Old Port section of town looking for a bar that was playing the game. Mercifully, a place called Rivalries took care of us and I spent the next three hours cheering my team along to a penalty-free 21-0 win.

This got me to thinking. I want to know what your best “I tried to go to a game, but” story is. Were you screwed over by a scalper? Did you miss a flight? Car break down? What’s your best story?

April 14, 2008

[Business Day One] Winning and Losing

Filed under: Business Day One,NCAA — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 9:32 am

On Saturday night, the Boston College men’s hockey team beat Notre Dame to capture the national championship.  As an alumni, obsessed fan and former mascot, this pleases me greatly.  But I wasn’t as absolutely thrilled as I thought I’d be.  For the past two years, the BC team had their season ended with a championship game loss.  Accordingly, for the past two years, I was crushed.  Just flat out crushed.  Hockey is our sport.  We own hockey.  Yes, BC has a perennial Top 25 football team and a basketball team that makes the tournament most years, but hockey is our thing.  We pull the best recruits in and usually win three times as many games as we lose.  And so getting to the finals of the Frozen Four and losing is agony.

And that got me thinking.  When you love a team, losing hurts far more than winning heals.  When the Yankees won the World Series a few times in the 90s, I was thrilled each time.  But since, each early playoff exit hurts me like having an old wound throb.  When they won, I celebrated for a nighta and woke up the next day feeling good.  But when they lost, I was out of commission for a whole weekend.  It seems hardly fair.  Why is the human mind so geared towards wallowing in heartache and so ill-prepared for good fortune?

I was focusing on this so much that the taste of victory started losing its zest.  I began to dwell on how bad it would’ve been to lose.  If Notre Dame beat us, it would’ve been entirely unacceptable to BC diehards.  They would be calling for Coach Jerry York’s head.  Their message boards would be alive with lamentations over the end of hockey dominance in Chestnut Hill.  I began feeling as if I had just survived a plane crash instead of feeling like I witnessed my alma mater win a championship.

What a terrible way to live.  Happiness is fleeting and the default mode of the sports fan is crushing disappointment.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I wish I had an answer but I don’t.  Though I suppose it beats staying home alone.

April 8, 2008

Rumeal Robinson and the Temple of Doom

Filed under: NCAA — Tags: , , , — Sean @ 12:00 am

FT

Bounce, bounce, bounce.

Twirl the ball backwards from fingertips to palm.

Bend your knees, make the T with your fingertips.

Aim just over the front rim. Release and follow-thru towards the hoop, not back.

You gotta hit your free throws.

Some purists, George Will types mostly, claim baseball to be the greatest of our sports, because it is untimed. Therefore, a team can and will trail but can never be counted out by the clock. They get their three outs to keep themselves alive. Yet in basketball the clock does stop and allow for free throws, the shots that salt away leads or chip away at deficits, and the game is reduced to its similarly pure form: one player, one ball, one basket. It’s both beautifully basic and terrifyingly naked. There’s no defense, quite literally, for a miss.

And tonight in San Antonio, there were plenty of misses and no defense. In the most tense, exciting, and dramatic NCAA Championship of the decade, the overtime spectacle really lasted only 40 minutes. For once the Final Four orphans Memphis and Kansas tipped off their five minute curtain call re-knotted at 63, the game was over before it began again. The look on the sidelines said more than enough. Kansas players pushed each other and fidgeted in their seats, eventually standing up and hopping with Benchanticipation. On the other sideline, the Tigers sat stonefaced, occasionally glancing up at the scoreboard like they were looking for a stolen wallet. Derrick Rose cramped up at the end of regulation and had to be helped off the court, only to be shoved back out there to save the season. It could have all been over with, if.

Carolina Blue and Westwood Gold suffered spankings on Saturday night, but their fates now seem much more preferable to the public gutwrenching of the Memphis Tigers and their two leaders, the All-America Chris Douglas-Roberts and the All-But-Gone Rose. The four missed free throws between them in the final 1:15, especially CDR’s no-for-two with 16 seconds left, opened the door on an improbable 9 point, 2 minute Jayhawk comeback a sliver of an inch. And, once Coach John Calipari’s goal of fouling to prevent chaos went down the drain (“We didn’t foul hard enough,” he offered), Mario Chalmers snuck around a Chalmershigh screen and launched a three point dagger (“Like I was in my own backyard,” he said to FOX Radio) that dropped through the net, the net of Jordan, Lorenzo Charles, Keith Smart, Scotty Thurman, and the other faded memories of NCAA titles long past. Memphis sleptwalked through the overtime, an eventual 75-68 final, and is now left to daydream about the nets they didn’t cut down.

The NCAA runners-up cap off the winningest season in college basketball history with the most painful loss in title game history. No team has ever blown such a large lead in a small frame of time. It takes a great deal to wipe Darius Washington’s agony off the list of the most painful charity stripe moments in a school’s history, but even as we speak these free throws are joining Bill Buckner at Shea, Jean van de Velde in the wee burn at Carnoustie, and Gene Mauch and the Phightin’ Phils, taking their seat on Scott Norwood’s 38 yard line. Memphis has had a fairly nondescript basketball past, with a couple of Final Fours and the receiving end of Bill Walton’s biggest day. Tonight they had their best chance to date to unfurl a banner, and oh, once you get one, they can’t take it away. The worst part is that no one–not Bill Self, not Mario Chalmers, not Billy Packer–no one took it away, either. In gagging on the sport’s most basic play, the Tigers simply failed to take what was rightfully theirs. It’s a sharp gouge to the basketball fan’s soul.

But it’s a hurt with blame attached to it. Even the aforementioned Rumeal Robinson, a Michigan man with the 64% touch, nailed down the 1989 championship (in overtime, no less) with two straight swishes to give interim coach Steve Fisher an interim one-point title victory. The free throw comes down to focus and mechanics; some kids have ’em, some kids don’t. And the two players that didn’t were the architects of this whole empire; everything this team had built rested on their shoulders. It was their right to go up to that line and cinch the glory. And they couldn’t do it. One more make and the story of the 2008 Memphis Tigers is of a breakneck, athletic, speedy and utterly dominating (nearly 19 ppg average margin) force, one of the great teams of the decade and maybe of all time (a win would have ended them at 39-1). But the result is what it is, and now the late-game woes will be seen as a microcosm of their season, a slow pendulum swinging all year long and waiting to rear its ugly head at an inevitably climactic moment. And it did, ball on rimand so shall it be.

Now Memphis has hit its head on the top of the curve, and away they go from grand pomp to dire circumstances. Rose and Douglas-Roberts are likely gone; Calipari’s road won’t get much easier anytime soon, and everywhere they go, the team will be hounded by the airing of their own hideous baggage. Teams from the non-power conferences don’t get many chances at the top; check out where Cincinnati or UNLV are right now, far removed from past glories. For 6 months, 38 minutes, and 9 seconds, the University of Memphis had just about the best basketball team in the country. Sometimes, though, you only get one shot to stand alone.

You’d better hit it.

April 2, 2008

UConn – Tennessee Final Stunningly Interrupted By Extra Games

Filed under: NCAA — Tags: , , — Sean @ 3:52 pm

Pat and Geno

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and UConn coach Geno Auriemma are baffled over new developments.

TAMPA, FL–The UConn Women’s Huskies and Tennessee Lady Volunteers’ NCAA Women’s Championship basketball game has been hijacked this month by sixty-two additional games played by some 60+ additional teams. The championship, previously scheduled for March 12, will be pushed all the way to April 8. Some of these charlatan universities inexplicably challenged the two schools to matchups themselves.

“It’s just rude, quite frankly,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “Our girls were looking forward to our annual preordained slugfest when I got a call from Erica (Naughton, NCAA “Selection Committee”) ordering me to face off against this Cornell school, or something. Never heard of them. Then we had to keep playing more until she was satisfied. I told her, ‘Yeah, sure I’ll play Rutgers, and beat them in the friggin’ regular season finale a month ago’, but she had none of it. Politics, maybe.”

Less understanding were the players themselves. All-American freshman Maya Moore wondered aloud why so many other teams faced off across the country. “I don’t understand what these ‘Regional Tournaments’ are. Is this like, for charity?” Moore said, flipping through the scouting reports of Tennessee offenses as she has each day since mid-October. “It’s very weird.”

“What the hell’s a Texas A&M?” asked Tennessee forward Candace Parker. (more…)

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